By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Ancient Regime
Author: Taine, Hippolyte, 1828-1893
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Ancient Regime" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



by Hippolyte A. Taine



BOOK FIRST. The Structure of the Ancient Society.

CHAPTER I. The Origin of Privileges.

CHAPTER II. The Privileged Classes.

CHAPTER III. Local Services Due by the Privileged Classes.

CHAPTER IV. Public services due by the privileged classes.

BOOK SECOND. Habits and Characters.

CHAPTER I. Social Habits.

CHAPTER II. Drawing room Life.

CHAPTER III. Disadvantages of this Drawing room Life.

BOOK THIRD. The Spirit and the Doctrine.

CHAPTER I. Scientific Acquisition.

CHAPTER II. The Classic Spirit, the Second Element.

CHAPTER III. Combination of the two elements.

CHAPTER IV. Organizing the Future Society.

BOOK FOURTH. The Propagation of the Doctrine.

CHAPTER I. Success in France.

CHAPTER II. The French Public.

CHAPTER III. The Middle Class.

BOOK FIFTH. The People

CHAPTER I. Hardships.

CHAPTER II. Taxation the principal cause of misery.

CHAPTER III. Intellectual state of the people.

CHAPTER IV. The Armed Forces.

CHAPTER V. Summary.


Why should we fetch Taine's work up from its dusty box in the basement
of the national library? First of all because his realistic views of our
human nature, of our civilization and of socialism as well as his dark
premonitions of the 20th century were proven correct. Secondly because
we may today with more accuracy call his work:

"The Origins of Popular Democracy and of Communism."

His lucid analysis of the current ideology remains as interesting
or perhaps even more interesting than when it was written especially
because we cannot accuse him of being part in our current political and
ideological struggle.

Even though I found him wise, even though he confirmed my own
impressions from a rich and varied life, even though I considered that
our children and the people at large should benefit from his insights
into the innermost recesses of the political Man, I still felt it would
be best to find out why his work had been put on the index by the
French and largely forgotten by the Anglo-Saxon world. So I consulted
a contemporary French authority, Jean-François Revel who mentions Taine
works in his book, "La Connaissance Inutile." (Paris 1988). Revel notes
that a socialist historian, Alphonse Aulard methodically and dishonestly
attacked "Les Origines..", and that Aulard was specially recruited by
the University of Sorbonne for this purpose. Aulard pretended that Taine
was a poor historian by finding a number of errors in Taine's work. This
was done, says Revel, because the 'Left' came to see Taine's work as "a
vile counter-revolutionary weapon." The French historian Augustin Cochin
proved, however, that Aulard and not Taine had made the errors but by
that time Taine had been defamed and his works removed from the shelves
of the French universities.

Now Taine was not a professional historian. Perhaps this was as
well since most professional historians, even when conscientious and
accurate, rarely are in a position to be independent. They generally
work for a university, for a national public or for the ministry of
education and their books, once approved, may gain a considerable income
once millions of pupils are compelled to acquire these.

Taine initially became famous, not as a professional historian but as a
literary critic and journalist. His fame allowed him to sell his books
and articles and make a comfortable living without cow-towing to any
government or university. He wrote as he saw fit, truthfully, even
though it might displease a number of powerful persons.

Taine did not pretend to be a regular historian, but rather someone
enquiring into the history of Public Authorities and their supporters.
Through his comments he appears not only as a decent person but also as
a psychologist and seer. He describes mankind, as I know it from my
life in institutions, at sea and abroad in a large international
organization. He describes mankind as it was, as it was seen by Darwin
the human being as he was and is and had the courage to tell the French
about themselves, their ancient rulers, and the men of the Revolution,
even if it went against the favorable opinion so many of his countrymen
had of this terrible period. His understanding of our evolution, of
mankind and of the evolution of society did not find favor with men who
believed that they in the socialist ideology had found the solution to
all social ills. Only recently has science begun to return to Darwin
in order to rediscover the human being as Taine knew him. You can find
Taine's views of humanity confirmed in Robert Wright's book 'THE MORAL
ANIMAL.' (Why we are the way we are.)

Taine had full access to the files of the French National archives
and these and other original documents. Taine had received a French
classical education and, being foremost among many brilliant men, had a
capacity for study and work which we no longer demand from our young.
He accepted Man and society, as they appeared to him, he described
his findings without compassion for the hang-ups of his prejudiced
countrymen. He described Man as a gregarious animal living for a brief
spell in a remote corner of space, whose different cultures and nations
had evolved haphazardly in time, carried along by forces and events
exceeding our comprehension, blindly following their innate drives.
These drives were followed with cunning but rarely with far-sighted
wisdom. Taine, the prophet, has more than ever something to tell us.
He warned his countrymen against themselves, their humanity, and hence
against their fears, anxieties, greed, ambitions, conceit and excessive
imagination. His remarks and judgments exhort us to be responsible,
modest and kind and to select wise and modest leaders. He warns us
against young hungry men's natural desire to mass behind a tribune and
follow him onwards, they hope, along the high road to excitement, fame,
power and riches. He warns us against our readiness to believe in myth
and metaphysics, demonstrating how Man will believe anything, even the
most mystical or incomprehensible religion or ideology, provided it is
preached by his leaders. History, as seen by Taine, is one long series
of such adventures and horrors and nowhere was this more evident than in
France before, during and after the Revolution in 1789.

Taine became, upon reading 'On the Origins of the Species' a convinced
Darwinian and was, the year after Darwin, honored by the University of
Oxford with the title of doctor honoris causa in jure civili for his
'History of English Literature'. Taine was not a methodical ideologist
creating a system. He did not defend any particular creed or current. He
was considered some kind of positivist but he did not consider himself
as belonging to any particular school.

The 6 volumes of "Les Origines de la France Contemporaine" appeared one
after the other in Paris between 1875 and 1893. They were translated
into English and published in New York soon afterwards. They were also
translated into German. Taine's direct views displeased many in France,
as the Royalists, the bonapartist and the Socialists felt hurt. Still,
the first edition of Volume II of "LE RÉGIME MODERNE" published by
Hachette in 1894 indicated that "L'ANCIEN REGIME" at that time had been
printed in 18 editions, "LA RÉVOLUTION" volume I in 17 editions, volume
II in 16 editions and volume III in 13 editions. "LE RÉGIME MODERNE"
volume I had been printed in only 8 editions. Photographic reprints
appeared in the US in 1932 and 1962.

Taine's description and analysis of events in France between 1750 and
1870 are, as you will see colorful, lucid, and sometimes intense. His
style might today appear dated since he writes in rather long sentences,
using parables to drive his points firmly home. His books were widely
read in academic circles and therefore influenced a great many political
students in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Lenin, who came to
Paris around 1906, might well have profited by Taine's analysis. Hitler
is also likely to have profited by his insights. Lenin was like so many
other socialists of his day a great admirer of Robespierre and his party
and would undoubtedly have tried to find out how Robespierre got into
power and why he lost his hold on France the way he did. Part of Taine's
art was to place himself into the place of the different people and
parties who took part in the great events. When pretends to speak for
the Jacobins, it so convincingly done, that it is hard to know whether
he speaks on 'their' behalf or whether he is, in fact, quoting one of

Taine, like the Napoleon he described, believed that in order to
understand people you are aided if you try to imagine yourself in their
place. This procedure, as well as his painstaking research, make his
descriptions of the violent events of the past ring true.

Taine knew and described the evil inherent in human nature and in
the crowd. His warnings and explanations did not prevent Europe from
repeating the mistakes of the past. The 20th century saw a replay of the
French Revolution repeated in all its horror when Lenin, Mao, Hoxa, and
Pol Pot followed the its script and when Stalin and Hitler made good use
of Napoleon's example.

Taine irritated the elite of the 3rd French republic as well as everyone
who believed in the popular democracy based on one person one vote. You
can understand when you read the following preface which was actually
placed in front of "The Revolution" volume II. Since it clarifies
Taine's aims and justifications, I have moved and placed it below.

Not long before his death Taine, sensing that his wisdom and deep
insights into human nature and events, no longer interested the élite,
remarked to a friend that "the scientific truth about the human animal
is perhaps unacceptable except for a very few".[0001] Now, 100 years
later, after a century of ideological wars between ambitious men, I am
afraid that the situation remains unchanged. Mankind remains reluctant
to face the realities of our uncontrolled existence! A few men begin,
however, to share my misgivings about the future of a system which has
completely given up the respect for wisdom and experience preferring
a system of elaborate human rights and new morals. There is reason to
recall Macchiavelli's words:

"In times of difficulty men of merit are sought after, but in easy times
it is not men of merit, but such as have riches and powerful relations,
that are most in favor."

And let me to quote the Greek historian Polybius' observations[0002]
about the cyclic evolution of the Greek city states:

". . . What then are the beginnings I speak of and what is the first
origin of political societies? When owing to floods, famines, failure of
crops or other such causes there occurs such a destruction of the human
race as tradition tells us has more than once happened, and as we must
believe will often happen again, all arts and crafts perishing at the
same time, when in the course of time, when springing from the survivors
as from seeds men have again increased in numbers and just like other
animals form herds--it being a matter of course that they too
should herd together with those of their kind owing to their natural
weakness--it is a necessary consequence that the man who excels in
bodily strength and in courage will lead and rule over the rest. We
observe and should regard as a most genuine work of nature this very
phenomenon in the case of the other animals which act purely by instinct
and among who the strongest are always indisputable the masters--I speak
of bulls, boars, cocks, and the like. It is probable then that at the
beginning men lived thus, herding together like animals and following
the lead of the strongest and bravest, the ruler's strength being here
the sole limit to his power and the name we should give his rule being

But when in time feelings of sociability and companionship begin to grow
in such gatherings of men, then kingship has truck root; and the notions
of goodness, justice, and their opposites begin to arise in men.

6. The manner in which these notions come into being is as follows. Men
being all naturally inclined to sexual intercourse, and the consequence
this being the birth of children, whenever one of those who have been
reared does not on growing up show gratitude to those who reared him
or defend them, but on the contrary takes to speaking ill of them or
ill-treating them, it is evident that he will displease and offend those
who have been familiar with his parents and have witnessed the care and
pains they spent on attending to and feeding their children. For seeing
that men are distinguished from the other animals possessing the faculty
of reason, it is obviously improbable that such a difference of conduct
should escape them, as it escapes the other animals: they will notice
the thing and be displeased at what is going on, looking to the future
and reflecting that they may all meet with the same treatment. Again
when a man who has been helped or succored when in danger by another
does not show gratitude to his preserver, but even goes to the length of
attempting to do him injury, it is clear that those who become aware of
it will naturally be displeased and offended by such conduct, sharing
the resentment of their injured neighbor and imagining themselves in the
same situation. From all this there arises in everyone a notion of the
meaning and theory of duty, which is the beginning and end of justice.
Similarly, again, when any man is foremost in defending his fellows from
danger, and braves and awaits the onslaught of the most powerful beasts,
it is natural that he should receive marks of favor and honor from the
people, while the man who acts in the opposite manner will meet with
reprobation and dislike. From this again some idea of what is base and
what is noble and of what constitutes the difference is likely to arise
among the people; and noble conduct will be admired and imitated because
advantageous, while base conduct will be avoided. Now when the leading
and most powerful man among people always throws the weight of his
authority the side of the notions on such matters which generally
prevail, and when in the opinion of his subjects he apportions rewards
and penalties according to desert, they yield obedience to him no longer
because they fear his force, but rather because their judgment approves
him; and they join in maintaining his rule even if he is quite enfeebled
by age, defending him with one consent and battling against those who
conspire to overthrow his rule. Thus by insensible degrees the monarch
becomes a king, ferocity and force having yielded the supremacy to

7. Thus is formed naturally among men the first notion of goodness and
justice, and their opposites; this is the beginning and birth of true
kingship. For the people maintain the supreme power not only in the
hands of these men themselves, but in those of their descendants, from
the conviction that those born from and reared by such men will also
have principles like to theirs. And if they ever are displeased with the
descendants, they now choose their kings and rulers no longer for their
bodily strength and brute courage, but for the excellency of their
judgment and reasoning powers, as they have gained experience from
actual facts of the difference between the one class of qualities and
the other. In old times, then, those who had once been chosen to the
royal office continued to hold it until they grew old, fortifying and
enclosing fine strongholds with walls and acquiring lands, in the one
case for the sake of the security of their subjects and in the other
to provide them with abundance of the necessities of life. And while
pursuing these aims, they were exempt from all vituperation or jealousy,
as neither in their dress nor in their food and drink did they make any
great distinction, but lived very much like everyone else, not keeping
apart from the people. But when they received the office by hereditary
succession and found their safety now provided for, and more than
sufficient provision of food, they gave way to their appetites owing
to this superabundance, and came to think that the rulers must be
distinguished from their subjects by a peculiar dress, that there should
be a peculiar luxury and variety in the dressing and serving of their
viands, and that they should meet with no denial in the pursuit of their
amours, however lawless. These habits having given rise in the one
case to envy and offence and in the other to an outburst of hatred and
passionate resentment, the kingship changed into a tyranny; the first
steps towards its overthrow were taken by the subjects, and conspiracies
began to be formed. These conspiracies were not the work of the worst
men, but of the noblest, most high-spirited, and most courageous,
because such men are least able to brook the insolence of princes.

8. The people now having got leaders, would combine with them against
the ruling powers for the reasons I stated above; king-ship and monarchy
would be utterly abolished, and in their place aristocracy would begin
to grow. For the commons, as if bound to pay at once their debt of
gratitude to the abolishers of monarchy, would make them their leaders
and entrust their destinies to them. At first these chiefs gladly
assumed this charge and regarded nothing as of greater importance than
the common interest, administering the private and public affairs of the
people with paternal solicitude. But here again when children inherited
this position of authority from their fathers, having no experience of
misfortune and none at all of civil equality and liberty of speech, and
having been brought up from the cradle amid the evidences of the power
and high position of their fathers, they abandoned themselves some to
greed of gain and unscrupulous money-making, others to indulgence in
wine and the convivial excess which accompanies it, and others again
to the violation of women and the rape of boys; and thus converting the
aristocracy info an oligarchy aroused in the people feelings similar
to those of which I just spoke, and in consequence met with the same
disastrous end as the tyrant.

9. For whenever anyone who has noticed the jealousy and hatred with
which they are regarded by the citizens, has the courage to speak or
act against the chiefs of the state he has the whole mass of the people
ready to back him. Next, when they have either killed or banished the
oligarchs, they no longer venture to set a king over them, as they still
remember with terror the injustice they suffered from the former ones,
nor can they entrust the government with confidence to a select few,
with the evidence before them of their recent error in doing so. Thus
the only hope still surviving unimpaired is in themselves, and to this
they resort, making the state a democracy instead of an oligarchy and
assuming the responsibility for the conduct of affairs. Then as long
as some of those survive who experienced the evils of oligarchical
dominion, they are well pleased with the present form of government,
and set a high value on equality and freedom of speech. But when a
new generation arises and the democracy falls into the hands of the
grandchildren of its founders, they have become so accustomed to
freedom and equality that they no longer value them, and begin to aim
at pre-eminence; and it is chiefly those of ample fortune who fall into
this error. So when they begin to lust for power and cannot attain it
through themselves or their own good qualities, they ruin their estates,
tempting and corrupting the people in every possible way. And hence
when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the
masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy
in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence.
For the people, having grown accustomed feed at the expense of others
and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as
they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the honors
of office by his poverty, institute the rule of violence; and now
uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they
degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and

Such is the cycle of political revolution, the course pointed by nature
in which constitutions change, disappear, and finally return to the
point from which they started. Anyone who clearly perceives this may
indeed in speaking of the future of any state be wrong in his estimate
of the time the process will take, but if his judgment is not tainted by
animosity or jealousy, he will very seldom be mistaken to the stage of
growth or decline it has reached, and as to the form into which it will
change. And especially in the case of the Roman state will this method
enable us to arrive at a knowledge of its formation, growth, and
greatest perfection, and likewise of the change for the worse which is
sure follow some day. For, as I said, this state, more than any other,
has been formed and has grown naturally, and will undergo a natural
decline and change to its contrary. The reader will be able to judge of
the truth of this from the subsequent parts this work."

The modern reader may think that all this is irrelevant to him, that the
natural sciences will solve all his problems. He would be wise to recall
that the great Roman republic in which Polybius lived more than 2200
years ago, did indeed become transformed into tyranny and, in the end,
into anarchy and oblivion. No wonder that the makers of the American
constitution keenly studied Polybius. Not only has Taine's comments and
factual description of the cyclic French political history much to teach
us about ourselves and the dangers which lie ahead, but it also shows us
the origins and weakness of our political theories. It is obvious that
should ask ourselves the question of where, in the political evolution
we are now? Are we still ruled by the corrupt oligarchs or have we
reached the stage where the people has become used to be fed on the
property of others? If so dissolution and anarchy is just around the

"The Revolution, Vol. II, 8th ed.

Svend Rom. Hendaye, France. February 2000.



In this volume, as in those preceding it and in those to come, there
will be found only the history of Public Authorities. Others will write
that of diplomacy, of war, of the finances, of the Church; my subject
is a limited one. To my great regret, however, this new part fills an
entire volume; and the last part, on the revolutionary government, will
be as long.

I have again to regret the dissatisfaction I foresee this work will
cause to many of my countrymen. My excuse is, that almost all of them,
more fortunate than myself, have political principles which serve them
in forming their judgments of the past. I had none; if indeed, I had
any motive in undertaking this work, it was to seek for political
principles. Thus far I have attained to scarcely more than one; and this
is so simple that will seem puerile, and that I hardly dare express it.
Nevertheless I have adhered to it, and in what the reader is about to
peruse my judgments are all derived from that; its truth is the measure
of theirs. It consists wholly in this observation: that


Hence the difficulty in knowing and comprehending it. For the same
reason it is not easy to handle the subject well. It follows that a
cultivated mind is much better able to do this than an uncultivated
mind, and a man specially qualified than one who is not. From these two
last truths flow many other consequences, which, if the reader deigns to
reflect on them, he will have no trouble in defining.

Paris 1881.


[Footnote 0001: Page XLVI of the Introduction to the Edition by Robert
Lafont in 1986 by "Les Origines de la France Contemporaine".]

[Footnote 0002: From "HISTORIES", BOOK VI. 3. 3-4. 1 FROM LOEB'S



In 1849, being twenty-one years of age, and an elector, I was very
much puzzled, for I had to nominate fifteen or twenty deputies, and,
moreover, according to French custom, I had not only to determine what
candidate I would vote for, but what theory I should adopt. I had to
choose between a royalist or a republican, a democrat or a conservative,
a socialist or a bonapartist; as I was neither one nor the other, nor
even anything, I often envied those around me who were so fortunate
as to have arrived at definite conclusions. After listening to various
doctrines, I acknowledged that there undoubtedly was something wrong
with my head. The motives that influenced others did not influence me; I
could not comprehend how, in political matters, a man could be governed
by preferences. My assertive countrymen planned a constitution just like
a house, according to the latest, simplest, and most attractive plan;
and there were several under consideration--the mansion of a marquis,
the house of a common citizen, the tenement of a laborer, the barracks
of a soldier, the kibbutz of a socialist, and even the camp of savages.
Each claimed that his was "the true habitation for Man, the only one
in which a sensible person could live." In my opinion, the argument was
weak; personal taste could not be valid for everyone. It seemed to me
that a house should not be built for the architect alone, or for itself,
but for the owner who was to live in it. Referring to the owner for his
advice, that is submitting to the French people the plans of its future
habitation, would evidently be either for show or just to deceive them;
since the question, obviously, was put in such a manner that it provided
the answer in advance. Besides, had the people been allowed to reply
in all liberty, their response was in any case not of much value since
France was scarcely more competent than I was; the combined ignorance of
ten millions is not the equivalent of one man's wisdom. A people may be
consulted and, in an extreme case, may declare what form of government
it would like best, but not that which it most needs. Nothing but
experience can determine this; it must have time to ascertain whether
the political structure is convenient, substantial, able to withstand
inclemency, and adapted to customs, habits, occupations, characters,
peculiarities and caprices. For example, the one we have tried has never
satisfied us; we have during eighty years demolished it thirteen times,
each time setting it up anew, and always in vain, for never have we
found one that suited us. If other nations have been more fortunate, or
if various political structures abroad have proved stable and enduring,
it is because these have been erected in a special way. Founded on some
primitive, massive pile, supported by an old central edifice, often
restored but always preserved, gradually enlarged, and, after numerous
trials and additions, they have been adapted to the wants of its
occupants. It is well to admit, perhaps, that there is no other way
of erecting a permanent building. Never has one been put up
instantaneously, after an entirely new design, and according to the
measurements of pure Reason. A sudden contrivance of a new, suitable,
and enduring constitution is an enterprise beyond the forces of the
human mind.

In any event, I came to the conclusion that if we should ever discover
the one we need it would not be through some fashionable theory. The
point is, if it exists, to discover it, and not to put it to a vote. To
do that would not only be pretentious it would be useless; history and
nature will do it for us; it is for us to adapt ourselves to them, as
it is certain they will accommodate themselves to us. The social and
political mold, into which a nation may enter and remain, is not
subject to its will, but determined by its character and its past. It
is essential that, even in its least traits, it should be shaped on the
living material to which it is applied; otherwise it will burst and fall
to pieces. Hence, if we should succeed in finding ours, it will only be
through a study of ourselves, while the more we understand exactly what
we are, the more certainly shall we distinguish what best suits us.
We ought, therefore, to reverse the ordinary methods, and form some
conception of the nation before formulating its constitution. Doubtless
the first operation is much more tedious and difficult than the second.
How much time, how much study, how many observations rectified one by
the other, how many researches in the past and the present, over all
the domains of thought and of action, what manifold and age-long labors
before we can obtain an accurate and complete idea of a great people. A
people which has lived a people's age, and which still lives! But it is
the only way to avoid the unsound construction based on a meaningless
planning. I promised myself that, for my own part, if I should some day
undertake to form a political opinion, it would be only after having
studied France.

What is contemporary France? To answer this question we must know how
this France is formed, or, what is still better, to act as spectator at
its formation. At the end of the last century (in 1789), like a molting
insect, it underwent a metamorphosis. Its ancient organization is
dissolved; it tears away its most precious tissues and falls into
convulsions, which seem mortal. Then, after multiplied throes and a
painful lethargy, it re-establishes itself. But its organization is no
longer the same: by silent interior travail a new being is substituted
for the old. In 1808, its leading characteristics are decreed and
defined: departments, arondissements, cantons and communes, no change
have since taken place in its exterior divisions and functions.
Concordat, Code, Tribunals, University, Institute, Prefects, Council of
State, Taxes, Collectors, Cours des Comptes, a uniform and centralized
administration, its principal organs, are still the same. Nobility,
commoners, artisans, peasants, each class has henceforth the position,
the sentiments, the traditions which we see at the present day (1875).
Thus the new creature is at once stable and complete; consequently its
structure, its instincts and its faculties mark in advance the circle
within which its thought and its action will be stimulated. Around
it, other nations, some more advanced, others less developed, all
with greater caution, some with better results, attempt similarly a
transformation from a feudal to a modern state; the process takes place
everywhere and all but simultaneously. But, under this new system as
beneath the ancient, the weak is always the prey of the strong. Woe to
those (nations) whose retarded evolution exposes them to the neighbor
suddenly emancipated from his chrysalis state, and is the first to go
forth fully armed! Woe likewise to him whose too violent and too abrupt
evolution has badly balanced his internal economy. Who, through the
exaggeration of his governing forces, through the deterioration of his
deep-seated organs, through the gradual impoverishment of his vital
tissues is condemned to commit inconsiderate acts, to debility,
to impotency, amidst sounder and better-balanced neighbors! In the
organization, which France effected for herself at the beginning of the
(19th) century, all the general lines of her contemporary history were
traced. Her political revolutions, social Utopias, division of classes,
role of the church, conduct of the nobility, of the middle class, and of
the people, the development, the direction, or deviation of philosophy,
of letters and of the arts. That is why, should we wish to understand
our present condition our attention always reverts to the terrible and
fruitful crisis by which the ancient regime produced the Revolution, and
the Revolution the new regime.

Ancient régime, Revolution, new régime, I am going to try to describe
these three conditions with exactitude. I have no other object in
view. A historian may be allowed the privilege of a naturalist; I
have regarded my subject the same as the metamorphosis of an insect.
Moreover, the event is so interesting in itself that it is worth the
trouble of being observed for its own sake, and no effort is required
to suppress one's ulterior motives. Freed from all prejudice, curiosity
becomes scientific and may be completely concentrated on the secret
forces, which guide the wonderful process. These forces are the
situation, the passions, the ideas, the wills of each group of actors,
and which can be defined and almost measured. They are in full view; we
are not reduced to conjectures about them, to uncertain divination,
to vague indications. By singular good fortune we perceive the men
themselves, their exterior and their interior. The Frenchmen of the
ancient régime are still within visual range. All of us, in our youth,
(around 1840-50), have encountered one or more of the survivors of this
vanished society. Many of their dwellings, with the furniture, still
remain intact. Their pictures and engravings enable us to take part in
their domestic life, see how they dress, observe their attitudes and
follow their movements. Through their literature, philosophy, scientific
pursuits, gazettes, and correspondence, we can reproduce their feeling
and thought, and even enjoy their familiar conversation. The multitude
of memoirs, issuing during the past thirty years from public and private
archives, lead us from one drawing room to another, as if we bore with
us so many letters of introduction. The independent descriptions by
foreign travelers, in their journals and correspondence, correct
and complete the portraits, which this society has traced of itself.
Everything that it could state has been stated, except,

* what was commonplace and well-known to contemporaries,

* whatever seemed technical, tedious and vulgar,

* whatever related to the provinces, to the bourgeoisie, the peasant, to
the laboring man, to the government, and to the household.

It has been my aim to fill this void, and make France known to others
outside the small circle of the literary and the cultivated. Owing
to the kindness of M. Maury[0011] and the precious indications of M.
Boutaric, I have been able to examine a mass of manuscript documents.
These include the correspondence of a large number of intendants, (the
Royal governor of a large district), the directors of customs and tax
offices, legal officers, and private persons of every kind and of every
degree during the thirty last years of the ancient regime. Also included
are the reports and registers of the various departments of the royal
household, the reports and registers of the States General in 176
volumes, the dispatches of military officers in 1789 and 1790, letters,
memoirs and detailed statistics preserved in the one hundred boxes of
the ecclesiastical committee, the correspondence, in 94 bundles, of the
department and municipal authorities with the ministries from 1790 to
1799, the reports of the Councilors of State on mission at the end of
1801, the reports of prefects under the Consulate, the Empire, and
the Restoration down to 1823. There is such a quantity of unknown and
instructive documents besides these that the history of the Revolution
seems, indeed, to be still unwritten. In any event, it is only such
documents, which can make all these people come alive. The lesser
nobles, the curates, the monks, the nuns of the provinces, the aldermen
and bourgeoisie of the towns, the attorneys and syndics of the country
villages, the laborers and artisans, the officers and the soldiers.
These alone enable us to contemplate and appreciate in detail the
various conditions of their existence, the interior of a parsonage, of
a convent, of a town-council, the wages of a workman, the produce of a
farm, the taxes levied on a peasant, the duties of a tax-collector, the
expenditure of a noble or prelate, the budget, retinue and ceremonial of
a court. Thanks to such resources, we are able to give precise figures,
to know hour by hour the occupations of a day and, better still, read
off the bill of fare of a grand dinner, and recompose all parts of
a full-dress costume. We have even, on the one hand, samples of the
materials of the dresses worn by Marie Antoinette, pinned on paper and
classified by dates. And on the other hand, we can tell what clothes
were worn by the peasant, describe the bread he ate, specify the
flour it was made of, and state the cost of a pound of it in sous and
deniers.[0012] With such resources one becomes almost contemporary with
the men whose history one writes and, more than once, in the Archives,
I have, while tracing their old handwriting on the time-stained paper
before me, been tempted to speak aloud with them.

H. A. Taine, August 1875.


[Footnote 0011: Taine's friend who was the director of the French
National Archives. (SR.)]

[Footnote 0012: One sou equals 1/20th of a franc or 5 centimes. 12
diniers equaled one sou. (SR.)]



In 1789 three classes of persons, the Clergy, the Nobles and the
King, occupied the most prominent position in the State with all the
advantages pertaining thereto namely, authority, property, honors,
or, at the very least, privileges, immunities, favors, pensions,
preferences, and the like. If they occupied this position for so long a
time, it is because for so long a time they had deserved it. They had,
in short, through an immense and secular effort, constructed by degrees
the three principal foundations of modern society.

I. Services and Recompenses of the Clergy.

Of these three layered foundations the most ancient and deepest was the
work of the clergy. For twelve hundred years and more they had labored
upon it, both as architects and workmen, at first alone and then
almost alone.--In the beginning, during the first four centuries, they
constituted religion and the church. Let us ponder over these two words;
in order to weigh them well. On the one hand, in a society founded on
conquest, hard and cold like a machine of brass, forced by its very
structure to destroy among its subjects all courage to act and all
desire to live, they had proclaimed the "glad tidings," held forth the
"kingdom of God," preached loving resignation in the hands of a Heavenly
Father, inspired patience, gentleness, humility, self-abnegation, and
charity, and opened the only issues by which Man stifling in the Roman
'ergastulum' could again breathe and see daylight: and here we
have religion. On the other hand, in a State gradually undergoing
depopulation, crumbling away, and fatally becoming a prey, they had
formed a living society governed by laws and discipline, rallying around
a common aim and a common doctrine, sustained by the devotion of chiefs
and by the obedience of believes, alone capable of subsisting beneath
the flood of barbarians which the empire in ruin suffered to pour in
through its breaches: and here we have the church.--It continues to
build on these two first foundations, and after the invasion, for over
five hundred years, it saves what it can still save of human culture.
It marches in the van of the barbarians or converts them directly after
their entrance, which is a wonderful advantage. Let us judge of it by
a single fact: In Great Britain, which like Gaul had become Latin, but
whereof the conquerors remain pagan during a century and a half, arts,
industries, society, language, all were destroyed; nothing remained
of an entire people, either massacred or fugitive, but slaves. We have
still to divine their traces; reduced to the condition of beasts of
burden, they disappear from history. Such might have been the fate of
Europe if the clergy had not promptly tamed the fierce brutes to which
it belonged.

Before the bishop in his gilded cope or before the monk, the converted
German "emaciated, clad in skins," wan, "dirtier and more spotted than a
chameleon,"[1101] stood fear-stricken as before a sorcerer. In his
calm moments, after the chase or inebriety, the vague divination of
a mysterious and grandiose future, the dim conception of an unknown
tribunal, the rudiment of conscience which he already had in his forests
beyond the Rhine, arouses in him through sudden alarms half-formed,
menacing visions. At the moment of violating a sanctuary he asks himself
whether he may not fall on its threshold with vertigo and a broken
neck.[1102] Convicted through his own perplexity, he stops and spares
the farm, the village, and the town, which live under the priest's
protection. If the animal impulse of rage, or of primitive lusts, leads
him to murder or to rob, later, after satiety, in times of sickness or
of misfortune, taking the advice of his concubine or of his wife, he
repents and makes restitution twofold, tenfold, a hundredfold, unstinted
in his gifts and immunities.[1103] Thus, over the whole territory the
clergy maintain and enlarge their asylums for the oppressed and the
vanquished.--On the other hand, among the warrior chiefs with long hair,
by the side of kings clad in furs, the mitered bishop and abbot, with
shaven brows, take seats in the assemblies; they alone know how to use
the pen and how to discuss. Secretaries, councilors, theologians, they
participate in all edicts; they have their hand in the government;
they strive through its agency to bring a little order out of
immense disorder; to render the law more rational and more humane, to
re-establish or preserve piety, instruction, justice, property, and
especially marriage. To their ascendancy is certainly due the police
system, such as it was, intermittent and incomplete, which prevented
Europe from falling into a Mongolian anarchy. If, down to the end of
the twelfth century, the clergy bears heavily on the princes, it is
especially to repress in them and beneath them the brutal appetites,
the rebellions of flesh and blood, the outbursts and relapses
of irresistible ferocity which are undermining the social
fabric.--Meanwhile, in its churches and in its convents, it preserves
the ancient acquisitions of humanity, the Latin tongue, Christian
literature and theology, a portion of pagan literature and science,
architecture, sculpture, painting, the arts and industries which aid
worship. It also preserved the more valuable industries, which provide
man with bread, clothing, and shelter, and especially the greatest of
all human acquisitions, and the most opposed to the vagabond humor of
the idle and plundering barbarian, the habit and taste for labor. In the
districts depopulated through Roman exactions, through the revolt of
the Bagaudes, through the invasion of the Germans, and the raids of
brigands, the Benedictine monk built his cabin of boughs amid briers and
brambles.[1104] Large areas around him, formerly cultivated, are nothing
but abandoned thickets. Along with his associates he clears the ground
and erects buildings; he domesticates half-tamed animals, he establishes
a farm, a mill, a forge, an oven, and shops for shoes and clothing.
According to the rules of his order, he reads daily for two hours. He
gives seven hours to manual labor, and he neither eats nor drinks more
than is absolutely essential. Through his intelligent, voluntary labor,
conscientiously performed and with a view to the future, he produces
more than the layman does. Through his temperate, judicious, economical
system he consumes less than the layman does. Hence it is that where
the layman had failed he sustains himself and even prospers.[1105] He
welcomes the unfortunate, feeds them, sets them to work, and unites them
in matrimony and beggars, vagabonds, and fugitive peasants gather around
the sanctuary. Their camp gradually becomes a village and next a small
town; man plows as soon as he can be sure of his crops, and becomes the
father of a family as soon as he considers himself able to provide for
his offspring. In this way new centers of agriculture and industry are
formed, which likewise become new centers of population.[1106]

To food for the body add food for the soul, not less essential. For,
along with nourishment, it was still necessary to furnish Man with
inducements to live, or, at the very least, with the resignation that
makes life endurable, and also with the poetic daydreams taking the
place of massing happiness.[1107] Down to the middle of the thirteenth
century the clergy stands almost alone in furnishing this. Through
its innumerable legends of saints, through its cathedrals and their
construction, through its statues and their expression, through its
services and their still transparent meaning, it rendered visible "the
kingdom of God." It finally sets up an ideal world at the end of the
present one, like a magnificent golden pavilion at the end of a miry
morass.[1108] The saddened heart, athirst for tenderness and serenity,
takes refuge in this divine and gentle world. Persecutors there, about
to strike, are arrested by an invisible hand; wild beasts become docile;
the stags of the forest come of their own accord every morning to draw
the chariots of the saints; the country blooms for them like a new
Paradise; they die only when it pleases them. Meanwhile they comfort
mankind; goodness, piety, forgiveness flows from their lips with
ineffable sweetness; with eyes upturned to heaven, they see God, and
without effort, as in a dream, they ascend into the light and seat
themselves at His right hand. How divine the legend, how inestimable in
value, when, under the universal reign of brute force, to endure this
life it was necessary to imagine another, and to render the second as
visible to the spiritual eye as the first was to the physical eye. The
clergy thus nourished men for more than twelve centuries, and in the
grandeur of its recompense we can estimate the depth of their gratitude.
Its popes, for two hundred years, were the dictators of Europe. It
organized crusades, dethroned monarchs, and distributed kingdoms. Its
bishops and abbots became here, sovereign princes, and there, veritable
founders of dynasties. It held in its grasp a third of the territory,
one-half of the revenue, and two-thirds of the capital of Europe. Let us
not believe that Man counterfeits gratitude, or that he gives without a
valid motive; he is too selfish and too envious for that. Whatever may
be the institution, ecclesiastic or secular, whatever may be the clergy,
Buddhist or Christian, the contemporaries who observe it for forty
generations are not bad judges. They surrender to it their will and
their possessions, just in proportion to its services, and the excess of
their devotion may measure the immensity of its benefaction.

II. Services and Recompenses of the Nobles.

Up to this point no aid is found against the power of the sword and
the battle-ax except in persuasion and in patience. Those States
which, imitating the old empire, attempted to rise up into compact
organizations, and to interpose a barrier against constant invasion,
obtained no hold on the shifting soil; after Charlemagne everything
melts away. There are no more soldiers after the battle of Fontanet;
during half a century bands of four or five hundred outlaws sweep over
the country, killing, burning, and devastating with impunity. But, by
way of compensation, the dissolution of the State raises up at this very
time a military generation. Each petty chieftain has planted his feet
firmly on the domain he occupies, or which he withholds; he no longer
keeps it in trust, or for use, but as property, and an inheritance. It
is his own manor, his own village, his own earldom; it no longer belongs
to the king; he contends for it in his own right. The benefactor, the
conservator at this time is the man capable of fighting, of defending
others, and such really is the character of the newly established class.
The noble, in the language of the day, is the man of war, the soldier
(miles), and it is he who lays the second foundation of modern society.

In the tenth century his extraction is of little consequence. He is
oftentimes a Carlovingian count, a beneficiary of the king, the sturdy
proprietor of one of the last of the Frank estates. In one place he is
a martial bishop or a valiant abbot in another a converted pagan, a
retired bandit, a prosperous adventurer, a rude huntsman, who long
supported himself by the chase and on wild fruits.[1109] The ancestors
of Robert the Strong are unknown, and later the story runs that the
Capets are descended from a Parisian butcher. In any event the noble of
that epoch is the brave, the powerful man, expert in the use of arms,
who, at the head of a troop, instead of flying or paying ransom, offers
his breast, stands firm, and protects a patch of the soil with his
sword. To perform this service he has no need of ancestors; all that
he requires is courage, for he is himself an ancestor; security for the
present, which he insures, is too acceptable to permit any quibbling
about his title.-Finally, after so many centuries, we find each district
possessing its armed men, a settled body of troops capable of resisting
nomadic invasion; the community is no longer a prey to strangers. At the
end of a century this Europe, which had been sacked by the Vikings, is
to throw 200,000 armed men into Asia. Henceforth, both north and south,
in the face of Moslems and of pagans, instead of being conquered it is
to conquer. For the second time an ideal figure becomes apparent
after that of the saint,[1110] the hero; and the newborn sentiment,
as effective as the old one, thus groups men together into a stable
society.--This consists of a resident corps of men-at-arms, in which,
from father to son, one is always a soldier. Each individual is born
into it with his hereditary rank, his local post, his pay in landed
property, with the certainty of never being abandoned by his chieftain,
and with the obligation of giving his life for his chieftain in time of
need. In this epoch of perpetual warfare only one set-up is valid, that
of a body of men confronting the enemy, and such is the feudal system;
we can judge by this trait alone of the perils which it wards off,
and of the service which it enjoins. "In those days," says the Spanish
general chronicle, "kings, counts, nobles, and knights, in order to be
ready at all hours, kept their horses in the rooms in which they slept
with their wives." The viscount in his tower defending the entrance to a
valley or the passage of a ford, the marquis thrown as a forlorn hope
on the burning frontier, sleeps with his hand on his weapon, like an
American lieutenant among the Sioux behind a western stockade. His
dwelling is simply a camp and a refuge. Straw and heaps of leaves cover
the pavement of the great hall, here he rests with his troopers, taking
off a spur if he has a chance to sleep. The loopholes in the wall
scarcely allow daylight to enter; the main thing is not to be shot
with arrows. Every taste, every sentiment is subordinated to military
service; there are certain places on the European frontier where a child
of fourteen is required to march, and where the widow up to sixty is
required to remarry. Men to fill up the ranks, men to mount guard, is
the call, which at this moment issues from all institutions like the
summons of a brazen horn.--Thanks to these braves, the peasant(villanus)
enjoys protection. He is no longer to be slaughtered, no longer to be
led captive with his family, in herds, with his neck in the yoke. He
ventures to plow and to sow, and to reply upon his crops; in case of
danger he knows that he can find an asylum for himself, and for
his grain and cattle, in the circle of palisades at the base of the
fortress. By degrees necessity establishes a tacit contract between
the military chieftain of the donjon and the early settlers of the
open country, and this becomes a recognized custom. They work for him,
cultivate his ground, do his carting, pay him quittances, so much for
house, so much per head for cattle, so much to inherit or to sell; he is
compelled to support his troop. But when these rights are discharged he
errs if, through pride or greed, he takes more than his due.--As to the
vagabonds, the wretched, who, in the universal disorder and devastation,
seek refuge under his guardianship, their condition is harder. The soil
belongs to the lord because without him it would be uninhabitable. If
he assigns them a plot of ground, if he permits them merely to encamp
on it, if he sets them to work or furnishes them with seeds it is on
conditions, which he prescribes. They are to become his serfs, subject
to the laws on mainmorte.[1111] Wherever they may go he is to have
the right of fetching them back. From father to son they are his born
domestics, applicable to any pursuit he pleases, taxable and workable
at his discretion. They are not allowed to transmit anything to a child
unless the latter, "living from their pot," can, after their death,
continue their service. "Not to be killed," says Stendhal, "and to
have a good sheepskin coat in winter, was, for many people in the tenth
century, the height of felicity"; let us add, for a woman, that of not
being violated by a whole band. When we clearly represent to ourselves
the condition of humanity in those days, we can comprehend how men
readily accepted the most obnoxious of feudal rights, even that of the
droit du seigneur. The risks to which they were daily exposed were even
worse.[1112] The proof of it is that the people flocked to the feudal
structure as soon as it was completed. In Normandy, for instance, when
Rollo had divided off the lands with a line, and hung the robbers,
the inhabitants of the neighboring provinces rushed in to establish
themselves. The slightest security sufficed to repopulate a country.

People accordingly lived, or rather began to live once more, under the
rude, iron-gloved hand which used them roughly, but which afforded
them protection. The seignior, sovereign and proprietor, maintains for
himself under this double title, the moors, the river, the forest, all
the game. It is no great evil, since the country is nearly a desert,
and he devotes his leisure to exterminating large wild beasts. He alone
possessed the resources. He is the only one that is able to construct
the mill, the oven, and the winepress; to establish the ferry, the
bridge, or the highway, to dike in a marsh, and to raise or purchase a
bull. To indemnify himself he taxes for these, for forces their use. If
he is intelligent and a good manager of men, if he seeks to derive the
greatest profit from his ground, he gradually relaxes, or allows to
become relaxed, the meshes of the net in which his peasants and serfs
work unprofitably because they are too tightly drawn. Habits, necessity,
a voluntary or forced conformity, have their effect. Lords, peasants,
serfs, and bourgeois, in the end adapted to their condition, bound
together by a common interest, form together a society, a veritable
corporation. The seigniory, the county, the duchy becomes a patrimony
which is loved through a blind instinct, and to which all are devoted.
It is confounded with the seignior and his family; in this relation
people are proud of him. They narrate his feats of arms; they cheer
him as his cavalcade passes along the street; they rejoice in his
magnificence through sympathy.[1113] If he becomes a widower and has
no children, they send deputations to him to entreat him to remarry,
in order that at his death the country may not fall into a war of
succession or be given up to the encroachment of neighbors. Thus there
is a revival, after a thousand years, of the most powerful and the most
vivacious of the sentiments that support human society. This one is
the more precious because it is capable of expanding. In order that the
small feudal patrimony to become the great national patrimony, it now
suffices for the seigniories to be combined in the hands of a single
lord, and that the king, chief of the nobles, should overlay the work of
the nobles with the third foundation of France.

III. Services and Recompenses of the King.

Kings built the whole of this foundation, one stone after another.
Hugues Capet laid the first one. Before him royalty conferred on the
King no right to a province, not even Laon; it is he who added his
domain to the title. During eight hundred years, through conquest,
craft, inheritance, the work of acquisition goes on; even under Louis XV
France is augmented by the acquisition of Lorraine and Corsica. Starting
from nothing, the King is the maker of a compact State, containing
the population of twenty-six millions, and then the most powerful in
Europe.--Throughout this interval he is at the head of the national
defense. He is the liberator of the country against foreigners,
against the Pope in the fourteenth century, against the English in the
fifteenth, against the Spaniards in the sixteenth. In the interior, from
the twelfth century onward, with the helmet on his brow, and always
on the road, he is the great justiciary, demolishing the towers of the
feudal brigands, repressing the excesses of the powerful, and protecting
the oppressed.[1114] He puts an end to private warfare; he establishes
order and tranquility. This was an immense accomplishment, which,
from Louis le Gros to St. Louis, from Philippe le Bel to Charles VII,
continues uninterruptedly up to the middle of the eighteenth century in
the edict against duels and in the "Grand Jours."[1115] Meanwhile all
useful projects carried out under his orders, or developed under his
patronage, roads, harbors, canals, asylums, universities, academies,
institutions of piety, of refuge, of education, of science, of
industry, and of commerce, bears his imprint and proclaim the public
benefactor.-Services of this character challenge a proportionate
recompense; it is allowed that from father to son he is wedded to
France; that she acts only through him; that he acts only for her;
while every souvenir of the past and every present interest combine to
sanction this union. The Church consecrates it at Rheims by a sort
of eighth sacrament, accompanied with legends and miracles; he is the
anointed of God.[1116] The nobles, through an old instinct of military
fealty, consider themselves his bodyguard, and down to August 10, 1789,
rush forward to die for him on his staircase; he is their general by
birth. The people, down to 1789, regard him as the redresser of abuses,
the guardian of the right, the protector of the weak, the great almoner
and the universal refuge. At the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI
"shouts of Vive le roi, which began at six o'clock in the morning,
continued scarcely interrupted until after sunset."[1117] When the
Dauphin was born the joy of France was that of a whole family.
"People stopped each other in the streets, spoke together without any
acquaintance, and everybody embraced everybody he knew."[1118] Every
one, through vague tradition, through immemorial respect, feels
that France is a ship constructed by his hands and the hands of his
ancestors. In this sense, the vessel is his property; it is his right
to it is the same as that of each passenger to his private goods. The
king's only duty consists in being expert and vigilant in guiding
across the oceans and beneath his banner the magnificent ship upon which
everyone's welfare depends.-Under the ascendancy of such an idea he was
allowed to do everything. By fair means or foul, he so reduced ancient
authorities as to make them a fragment, a pretense, a souvenir. The
nobles are simply his officials or his courtiers. Since the Concordat
he nominates the dignitaries of the Church. The States-General were
not convoked for a hundred and seventy-five years; the provincial
assemblies, which continue to subsist, do nothing but apportion the
taxes; the parliaments are exiled when they risk a remonstrance. Through
his council, his intendants, his sub-delegates, he intervenes in
the most trifling of local matters. His revenue is four hundred and
seventy-seven millions.[1119] He disburses one-half of that of
the Clergy. In short, he is absolute master, and he so declares
himself.[1120]--Possessions, freedom from taxation, the satisfactions
of vanity, a few remnants of local jurisdiction and authority, are
consequently all that is left to his ancient rivals; in exchange for
these they enjoy his favors and marks of preference.-Such, in brief, is
the history of the privileged classes, the Clergy, the Nobles, and
the King. It must be kept in mind to comprehend their situation at the
moment of their fall; having created France, they enjoy it. Let us see
clearly what becomes of them at the end of the eighteenth century; what
portion of their advantages they preserved; what services they still
render, and what services they do not render.


[Footnote 1101: "Les Moines d'Occident," by Montalembert, I. 277. St.
Lupicin before the Burgundian King Chilperic, II. 416. Saint Karileff
before King Childebert. Cf. passim, Gregory of Tours and the Bollandist

[Footnote 1102: No legend is more frequently encountered; we find it as
late as the twelfth century.]

[Footnote 1103: Chilperic, for example, acting under the advice of
Fredegonde after the death of all their children.]

[Footnote 1104: Montalembert, ibid., II. book 8; and especially "Les
Forêts de la France dans l'antiquité et au Moyen Age," by Alfred Maury.
Spinoe et vepres is a phrase constantly recurring in the lives of the

[Footnote 1105: We find the same thing to day with the colonies of
Trappists in Algiers.]

[Footnote 1106: "Polyptique d'Irminon," by Guérard. In this work we see
the prosperity of the domain belonging to the Abbey of St. Germain
des Près at the end of the eighth century. According to M. Guérard's
statistics, the peasantry of Paliseau were about as prosperous in the
time of Charlemagne as at the present day.]

[Footnote 1107: Taine's definition would also fit contemporary (1999)
drugs and video entertainment which also provide mankind with both hope,
pleasure and entertainment. (SR.)]

[Footnote 1108: There are twenty-five thousand lives of the
saints, between the sixth and the tenth centuries, collected by the
Bollandists.--The last that are truly inspired are those of St. Francis
of Assisi and his companions at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
The same vivid sentiment extends down to the end of the fifteenth
century in the works of Fra Angelico and Hans Memling.--The Sainte
Chapelle in Paris, the upper church at Assisi, Dante's Paradise, and
the Fioretti, furnish an idea of these visions. As regards modern
literature, the state of a believer's soul in the middle ages is
perfectly described in the "Pélerinage à Kevlaar," by Henri Heine, and
in "Les Reliques vivantes," by Tourgueneff.]

[Footnote 1109: As, for example, Tertulle, founder of the Platagenet
family, Rollo, Duke of Normandy, Hugues, Abbot of St. Martin of Tours
and of St. Denis.]

[Footnote 1110: See the "Cantilenes" of the tenth century in which the
"Chansons de Geste" are foreshadowed.]

[Footnote 1111: Laws governing the feudal system (1372) where the feudal
lord is unable to transmit his property by testament but has to leave
them to the next holder of the title. The "mainmortables" were serfs who
belonged to the property. (SR.)]

[Footnote 1112: See in the "Voyages du Caillaud," in Nubia and
Abyssinia, the raids for slaves made by the Pacha's armies; Europe
presented about the same spectacle between the years 800 and 900.]

[Footnote 1113: See the zeal of subjects for their lords in the
historians of the middle ages; Gaston Phoebus, Comte de Foix, and
Guy, Comte de Flandres in Froissart; Raymond de Béziers and Raymond de
Toulouse, in the chronicle of Toulouse. This profound sentiment of small
local patrimonics is apparent at each provincial assembly in Normandy,
Brittany, Franche-Comté, etc.]

[Footnote 1114: Suger, Life of Louis VI.]

[Footnote 1115: "Les Grand Jours d'Auvergne," by Fléchier, ed. Chéruel.
The last feudal brigand, the Baron of Plumartin, in Poitou, was taken,
tried, and beheaded under Louis XV in 1756.]

[Footnote 1116: As late as Louis XV a procès verbal is made of a number
of cures of the King's evil.]

[Footnote 1117: "Mémoires of Madame Campan," I. 89; II. 215.]

[Footnote 1118: In 1785 an Englishman visiting France boasts of the
political liberty enjoyed in his country. As an offset to this the
French reproach the English for having decapitated Charles I., and
"glory in having always maintained an inviolable attachment to their own
king; a fidelity, a respect which no excess or severity on his part
has ever shaken." ("A Comparative View of the French and of the English
Nation," by John Andrews, p.257.)]

[Footnote 1119: Memoirs of D'Augeard, private secretary of the Queen,
and a former farmer-general.]

[Footnote 1120: The following is the reply of Louis XV. to the
Parliament of Paris, March 3, 1766, in a lit de justice: "The sovereign
authority is vested in my person. . . The legislative power, without
dependence and without division, exists in myself alone. Public security
emanates wholly from myself; I am its supreme custodian. My people are
one only with me; national rights and interests, of which an attempt is
made to form a body separate from those of the monarch, are necessarily
combined with my own, and rests only in my hands."]


I. Number of the Privileged Classes.

The privileged classes number about 270,000 persons, comprising of
the nobility, 140,000 and of the clergy 130,000.[1201] This makes from
25,000 to 30,000 noble families; 23,000 monks in 2,500 monasteries, and
37,000 nuns in 1,500 convents, and 60,000 curates and vicars in as
many churches and chapels. Should the reader desire a more distinct
impression of them, he may imagine on each square league of
territory[1202], and to each thousand of inhabitants, one noble family
in its weathercock mansion. In each village there is a curate and his
church, and, every six or seven leagues, a community of men or of
women. We have here the ancient chieftains and founders of France; thus
entitled, they still enjoy many possessions and many rights.

II. Their Possessions, Capital, and Revenue.

Let us always keep in mind what they were, in order to comprehend what
they are. Great as their advantages may be, these are merely the remains
of still greater advantages. This or that bishop or abbot, this or
that count or duke, whose successors make their bows at Versailles, was
formerly the equals of the Carlovingians and the first Capets. A Sire de
Montlhéry held King Philippe I in check.[1203] The abbey of St. Germain
des Prés possessed 430,000 hectares of land (about 900,000 acres),
almost the extent of an entire department. We need not be surprised that
they remained powerful, and, especially, rich; no stability is greater
than that of an associative body. After eight hundred years, in spite
of so many strokes of the royal ax, and the immense change in the
culture of society, the old feudal root lasts and still vegetates. We
remark it first in the distribution of property.[1204] A fifth of the
soil belongs to the crown and the communes, a fifth to the Third-Estate,
a fifth to the rural population, a fifth to the nobles and a fifth to
the clergy. Accordingly, if we deduct the public lands, the privileged
classes own one-half of the kingdom. This large portion, moreover, is
at the same time the richest, for it comprises almost all the large and
imposing buildings, the palaces, castles, convents, and cathedrals,
and almost all the valuable movable property, such as furniture, plate,
objects of art, the accumulated masterpieces of centuries.--We can
judge of it by an estimate of the portion belonging to the clergy. Its
possessions, capitalized, amount to nearly 4,000,000,000 francs.[1205]
Income from this amounts to 80 or 100 millions. To this must be added
the dime (or tithes), 123 millions per annum, in all 200 millions, a sum
which must be doubled to show its equivalent at the present day. We
must also add the chance contributions and the usual church
collections.[1206] To fully realize the breadth of this golden stream
let us look at some of its affluents. 399 monks at Prémontré estimate
their revenue at more than 1,000,000 livres, and their capital at
45,000,000. The Provincial of the Dominicans of Toulouse admits, for his
two hundred and thirty-six monks, "more than 200,000 livres net revenue,
not including the convent and its enclosure; also, in the colonies,
real estate, Negroes and other effects, valued at several millions."
The Benedictines of Cluny, numbering 298, enjoy an income of 1,800,000
livres. Those of Saint-Maur, numbering 1672, estimate the movable
property of their churches and houses at 24,000,000, and their net
revenue at 8 millions, "without including that which accrues to
Messieurs the abbots and priors commendatory," which means as much
and perhaps more. Dom Rocourt, abbot of Clairvaux, has from 300,000 to
400,000 livres income; the Cardinal de Rohan, archbishop of Strasbourg,
more than 1,000,000.[1207] In Franche-Comté, Alsace and Roussillon
the clergy own one-half of the territory, in Hainaut and Artois,
three-quarters, in Cambrésis fourteen hundred plow-areas out of
seventeen hundred.[1208] Almost the whole of Le Velay belongs to
the Bishop of Puy, the abbot of La Chaise-Dieu, the noble chapter of
Brionde, and to the seigniors of Polignac. The canons of St. Claude, in
the Jura, are the proprietors of 12,000 serfs or 'mainmorts.'[1209]
Through fortunes of the first class we can imagine those of the second.
As along with the noble it comprises the ennobled. As the magistrates
for two centuries, and the financiers for one century had acquired or
purchased nobility, it is clear that here are to be found almost all the
great fortunes of France, old or new, transmitted by inheritance,
obtained through court favors, or acquired in business. When a class
reaches the summit it is recruited out of those who are mounting or
clambering up. Here, too, there is colossal wealth. It has been
calculated that the possessions of the princes of the royal family, the
Comtés of Artois and of Provence, the Ducs d'Orléans and de Penthiévre
then covered one-seventh of the territory.[1210] The princes of the
blood have together a revenue of from 24 to 25 millions; the Duc
d'Orléans alone has a rental of 11,500,000.[1211]--These are the
vestiges of the feudal régime. Similar vestiges are found in England, in
Austria, in Germany and in Russia. Proprietorship, indeed, survives a
long time survives the circumstances on which it is founded. Sovereignty
had constituted property; divorced from sovereignty it has remained in
the hands formerly sovereign. In the bishop, the abbot and the count,
the king respected the proprietor while overthrowing the rival, and, in
the existing proprietor a hundred traits still indicate the annihilated
or modified sovereign.

III. Their Immunities.

Such is the total or partial exemption from taxation. The tax-collectors
halt in their presence because the king well knows that feudal property
has the same origin as his own; if royalty is one privilege seigniory
is another; the king himself is simply the most privileged among the
privileged. The most absolute, the most infatuated with his rights,
Louis XIV, entertained scruples when extreme necessity compelled him to
enforce on everybody the tax of the tenth.[1212] Treaties, precedents,
immemorial custom, reminiscences of ancient rights again restrain
the fiscal hand. The clearer the resemblance of the proprietor to the
ancient independent sovereign the greater his immunity.--In some places
a recent treaty guarantees him by his position as a stranger, by his
almost royal extraction. "In Alsace foreign princes in possession, with
the Teutonic order and the order of Malta, enjoy exemption from all real
and personal contributions." "In Lorraine the chapter of Remiremont
has the privilege of assessing itself in all state impositions."[1213]
Elsewhere he is protected by the maintenance of the provincial
Assemblies, and through the incorporation of the nobility with the
soil: in Languedoc and in Brittany the commoners alone paid the
taille[1214]--Everywhere else his quality preserved him from it, him,
his chateau and the chateau's dependencies; the taille reaches him only
through his farmers. And better still, it is sufficient that he himself
should work, or his steward, to communicate to the land his original
independence. As soon as he touches the soil, either personally or
through his agent, he exempts four plowing-areas (quatre charrues),
three hundred arpents,[1215] which in other hands would pay 2,000 francs
tax. Besides this he is exempt on "the woods, the meadows, the vines,
the ponds and the enclosed land belonging to the chateau, of whatever
extent it may be." Consequently, in Limousin and elsewhere, in regions
principally devoted to pasturage or to vineyards, he takes care to
manage himself, or to have managed, a certain portion of his domain; in
this way he exempts it from the tax collector.[1216] There is yet more.
In Alsace, through an express covenant he does not pay a cent of tax.
Thus, after the assaults of four hundred and fifty years, taxation, the
first of fiscal instrumentalities, the most burdensome of all, leaves
feudal property almost intact.[1217]--For the last century, two new
tools, the capitation-tax and the vingtièmes, appear more effective,
and yet are but little more so.--First of all, through a masterstroke of
ecclesiastical diplomacy, the clergy diverts or weakens the blow. As it
is an organization, holding assemblies, it is able to negotiate with the
king and buy itself off. To avoid being taxed by others it taxes itself.
It makes it appear that its payments are not compulsory contributions,
but a "free gift." It obtains then in exchange a mass of concessions,
is able to diminish this gift, sometimes not to make it, in any event
to reduce it to sixteen millions every five years, that is to say to a
little more than three millions per annum. In 1788 it is only 1,800,000
livres, and in 1789 it is refused altogether.[1218] And still better: as
it borrows to provide for this tax, and as the décimes which it raises
on its property do not suffice to reduce the capital and meet the
interest on its debt, it has the adroitness to secure, besides, a
grant from the king. Out of the royal treasury, each year, it receives
2,500,000 livres, so that, instead of paying, it receives. In 1787 it
receives in this way 1,500,000 livres.-As for the nobles, they, being
unable to combine together, to have representatives, and to act in a
public way, operate instead in a private way. They contact ministers,
intendants, sub-delegates, farmer-generals, and all others clothed with
authority, their quality securing attentions, consideration and favors.
In the first place, this quality exempts themselves, their dependents,
and the dependents of their dependents, from drafting in the militia,
from lodging soldiers, from (la corvée) laboring on the highways. Next,
the capitation being fixed according to the tax system, they pay little,
because their taxation is of little account. Moreover, each one brings
all his credit to bear against assessments. "Your sympathetic heart,"
writes one of them to the intendant, "will never allow a father of my
condition to be taxed for the vingtiémes rigidly like a father of low
birth."[1219] On the other hand, as the taxpayer pays the capitation-tax
at his actual residence, often far away from his estates, and no one
having any knowledge of his personal income, he may pay whatever seems
to him proper. There are no proceedings against him, if he is a noble;
the greatest circumspection is used towards persons of high rank. "In
the provinces," says Turgot, "the capitation-tax of the privileged
classes has been successively reduced to an exceedingly small matter,
whilst the capitation-tax of those who are liable to the taille is
almost equal to the aggregate of that tax." And finally, "the
collectors think that they are obliged to act towards them with marked
consideration" even when they owe; "the result of which," says
Necker, "is that very ancient, and much too large amounts, of their
capitation-tax remain unpaid." Accordingly, not having been able to
repel the assault of the revenue services in front they evaded it or
diminished it until it became almost unobjectionable. In Champagne, on
nearly 1,500,000 livres provided by the capitation-tax, they paid in
only 14,000 livres," that is to say, "2 sous and 2 deniers for the
same purpose which costs 12 sous per livre to those chargeable with the
taille." According to Calonne, "if concessions and privileges had been
suppressed the vingtièmes would have furnished double the amount."
In this respect the most opulent were the most skillful in protecting
themselves. "With the intendants," said the Duc d'Orleans, "I settle
matters, and pay about what I please," and he calculated that the
provincial administration, rigorously taxing him, would cause him to
lose 300,000 livres rental. It has been proved that the princes of
the blood paid, for their two-twentieths, 188,000 instead of 2,400,000
livres. In the main, in this régime, exception from taxation is the last
remnant of sovereignty or, at least, of independence. The privileged
person avoids or repels taxation, not merely because it despoils him,
but because it belittles him; it is a mark of the commoner, that is to
say, of former servitude, and he resists the fisc (the revenue services)
as much through pride as through interest.

IV. Their Feudal Rights.

These advantages are the remains of primitive sovereignty.

Let us follow him home to his own domain. A bishop, an abbé, a chapter
of the clergy, an abbess, each has one like a lay seignior; for, in
former times, the monastery and the church were small governments like
the county and the duchy.--Intact on the other bank of the Rhine, almost
ruined in France, the feudal structure everywhere discloses the same
plan. In certain places, better protected or less attacked, it has
preserved all its ancient externals. At Cahors, the bishop-count of
the town had the right, on solemnly officiating, "to place his helmet,
cuirass, gauntlets and sword on the altar."[1220] At Besançon, the
archbishop-prince has six high officers, who owe him homage for their
fiefs, and who attend at his coronation and at his obsequies. At
Mende,[1221] the bishop, seignior-suzerain for Gévaudan since the
eleventh century, appoints "the courts, ordinary judges and judges of
appeal, the commissaries and syndics of the country." He disposes of
all the places, "municipal and judiciary." Entreated to appear in the
assembly of the three orders of the province, he "replies that his
place, his possessions and his rank exalting him above every individual
in his diocese. He cannot sit under the presidency of any person; that,
being seignior-suzerain of all estates and particularly of the baronies,
he cannot give way to his vassals." In brief that he is king, or but
little short of it, in his own province. At Remiremont, the noble
chapter of canonesses has, "inferior, superior, and ordinary judicature
in fifty-two bans of seigniories," nominates seventy-five curacies and
confers ten male canonships. It appoints the municipal officers of the
town, and, besides these, three lower and higher courts, and everywhere
the officials in the jurisdiction over woods and forests. Thirty-two
bishops, without counting the chapters, are thus temporal seigniors, in
whole or in part, of their episcopal town, sometimes of the surrounding
district, and sometimes, like the bishop of St. Claude, of the entire
country. Here the feudal tower has been preserved. Elsewhere it is
plastered over anew, and more particularly in the appanages. In these
domains, comprising more than twelve of our departments, the princes of
the blood appoint to all offices in the judiciary and to all clerical
livings. Being substitutes of the king they enjoy his serviceable and
honorary rights. They are almost delegated kings, and for life; for they
not only receive all that the king would receive as seignior, but again
a portion of that which he would receive as monarch. For example, the
house of Orleans collects the excises,[1222] that is to say the duty on
liquors, on works in gold or silver, on manufactures of iron, on steel,
on cards, on paper and starch, in short, on the entire sum-total of one
of the most onerous indirect taxes. It is not surprising, if, having
a nearly sovereign situation, they have a council, a chancellor, an
organized debt, a court,[1223] a domestic ceremonial system, and that
the feudal edifice in their hands should put on the luxurious and formal
trappings which it had assumed in the hands of the king.

Let us turn to its inferior personages, to a seignior of medium rank,
on his square league of ground, amidst the thousand inhabitants who were
formerly his villeins or his serfs, within reach of the monastery, or
chapter, or bishop whose rights intermingle with his rights. Whatever
may have been done to abase him his position is still very high. He is
yet, as the intendants say, "the first inhabitant;" a prince whom
they have half despoiled of his public functions and consigned to
his honorary and available rights, but who nevertheless remains
a prince.[1224]--He has his bench in the church, and his right of
sepulture in the choir; the tapestry bears his coat of arms; they bestow
on him incense, "holy water by distinction." Often, having founded the
church, he is its patron, choosing the curate and claiming to control
him; in the rural districts we see him advancing or retarding the hour
of the parochial mass according to his fancy. If he bears a title he
is supreme judge, and there are entire provinces, Maine and Anjou,
for example, where there is no fief without the judge. In this case
he appoints the bailiff; the registrar, and other legal and judicial
officers, attorneys, notaries, seigniorial sergeants, constabulary on
foot or mounted, who draw up documents or decide in his name in
civil and criminal cases on the first trial. He appoints, moreover, a
forest-warden, or decides forest offenses, and enforces the penalties,
which this officer inflicts. He has his prison for delinquents of
various kinds, and sometimes his forked gibbets. On the other hand, as
compensation for his judicial costs, he obtains the property of the man
condemned to death and the confiscation of his estate. He succeeds to
the bastard born and dying in his seigniory without leaving a testament
or legitimate children. He inherits from the possessor, legitimately
born, dying in testate in his house without apparent heirs. He
appropriates to himself movable objects, animate or inanimate, which are
found astray and of which the owner is unknown; he claims one-half or
one-third of treasure-trove, and, on the coast, he takes for himself the
waif of wrecks. And finally, what is more fruitful, in these times of
misery, he becomes the possessor of abandoned lands that have remained
untilled for ten years.-Other advantages demonstrate still more clearly
that he formerly possessed the government of the canton. Such are, in
Auvergne, in Flanders, in Hainaut, in Artois, in Picardy, Alsace, and
Lorraine, the dues de poursoin ou de sauvement (care or safety within
the walls of a town), paid to him for providing general protection.
The dues of de guet et de garde (watch and guard), claimed by him for
military protection; of afforage, are exacted of those who sell beer,
wine and other beverages, whole-sale or retail. The dues of fouage,
dues on fires, in money or grain, which, according to many common-law
systems, he levies on each fireside, house or family. The dues of
pulvérage, quite common in Dauphiny-and Provence, are levied on passing
flocks of sheep. Those of the lods et ventes (lord's due), an almost
universal tax, consist of the deduction of a sixth, often of a fifth or
even a fourth, of the price of every piece of ground sold, and of
every lease exceeding nine years. The dues for redemption or relief are
equivalent to one year's income, aid that he receives from collateral
heirs, and often from direct heirs. Finally, a rarer due, but the most
burdensome of all, is that of acapte ou de plaid-a-merci, which is a
double rent, or a year's yield of fruits, payable as well on the death
of the seignior as on that of the copyholder. These are veritable
taxes, on land, on movables, personal, for licenses, for traffic, for
mutations, for successions, established formerly on the condition of
performing a public service which he is no longer obliged to perform.

Other dues are also ancient taxes, but he still performs the service for
which they are a quittance. The king, in fact, suppresses many of the
tolls, twelve hundred in 1724, and the suppression is kept up. A
good many still remain to the profit of the seignior,--on bridges, on
highways, on fords, on boats ascending or descending, several being very
lucrative, one of them producing 90,000 livres[1225]. He pays for the
expense of keeping up bridge, road, ford and towpath. In like manner,
on condition of maintaining the market-place and of providing scales and
weights gratis, he levies a tax on provisions and on merchandise brought
to his fair or to his market.--At Angoulême a forty-eighth of the grain
sold, at Combourg near Saint-Malo, so much per head of cattle, elsewhere
so much on wine, eatables and fish[1226] Having formerly built the
oven, the winepress, the mill and the slaughterhouse, he obliges the
inhabitants to use these or pay for their support, and he demolishes all
constructions, which might enter into competition with him[1227]. These,
again, are evidently monopolies and octrois going back to the time when
he was in possession of public authority.

Not only did he then possess the public authority but also possessed the
soil and the men on it. Proprietor of men, he is so still, at least
in many respects and in many provinces. "In Champagne proper, in
the Sénonais, in la Marche, in the Bourbonnais, in the Nivernais, in
Burgundy, in Franche-Comté, there are none, or very few domains, no
signs remaining of ancient servitude. . . . A good many personal
serfs, or so constituted through their own gratitude, or that of their
progenitors, are still found."[1228] There, man is a serf, sometimes by
virtue of his birth, and again through a territorial condition. Whether
in servitude, or as mortmains, or as cotters, one way or another,
1,500,000 individuals, it is said, wore about their necks a remnant of
the feudal collar; this is not surprising since, on the other side
of the Rhine, almost all the peasantry still wear it. The seignior,
formerly master and proprietor of all their goods and chattels and of
all their labor, can still exact of them from ten to twelve corvées per
annum and a fixed annual tax. In the barony of Choiseul near Chaumont in
Champagne, "the inhabitants are required to plow his lands, to sow and
reap them for his account and to put the products into his barns. Each
plot of ground, each house, every head of cattle pays a quit-claim;
children may inherit from their parents only on condition of remaining
with them; if absent at the time of their decease he is the inheritor."
This is what was styled in the language of the day an estate "with
excellent dues."--Elsewhere the seignior inherits from collaterals,
brothers or nephews, if they were not in community with the defunct
at the moment of his death, which community is only valid through his
consent. In the Jura and the Nivernais, he may pursue fugitive serfs,
and demand, at their death, not only the property left by them on
his domain, but, again, the pittance acquired by them elsewhere. At
Saint-Claude he acquires this right over any person that passes a year
and a day in a house belonging to the seigniory. As to ownership of the
soil we see still more clearly that he once had entire possession of it.
In the district subject to his jurisdiction the public domain remains
his private domain; roads, streets and open squares form a part of it;
he has the right to plant trees in them and to take trees up. In many
provinces, through a pasturage rent, he obliges the inhabitants to pay
for permits to pasture their cattle in the fields after the crop, and
in the open common lands, (les terres vaines et vagues). Unnavigable
streams belong to him, as well as islets and accumulations formed in
them and the fish that are found in them. He has the right of the chase
over the whole extent of his jurisdiction, this or that commoner being
sometimes compelled to throw open to him his park enclosed by walls.

One more trait serves to complete the picture. This head of the State, a
proprietor of man and of the soil, was once a resident cultivator on his
own small farm amidst others of the same class, and, by this title, he
reserved to himself certain working privileges which he always retained.
Such is the right of banvin, still widely diffused, consisting of the
privilege of selling his own wine, to the exclusion of all others,
during thirty or forty days after gathering the crop. Such is, in
Touraine, the right of préage, which is the right to send his horses,
cows and oxen "to browse under guard in his subjects' meadows." Such
is, finally, the monopoly of the great dove-cot, from which thousands
of pigeons issue to feed at all times and seasons and on all grounds,
without any one daring to kill or take them. Through another effect of
the same qualification he imposes quit-claims on property on which he
has formerly given perpetual leases, and, under the terms cens, censives
(quit-rents), carpot (share in wine), champart (share in grain), agrier
(a cash commission on general produce), terrage parciere (share of
fruits). All these collections, in money or in kind, are as various as
the local situations, accidents and transactions could possibly be. In
the Bourbonnais he has one-quarter of the crop; in Berry twelve sheaves
out of a hundred. Occasionally his debtor or tenant is a community: one
deputy in the National Assembly owned a fief of two hundred casks
of wine on three thousand pieces of private property.[1229] Besides,
through the retrait censuel (a species of right of redemption), he
can "retain for his own account all property sold on the condition of
remunerating the purchaser, but previously deducting for his benefit the
lord's dues (lods and ventes)." The reader, finally, must take note
that all these restrictions on property constitute, for the seignior, a
privileged credit as well on the product as on the price of the
ground, and, for the copyholders, an unprescriptive, indivisible and
irredeemable debt.-Such are the feudal. To form an idea of them in their
totality we must always imagine the count, bishop or abbot of the tenth
century as sovereign and proprietor in his own canton. The form which
human society then takes grows out of the exigencies of near and
constant danger with a view to local defense. By subordinating all
interests to the necessities of living, in such a way as to protect the
soil by fixing on the soil, through property and its enjoyment, a troop
of brave men under the leadership of a brave chieftain. The danger
having passed away the structure became dilapidated. For a pecuniary
compensation the seigniors allowed the economical and tenacious peasant
to pick off it a good many stones. Through constraint they suffered
the king to appropriate to himself the public portion. The primitive
foundation remains, property as organized in ancient times, the fettered
or exhausted land supporting a social conformation that has melted away,
in short, an order of privileges and of thralldom of which the cause and
the purpose have disappeared. [1230]

V. They may be justified by local and general services.

All this does not suffice to render this order detrimental or even
useless. In reality, the local chief who no longer performs his ancient
service may perform a new one in exchange for it. Instituted for war
when life was militant, he may serve in quiet times when the régime
is pacific, while the advantage to the nation is great in which this
transformation is accomplished; for, retaining its chiefs, it is
relieved of the uncertain and perilous operation which consists in
creating others. There is nothing more difficult to establish than
a government, that is to say, a stable government: this involves the
command of some and the obedience of all, which is against nature. That
a man in his study, often a feeble old person, should dispose of the
lives and property of twenty or thirty million men, most of whom he has
never seen; that he should order them to pay away a tenth or a fifth of
their income and they should do it; that he should order them to go and
slaughter or be slaughtered and that they should go; that they should
thus continue for ten years, twenty years, through every kind of trial,
defeat, misery and invasion, as with the French under Louis XIV, the
English under Pitt, the Prussians under Frederick II., without either
sedition or internal disturbances, is certainly a marvelous thing. And,
for a people to remain free it is essential that they should be ready to
do this always. Neither this fidelity nor this concord is due to sober
reflection (la raison raisonnante); reason is too vacillating and too
feeble to bring about such a universal and energetic result. Abandoned
to itself and suddenly restored to a natural condition, the human flock
is capable only of agitation, of mutual strife until pure force at
length predominates, as in barbarous times, and until, amidst the dust
and outcry, some military leader rises up who is, generally, a butcher.
Historically considered it is better to continue so than to begin
over again. Hence, especially when the majority is uncultivated, it is
beneficial to have chiefs designated beforehand through the hereditary
custom by which people follow them, and through the special education
by which they are qualified. In this case the public has no need to
seek for them to obtain them. They are already at hand, in each canton,
visible, accepted beforehand; they are known by their names, their
title, their fortune, their way of living; deference to their authority
is established. They are almost always deserving of this authority; born
and brought up to exercise it they find in tradition, in family example
and in family pride, powerful ties that nourish public spirit in them;
there is some probability of their comprehending the duties with which
their prerogative endows them.

Such is the renovation, which the feudal régime admits of. The ancient
chieftain can still guarantee his pre-eminence by his services, and
remain popular without ceasing to be privileged. Once a captain in his
district and a permanent gendarme, he is to become the resident and
beneficent proprietor, the voluntary promoter of useful undertakings,
obligatory guardian of the poor, the gratuitous administrator and judge
of the canton, the unsalaried deputy of the king, that is to say, a
leader and protector as previously, through a new system of patronage
accommodated to new circumstances. Local magistrate and central
representative, these are his two principal functions, and, if we extend
our observation beyond France we find that he exercises either one or
the other, or both together.


[Footnote 1201: See note 1 at the end of the volume]

[Footnote 1202: One league (lieu) ca. 4 km. (SR.)]

[Footnote 1203: Suger "Vie de Louis VI.," chap. VIII.--Philippe I.
became master of the Château de Montlhéry only by marrying one of his
sons to the heiress of the fief. He thus addressed his successor: "My
child, take good care to keep this tower of which the annoyances have
made me grow old, and whose frauds and treasons have given me no peace
nor rest'.]

[Footnote 1204: Léonce de Lavergne, "Les Assemblées Povinciales," p.
19.--Consult the official statement of the provincial assemblies,
and especially the chapters treating of the vingtièmes (an old tax of
one-twentieth on incomes.-TR.)]

[Footnote 1205: A report made by Treilhard in the name of the
ecclesiastic committee, (Moniteur, 19th December, 1789): The religious
establishments for sale in Paris alone were valued at 150 millions.
Later (in the session of the 13th February, 1791), Amelot estimates the
property sold and to be sold, not including forests, at 3,700 millions.
M. de Bouillé estimates the revenue of the clergy at 180 millions.
(Mémoires, p.44). {French currency is so well known to
readers in general it is not deemed necessary to reduce statements
of this kind to the English or American standard, except in special

[Footnote 1206: A report by Chasset on Tithes, April, 1790. Out of
123 millions 23 go for the costs of collection: but, in estimating the
revenue of an individual the sums he pays to his intendants, overseers
and cashiers are not deducted.--Talleyrand (October 10, 1789) estimates
the revenue of real property at 70 millions and its value at 2,100
millions. On examination however both capital and revenue are found
considerably larger than at first supposed. (Reports of Treilbard and
Chasset). Moreover, in his valuation, Talleyrand left out habitations
and their enclosures as well as a reservation of one-fourth of the
forests. Besides this there must be included in the revenue before 1789
the seigniorial rights enjoyed by the Church. Finally, according to
Arthur Young, the rents which the French proprietor received were not
two and a half per cent. as nowadays but three and three quarters per
cent--The necessity of doubling the figures to obtain a present money
valuation is supported by innumerable facts, and among others the price
of a day's labor, which at that time was nineteen sous. (Arthur Young).
(Today, in 1999, in France the minimum legal daily wage is around 300
francs. 20 sous constituted a franc. So the sums referred to by Taine
under the Revolution must be multiplied with at least 300 in order to
compare them with 1990 values. To obtain dollars multiply with 50. SR.)]

[Footnote 1207: National archives, among the papers of the
ecclesiastical committee, box (portfolios) 10, 11, 13, 25.--Beugnot's
Memoirs, I. 49, 79.--Delbos, "L'Eglise de France," I. 399.--Duc de
Lévis, "Souvenirs et Portraits," p.156.]

[Footnote 1208: Léonce de Lavergne, "Économie Rurale en France,"
p.24.--Perin, "La Jeunesse de Robespierre," (Statements of grievances in
Artois), p.317. ( In French "cahiers des doleances"--statements of local
complaints and expectations--prepared all over France for use by their
delegates for the Ètats Generaux. SR.)]

[Footnote 1209: Boiteau, "État de la France en 1789," p.47. Voltaire,
"Politique et Legislation," the petition of the serfs of St. Claude.]

[Footnote 1210: Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," II. 272.]

[Footnote 1211: De Bouillé, "Mémoires," p.41. It must not be forgotten
that these figures must be doubled to show corresponding sums of the
present day. 10,000 livres (francs) rental in 1766 equal in value 20,000
in 1825. (Madame de Genlis, "Memoirs," chap. IX). Arthur Young, visiting
a château in Seine-et-Marne, writes: "I have been speaking to Madame
de Guerchy; and I have learned from this conversation that to live in
a château like this with six men servants, five maids, eight horses, a
garden and a regular table, with company, but never go to Paris, might
be done for 1,000 louis per annum. It would in England cost 2,000.
At the present day in France 24,000 francs would be 50,000 and more."
Arthur Young adds: "There are gentlemen (noblesse) that live in this
country on 6,000 or 8000 and keep two men, two maids, three horses and a
cabriolet." To do this nowadays would require from 20,000 to 25,000.--It
has become much more expensive, especially due to the rail-ways, to live
in the provinces. "According to my friends du Rouergue," he says again,
"I could live at Milhau with my family in the greatest abundance on 100
louis (2,000 francs); there are noble families supporting themselves on
revenues of fifty and even twenty-five louis." At Milhau, to day, prices
are triple and even quadruple.--In Paris, a house in the Rue St. Honore
which was rented for 6,000 francs in 1787 is now rented for 16,000

[Footnote 1212: "Rapports de l'Agence du clergé de 1780 à 1785." In
relation to the feudal rights the abolition of which is demanded in
Boncerf's work, the chancellor Séguier said in 1775: "Our Kings have
themselves declared that they are, fortunately, impotent to make any
attack on property."]

[Footnote 1213: Léonce de Lavergne, "Les Assemblées provinciales,"
p.296. Report of M. Schwendt on Alsace in 1787.--Warroquier, "Etat de la
France en 1789," I.541.--Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," I.
19, 102.--Turgot, (collection of economists), "Réponse aux observations
du garde des sceaux sur la suppression des corvées," I. 559.]

[Footnote 1214: This term embraces various taxes originating in feudal
times, and rendered particularly burdensome to the peasantry through the
management of the privileged classes.--TR.]

[Footnote 1215: The arpent measures between one and one and a half

[Footnote 1216: De Tocqueville, "L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution,"
p. 406. "The inhabitants of Montbazon had subjected to taxation the
stewards of the duchy which belonged to the Prince de Rohan. This prince
caused this abuse to be stopped and succeeded in recovering the sum of
5,344 livres which he had been made to pay unlawfully under this right"]

[Footnote 1217: Necker, "Administration des Finances:" ordinary taxation
(la taille) produced 91 millions; les vingtièmes 76,500,000; the
capitation tax 41,500,000.]

[Footnote 1218: Raudot, "La France avant la Révolution," p. 51.--De
Bouillé, "Mémoires," p. 44.--Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances,"
II, p. 181. The above relates to what was called the clergy of France,
(116 dioceses). The clergy called foreign, consisted of that of the
three bishoprics and of the regions conquered since Louis XIV; it had
a separate régime and paid somewhat like the nobles.--The décimes
which the clergy of France levied on its property amounted to a sum of
10,500,000 livres.]

[Footnote 1219: De Toqueville, ib. 104, 381, 407.--Necker, ib. I.
102.--Boiteau, ib. 362.--De Bouillé, ib. 26, 41, and the following
pages. Turgot, ib. passim.--Cf. passim.--Cf. Book V, ch. 2, on the

[Footnote 1220: See "La France ecclésiastique, 1788," for these

[Footnote 1221: Official statements and manuscript reports of the
States-General of 1789. "Archives nationales," vol. LXXXVIII pp. 23, 85,
121, 122, 152. Procès-verbal of January 12, 1789.]

[Footnote 1222: Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," V. II. pp.
271, 272. "The house Orleans, he says, is in possession of the excises."
He estimates this tax at 51,000,000 for the entire kingdom.]

[Footnote 1223: Beugnot, "Mémoires," V. I. p. 77. Observe the ceremonial
system with the Duc de Penthièvre, chapters I., III. The Duc d'Orléans
organizes a chapter and bands of canonesses. The post of chancellor to
the Duc d'Orléans is worth 100,000 livres per annum, ("Gustave III. et
la cour de France," by Geffroy, I. 410.)]

[Footnote 1224: De Tocqueville, ibid. p.40.--Renauldon, advocate in
the bailiwick of Issoudun, "Traité historique et pratique des droits
seigneuriaux, 1765," pp. 8, 10, 81 and passim.--Statement of
grievance of a magistrate of the Chatelet on seigniorial judgments,
1789.--Duvergier, "Collection des Lois," Decrees of the 15-28 March,
1790, on the abolition of the feudal régime, Merlin of Douai, reporter,
I. 114 Decrees of 19-23 July, 1790, I. 293. Decrees of the 13-20 April,
1791, (I. 295.)]

[Footnote 1225: National archives, G, 300, (1787). "M. de Boullongne,
seignior of Montereau, here possesses a toll-right consisting of 2
deniers (farthings) per ox, cow, calf or pig; 1 per sheep; 2 for a laden
animal; 1 sou and 8 deniers for each four-wheeled vehicle; 5 deniers
for a two-wheeled vehicle, and 10 deniers for a vehicle drawn by three,
four, or five horses; besides a tax of 10 deniers for each barge, boat
or skiff ascending the river; the same tax for each team of horses
dragging the boats up; 1 denier for each empty cask going up." Analogous
taxes are enforced at Varennes for the benefit of the Duc de Chatelet,
seignior of Varennes.]

[Footnote 1226: National archives, K, 1453, No.1448: A letter by M. de
Meulan, dated June 12, 1789. This tax on grain belonged at that time to
the Comte d'Artois.--Châteaubriand, "Mémoires," I.73.]

[Footnote 1227: Renauldon, ibid.. 249, 258. "There are few seignioral
towns which have a communal slaughter-house. The butcher must obtain
special permission from the seignior."--The tax on grinding was
an average of a sixteenth. In many provinces, Anjou, Berry, Maine,
Brittany, there was a lord's mill for cloths and barks.]

[Footnote 1228: Renauldon, ibid.. pp. 181, 200, 203; observe that he
wrote this in 1765. Louis XVI. suppressed serfdom on the royal domains
in 1778; and many of the seigniors, especially in Franche-Comté,
followed his example. Beugnot, "Mémoires," V. I. p.142.--Voltaire,
"Mémoire au roi sur les serfs du Jura."--"Mémoires de Bailly," II. 214,
according to an official report of the Nat. Ass., August 7, 1789. I
rely on this report and on the book of M. Clerget, curate of Onans in
Franche-Comté who is mentioned in it. M. Clerget says that there are
still at this time (1789) 1,500,000 subjects of the king in a state
of servitude but he brings forward no proofs to support these figures.
Nevertheless it is certain that the number of serfs and mortmains is
still very great. National archives, H; 723, registers on mortmains in
Franche-Comté in 1788; H. 200, registers by Amelot on Burgundy in 1785.
"In the sub-delegation of Charolles the inhabitants seem a century
behind the age; being subject to feudal tenures, such as mort-main,
neither mind nor body have any play. The redemption of mortmain, of
which the king himself has set the example, has been put at such an
exorbitant price by laymen, that the unfortunate sufferers cannot, and
will not be able to secure it.]

[Footnote 1229: Boiteau, ibid.. p. 25, (April, 1790),--Beugnot,
"Mémoires," I. 142.]

[Footnote 1230: See END-NOTE 2 at the end of the volume]


I. Examples in Germany and England.--These services are not rendered by
the privileged classes in France.

Let us consider the first one, local government. There are countries at
the gates of France in which feudal subjection, more burdensome than
in France, seems lighter because, in the other scale, the benefits
counterbalance disadvantages. At Munster, in 1809, Beugnot finds a
sovereign bishop, a town of convents and a large seigniorial mansion,
a few merchants for indispensable trade, a small bourgeoisie, and, all
around, a peasantry composed of either colons or serfs. The seignior
deducts a portion of all their crops in provisions or in cattle, and,
at their deaths, a portion of their inheritances. If they go away their
property revert to him. His servants are chastised like Russian moujiks,
and in each outhouse is a trestle for this purpose "without prejudice to
graver penalties," probably the bastinado and the like. But "never did
the culprit entertain the slightest idea of complaint or appeal." For if
the seignior whips them as the father of family he protects them "as
the father of a family, ever coming to their assistance when misfortune
befalls them, and taking care of them in their illness." He provides an
asylum for them in old age; he looks after their widows, and rejoices
when they have plenty of children. He is bound to them by common
sympathies they are neither miserable nor uneasy; they know that, in
every extreme or unforeseen necessity, he will be their refuge.[1301] In
the Prussian states and according to the code of Frederick the Great, a
still more rigorous servitude is atoned for by similar obligations. The
peasantry, without their seignior's permission, cannot alienate a field,
mortgage it, cultivate it differently, change their occupation or marry.
If they leave the seigniory he can pursue them in every direction and
bring them back by force. He has the right of surveillance over their
private life, and he chastises them if drunk or lazy. When young they
serve for years as servants in his mansion; as cultivators they owe him
corvees and, in certain places, three times a week. But, according to
both law and custom, he is obliged "to see that they are educated, to
succor them in indigence, and, as far as possible, to provide them with
the means of support." Accordingly he is charged with the duties of the
government of which he enjoys the advantages, and, under the heavy hand
which curbs them, but which sustains them, we do not find his subjects
recalcitrant. In England, the upper class attains to the same result
by other ways. There also the soil still pays the ecclesiastic tithe,
strictly the tenth, which is much more than in France.[1302] The squire,
the nobleman, possesses a still larger portion of the soil than his
French neighbor and, in truth, exercises greater authority in his
canton. But his tenants, the lessees and the farmers, are no longer his
serfs, not even his vassals; they are free. If he governs it is through
influence and not by virtue of a command. Proprietor and patron, he is
held in respect. Lord-lieutenant, officer in the militia, administrator,
justice, he is visibly useful. And, above all, he lives at home, from
father to son; he belongs to the district. He is in hereditary and
constant relation with the local public through his occupations and
through his pleasures, through the chase and caring for the poor,
through his farmers whom he admits at his table, and through his
neighbors whom he meets in committee or in the vestry. This shows how
the old hierarchies are maintained: it is necessary, and it suffices,
that they should change their military into a civil order of things and
find modern employment for the chieftain of feudal times.

II. Resident Seigniors.

     Remains of the beneficent feudal spirit.--They are not
     rigorous with their tenants but no longer retain the local
     government.--Their isolation.--Insignificance or mediocrity
     of their means of subsistence.--Their expenditure.--Not in a
     condition to remit dues.--Sentiments of peasantry towards

If we go back a little way in our history we find here and there similar
nobles.[1303] Such was the Duc de Saint-Simon, father of the writer,
a real sovereign in his government of Blaye, a respected by the king
himself. Such was the grandfather Mirabeau, in his chateau of Mirabeau
in Provence, the haughtiest, most absolute, most intractable of men,
"demanding that the officers whom he appointed in his regiment should
be favorably received by the king and by his ministers," tolerating the
inspectors only as a matter of form, but heroic, generous, faithful,
distributing the pension offered to himself among six wounded captains
under his command, mediating for poor litigants in the mountain, driving
off his grounds the wandering attorneys who come to practice their
chicanery, "the natural protector of man even against ministers and the
king. A party of tobacco inspectors having searched his curate's house,
he pursues them so energetically on horseback that they hardly escape
him by fording the Durance. Whereupon, "he wrote to demand the dismissal
of the officers, declaring that unless this was done every person
employed in the Excise should be driven into the Rhine or the sea;
some of them were dismissed and the director himself came to give him
satisfaction." Finding his canton sterile and the settlers on it idle
he organized them into groups, women and children, and, in the foulest
weather, puts himself at their head, with his twenty severe wounds and
neck supported by a piece of silver. He pays them to work making them
clear off the lands, which he gives them on leases of a hundred years,
and he makes them enclose a mountain of rocks with high walls and plant
it with olive trees. "No one, under any pretext could be excused from
working unless he was ill, and in this case under treatment, or occupied
on his own property, a point in which my father could not be deceived,
and nobody would have dared to do it." These are the last offshoots of
the old, knotty, savage trunk, but still capable of affording shelter.
Others could still be found in remote cantons, in Brittany and in
Auvergne, veritable district commanders, and I am sure that in time of
need the peasants would obey them as much out of respect as from fear.
Vigor of heart and of body justifies its own ascendancy, while the
superabundance of energy, which begins in violence, ends in beneficence.

Less independent and less harsh a paternal government subsists
elsewhere, if not in the law at least through custom. In Brittany, near
Tréguier and Lannion, says the bailiff of Mirabeau,[1304] "the entire
staff of the coast-guard is composed of people of quality and of stock
going back a thousand years. I have not seen one of them get irritated
with a peasant-soldier, while, at the same time, I have seen on the
part of the latter an air of filial respect for them. . . . It is a
terrestrial paradise with respect to patriarchal manners, simplicity
and true grandeur; the attitude of the peasants towards the seigniors
is that of an affectionate son with his father; and the seigniors in
talking with the peasants use their rude and coarse language, and speak
only in a kind and genial way. We see mutual regard between masters and
servants." Farther south, in the Bocage, a wholly agricultural region,
and with no roads, where ladies are obliged to travel on horseback and
in ox-carts, where the seignior has no farmers, but only twenty-five or
thirty métayers who work for him on shares, the supremacy of the great
is no offense to their inferiors. People live together harmoniously
when living together from birth to death, familiarly, and with the same
interests, occupations and pleasures; like soldiers with their
officers, on campaigns and under tents, in subordination although in
companionship, familiarity never endangering respect. "The seignior
often visits them on their small farms,[1305] talks with them about
their affairs, about taking care of their cattle, sharing in the
accidents and mishaps which likewise seriously affect him. He attends
their children's weddings and drinks with the guests. On Sunday there
are dances in the chateau court, and the ladies take part in them." When
he is about to hunt wolves or boars the curate gives notice of it in the
sermon; the peasants, with their guns gaily assemble at the rendezvous,
finding the seignior who assigns them their posts, and strictly
observing the directions he gives them. Here are soldiers and a captain
ready made. A little later, and of their own accord, they will choose
him for commandant in the national guard, mayor of the commune, chief of
the insurrection, and, in 1792, the marksmen of the parish are to march
under him against "the blues" as, at this epoch against the wolves. Such
are the remnants of the good feudal spirit, like the scattered remnants
of a submerged continent. Before Louis XIV., the spectacle was similar
throughout France. "The rural nobility of former days," says the Marquis
de Mirabeau, "spent too much time over their cups, slept on old chairs
or pallets, mounted and started off to hunt before daybreak, met
together on St. Hubert's, and did not part until after the octave of
St. Martin's. . . . These nobles led a gay and hard life, voluntarily,
costing the State very little, and producing more through its residence
and manure than we of today with our tastes, our researches, our cholics
and our vapors. . The custom, and it may be 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."[1306] 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

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.[1307] 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."[1308] 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[1309] 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."[1310] 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[1311] 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.[1312] 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.[1313] 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.[1314] Except through his
justiciary rights, so much curtailed, the seignior is an idler in public
matters.[1315] 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.[1316]
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.[1317] 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."[1318] 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."[1319] 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."[1320] 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.[1321] 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.[1322] 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 them.

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.[1323] 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.[1324] 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."[1325] 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."[1326] 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.[1327]. 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."[1328] 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 gains.

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.[1329] 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.[1330] 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

"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."[1332] 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 feeling.

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.[1333] 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."[1334] 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."[1335]

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.[1336] 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,[1337] 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[1338] 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.[1339] 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,[1340] "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.[1341] 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.[1342] "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,[1343] 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,[1344] 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.[1345] 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.[1346] 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.[1347] "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;[1348] 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.[1349] Readers of the various memoirs know that, for
two hundred years, the deficiencies had 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,[1350] "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.[1351] 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.[1352] 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.[1353]--This is the effect
of the 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-verbal 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.[1354] 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.[1355] 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,[1356] 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,[1357] "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.



[Footnote 1301: Beugnot, "Mémoires," V. I. p.292.--De Tocqueville,
"L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution."]

[Footnote 1302: 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

[Footnote 1303: 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).]

[Footnote 1304: A letter of the bailiff of Mirabeau, 1760, published by
M. de Loménie in the "Correspondant," V. 49, p.132.]

[Footnote 1305: 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."]

[Footnote 1306: Marquis de Mirabeau, "Traité de la Population," p. 57.]

[Footnote 1307: De Tocqueville, ibid. p.180. This is proved by the
registers of the capitation-tax which was paid at the actual domicile.]

[Footnote 1308: 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.]

[Footnote 1309: Archives nationales, D, XIX. portfolios 14, 15, 25. Five
bundles of papers are filled with these petitions.]

[Footnote 1310: 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."]

[Footnote 1311: 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.]

[Footnote 1312: "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.)]

[Footnote 1313: 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.]

[Footnote 1314: De Tocqueville, ibid. pp. 39, 56, 75, 119, 184. He has
developed this point with admirable force and insight.]

[Footnote 1315: 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

[Footnote 1316: 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.]

[Footnote 1317: 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.]

[Footnote 1318: "La vie de mon père," by Rétif de la Bretonne, I. 146.]

[Footnote 1319: The rule is analogous with the other coutumes
(common-law rules), of other places and especially in Paris. (Renauldon,
ibid.. p. 134.)]

[Footnote 1320: A sort of dower right. TR.]

[Footnote 1321: Mme. d'Oberkirk, "Mémoires," I. 395.]

[Footnote 1322: 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."]

[Footnote 1323: 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.]

[Footnote 1324: Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," II. 271.
Legrand, "L'Intendance de Hainaut," pp. 104, 118, 152, 412.]

[Footnote 1325: 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.]

[Footnote 1326: The town of St. Amand, alone, contains to day 10,210

[Footnote 1327: See note 3 at the end of the volume.]

[Footnote 1328: De Ferrières, "Mémoires," II. 57: "All had 100,000 some
200, 300, and even 800,000."]

[Footnote 1329: 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.]

[Footnote 1330: 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 be served first, saying to her daughter: 'You must do
the honors.'" (Madame is the title given to the king's oldest daughter.

[Footnote 1331: Molière, "Misanthrope." This is the "desert" in which
Célimène refuses to be buried with Alceste. See also in "Tartuffe" the
picture which Dorine draws of a small town.--Arthur Young," Voyages en
France," I. 78.]

[Footnote 1332: 'Traité de la Population,' p. 108, (1756).]

[Footnote 1333: I have this from old people who witnessed it before

[Footnote 1334: "Mémoires" de M. de Montlosier," I. p. 161,.]

[Footnote 1335: Reports of the Société de Berry, "Bourges en 1753 et
1754," p. 273.]

[Footnote 1336: 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 provinces.]

[Footnote 1337: Arthur Young, V.II. P.230 and the following pages.]

[Footnote 1338: Abolition of the tithe, the feudal rights, the
permission to kill the game, etc.]

[Footnote 1339: 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.]

[Footnote 1340: "De l'état religieux," by the abbés de Bonnefoi et
Bernard, 1784, I. pp. 287, 291.]

[Footnote 1341: 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.]

[Footnote 1342: Boivin-Champeaux, "Notice historique sue la Révolution
dans le département de l'Eure," p. 63, 61.]

[Footnote 1343: 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."]

[Footnote 1344: De Tocqueville, ibid.. 405.--Renauldon, ibid.. 628.]

[Footnote 1345: 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.]

[Footnote 1346: 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

[Footnote 1347: 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.]

[Footnote 1348: King Louis the XVI's brother. (SR.)]

[Footnote 1349: 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.)]

[Footnote 1350: 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.]

[Footnote 1351: 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."]

[Footnote 1352: Beugnot, "Mémoires," vol. I. p. 35.]

[Footnote 1353: 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

[Footnote 1354: 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.]

[Footnote 1355: 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.]

[Footnote 1356: 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.]

[Footnote 1357: 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.[1401] 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,[1402] 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.[1403] 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[1404]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[1405] 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[1406] 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.[1407] 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,[1408] 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,[1409] 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.[1410] 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,[1411] 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.[1412]

Equally lucrative and useless are the court offices[1413], 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.[1414] The Duc de Gèvres gets 50,000 crowns[1415] by one
show of fireworks out of the fragments and scaffolding which belong
to him by virtue of his office.[1416]--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.[1417] In this connection
a few figures and anecdotes among a thousand speak most
eloquently.[1418]--"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.[1419] M. de Calonne," says Augeard, a reliable
witness,[1420] "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,[1421] "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,[1422] "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.[1423] 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[1424] 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.[1425] 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.[1426] At Sainte-Croix de Bernay in Normandy,[1427] 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,[1428] 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,[1429] 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."[1430]--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.[1431] 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 [1432]. 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,[1433] 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,[1434] "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." [1435] 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,"[1436] 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[1437] 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?"[1438] 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;"[1439] 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[1440]
According to d'Argenson,[1441] 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

"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 age to twenty-three
years. But to compensate favoritism and absolutism he assigned to
the pure grace of the king, or rather to that of his ministers, the
appointment to the grades of lieutenant-colonel and major which, until
that time, belonged of right to priority of services in the government;
also the commands of provinces and of towns. You are aware that these
places have been largely multiplied, and that they are bestowed through
favor and credit, like the regiments. The cordon bleu and the cordon
rouge are in the like position, and abbeys are still more constantly
subject to the régime of influence. As to positions in the finances,
I dare not allude to them. Appointments in the judiciary are the most
conditioned by services rendered; and yet how much do not influence and
recommendation affect the nomination of intendants, first presidents"
and the others?

Necker, entering on his duties, finds twenty-eight millions in pensions
paid from the royal treasury, and, at his fall, there is an outflow of
money showered by millions on the people of the court. Even during
his term of office the king allows himself to make the fortunes of his
wife's friends of both sexes; the Countess de Polignac obtains 400,000
francs to pay her debts, 100,000 francs dowry for her daughter, and,
besides, for herself, the promise of an estate of 35,000 livres income,
and, for her lover, the Count de Vaudreil, a pension of 30,000 livres;
the Princess de Lamballe obtains 100,000 crowns per annum, as much for
the post of superintendent of the queen's household, which is revived
on her behalf, as for a position for her brother.[1443] The king is
reproached for his parsimony; why should he be sparing of his purse?
Started on a course not his own, he gives, buys, builds, and exchanges;
he assists those belonging to his own society, doing everything in a
style becoming to a grand seignior, that is to say, throwing money away
by handfuls. One instance enables us to judge of this: in order to assist
the bankrupt Guéménée family, he purchases of them three estates for
about 12,500,000 livres, which they had just purchased for 4,000,000;
moreover, in exchange for two domains in Brittany, which produce 33,758
livres income, he makes over to them the principality of Dombes which
produces nearly 70,000 livres income.[1444]--When we come to read the
Red Book further on we shall find 700,000 livres of pensions for the
Polignac family, most of them revertible from one member to another, and
nearly 2,000,000 of annual benefits to the Noailles family.--The king
has forgotten that his favors are mortal blows, "the courtier
who obtains 6,000 livres pension, receiving the taille of six
villages."[1445] Each largess of the monarch, considering the state of
the taxes, is based on the privation of the peasants, the sovereign,
through his clerks, taking bread from the poor to give coaches to the
rich.--The center of the government, in short, is the center of the
evil; all the wrongs and all the miseries start from it as from the
center of pain and inflammation; here it is that the public abscess
comes to the head, and here will it break.[1446]

VI. Latent Disorganization in France.

Such is the just and fatal effect of privileges turned to selfish
purposes instead of being exercised for the advantage of others. To him
who utters the word, "Sire or Seignior" stands for the protector who
feeds, the ancient who leads."[1447] With such a title and for this
purpose too much cannot be granted to him, for there is no more
difficult or more exalted post. But he must fulfill its duties;
otherwise in the day of peril he will be left to himself. Already,
and long before the day arrives, his flock is no longer his own; if
it marches onward it is through routine; it is simply a multitude of
persons, but no longer an organized body. Whilst in Germany and in
England the feudal régime, retained or transformed, still composes a
living society, in France[1448] its mechanical framework encloses only
so many human particles. We still find the material order, but we
no longer find the moral order of things. A lingering, deep-seated
revolution has destroyed the close hierarchical union of recognized
supremacies and of voluntary deference. It is like an army in which
the attitudes of chiefs and subordinates have disappeared; grades are
indicated by uniforms only, but they have no hold on consciences. All
that constitutes a well-founded army, the legitimate ascendancy of
officers, the justified trust of soldiers, the daily interchange of
mutual obligations, the conviction of each being useful to all, and
that the chiefs are the most useful all, is missing. How could it be
otherwise in an army whose staff-officers have no other occupation but
to dine out, to display their epaulettes and to receive double pay? Long
before the final crash France is in a state of dissolution, and she is
in a state of dissolution because the privileged classes had forgotten
their characters as public men.



[Footnote 1401: "Rapport de l'agence du clergé," from 1775 to 1780, pp.
31-34.--Ibid. from 1780 to 1785, p. 237.]

[Footnote 1402: Lanfrey, "L'Eglise et les philosophes," passim.]

[Footnote 1403: Boiteau, "Etat de la France en 1789," pp. 205,
207.--D'Argenson "Mémoires," May 5, 1752, September 3, 22, 25, 1753;
October 17, 1753, and October 26, 1775.--Prudhomme, "Résumé général des
cahiers des Etats-Généraux," 1789, (Registers of the Clergy).--"Histoire
des églises du désert," par Charles Coquerel, I. 151 and those

[Footnote 1404: De Ségur, "Mémoires," vol. I. pp. 16, 41.--De Bouillé,
"Mémoires," p. 54.--Mme. Campan, "Mémoires," V. I. p. 237, proofs in

[Footnote 1405: Somewhat like the socialist societies including the
welfare states where a caste of public pensionaries, functionaries,
civil servants and politicians weigh like a heavy burden on those who
actually do the work.. (SR.)]

[Footnote 1406: An antechamber in the palace of Versailles in which
there was a round or bull's-eye window, where courtiers assembled to
await the opening of the door into the king's apartment.--TR.]

[Footnote 1407: "La France ecclésiastique," 1788.]

[Footnote 1408: Grannier de Cassagnac, "Des causes de la Rèvolution
Française," III. 58.]

[Footnote 1409: Marmontel, "Mémoires," . II. book XIII. p. 221.]

[Footnote 1410: Boiteau, "Etat de la France en 1789," pp. 55,
248.--D'Argenson, "Considérations sur le gouvermement de la France," p.
177. De Luynes, "Journal," XIII. 226, XIV. 287, XIII. 33, 158, 162,
118, 233, 237, XV. 268, XVI. 304.--The government of Ham is worth 11,250
livres, that of Auxerre 12,000, that of Briançon 12,000, that of the
islands of Ste. Marguerite 16,000, that of Schelestadt 15,000, that of
Brisach from 15 to 16,000, that of Gravelines 18,000.--The ordinance of
1776 had reduced these various places as follows: (Warroquier, II,
467). 18 general governments to 60,000 livres, 21 to 30,000; 114 special
governments; 25 to 12,000 livres, 25 to 10,000 and 64 to 8,000; 176
lieutenants and commandants of towns, places, etc., of which 35 were
reduced to 16,600 and 141 from 2,000 to 6,000.--The ordinance of 1788
established, besides these, 17 commands in chief with from 20,000
to 30,000 livres fixed salary and from 4,000 to 6,000 a month for
residence, and commands of a secondary grade.]

[Footnote 1411: Somewhat like a minister of culture in one of our
western Welfare Social democracies, and which secures the support for
the ruling class of a horde of "artists" of all sorts. (SR.)]

[Footnote 1412: Archives nationales, H, 944, April 25, and September 20,
1780. Letters and Memoirs of Furgole, advocate at Toulouse.]

[Footnote 1413: Archives nationales, O1, 738 (Reports made to the
bureau-general of the king's household, March, 1780, by M. Mesnard
de Chousy). Augeard, "Mémoires," 97.--Mme. Campan, "Mémoires," I.
291.--D'Argenson, "Mémoires," February 10, December 9, 1751,--"Essai sur
les capitaineries royales et autres" (1789), p. 80.--Warroquier, "Etat
de la France en 1789," I. 266.]

[Footnote 1414: "Marie Antoinette," by D'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 377.]

[Footnote 1415: 1 crown (écu) equals 6 livres under Louis XV. (SR.)]

[Footnote 1416: Mme. Campan, "Mémoires," I. 296, 298, 300, 301; III.
78.--Hippeau, "Le Gouvernement de Normandie," IV. 171 (Letter from
Paris, December 13, 1780).--D'Argenson, "Mémoires," September 5,
1755.--Bachaumont, January 19, 1758.--"Mémoire sur l'imposition
territoriale," by M. de Calonne (1787), p. 54.]

[Footnote 1417: D'Argenson, "Mémoires," December 9, 1751. "The expense
to courtiers of two new and magnificent coats, each for two fête days,
ordered by the king, completely ruins them."]

[Footnote 1418: De Luynes, "Journal," XIV. pp. 147-295, XV. 36,
119.--D'Argenson, "Mémoires," April 8, 1752, March 30 and July 28, 1753,
July 2, 1735, June 23, 1756.--Hippeau, ibid.. IV. p. 153 (Letter of May
15, 1780).--Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," II. pp. 265,
269, 270, 271, 228.--Augeard, "Mémoires," p 249.]

[Footnote 1419: Nicolardot, "Journal de Louis XVI.," p. 228.
Appropriations in the Red Book of 1774 to 1789: 227,985,716 livres,
of which 80,000,000 are in acquisitions and gifts to the royal
family.--Among others there are 14,600,000 to the Comte d'Artois
and 14,450,000 to Monsieur.--7,726,253 are given to the Queen for
Saint-Cloud.--8,70,000 for the acquisition of Ile-Adam.]

[Footnote 1420: Cf. "Compte général des revenus et dépenses fixes au
1er Mai, 1789" (Imprimerie royale, 1789, in 4to). Estate of Ile-Dieu,
acquired in 1783 of the Duc de Mortemart, 1,000,000; estate of Viviers,
acquired of the Prince de Soubise in 1784, 1,500,000.--Estates of St.
Priest and of St. Etienne, acquired in 1787 of M. Gilbert des Voisins,
1,335,935.--The forests of Camors and of Floranges, acquired of the Duc
de Liancourt in 1785, 1,200,000.--The county of Montgommery, acquired of
M. Clement de Basville in 1785, 3,306,604.]

[Footnote 1421: "Le President des Brosses," by Foisset. (Remonstrances
to the king by the Parliament of Dijon, Jan. 19, 1764).]

[Footnote 1422: Lucas de Montigny, "Mémoires de Mirabeau." Letter of the
bailiff, May 26, 1781.--D'Argenson, "Mémoires," VI. 156, 157, 160,
76; VI. p. 320.--Marshal Marmont, "Mémoires," I. 9.--De Ferrières,
"Mémoires," preface. See, on the difficulty in succeeding, the
Memoirs of Dumourier. Châteaubriand's father is likewise one of the
discontented, "a political frondeur, and very inimical to the court."
(I. 206).--Records of the States-General of 1789, a general summary by
Prud'homme, II. passim.]

[Footnote 1423: "Ephémérides du citoyen," II. 202, 203.--Voltaire,
"Dictionnaire philosophique," article "Curé de Campagne."--Abbé Guettée,
"Histoire de l'Eglise de France," XII. 130.]

[Footnote 1424: Those entitled to tithes in cereals.--TR.]

[Footnote 1425: A curate's salary at the present day (1875) is, at the
minimum, 900 francs with a house and perquisites.]

[Footnote 1426: Théron de Montaugé, "L'Agriculture les classes rurale,
dans le pays Toulousain," p. 86.]

[Footnote 1427: Périn, "la Jeunesse de Robespierre," grievances of the
rural parishes of Artois, p. 320.--Boivin-Champeaux, ibid.. pp. 65,
68.--Hippeau, ibid.. VI. p. 79, et VII. 177.--Letter of M. Sergent,
curate of Vallers, January 27, 1790. (Archives nationales, DXIX.
portfolio 24.) Letter of M. Briscard, curate of Beaumont-la-Roger,
diocese of Evreux, December 19, 1789. (ibid.. DXIX. portfolio 6.)
"Tableau moral du clergé de France" (1789), p. 2.]

[Footnote 1428: He who has the right of receiving the first year's
income of a parish church after a vacancy caused by death.--TR.]

[Footnote 1429: One who performs masses for the dead at fixed

[Footnote 1430: Grievances on the additional burdens which the
Third-Estate have to support, by Gautier de Bianzat (1788), p 237.]

[Footnote 1431: Hippeau, ibid. VI. 164. (Letter of the Curate of
Marolles and of thirteen others,. Letter of the bishop of Evreux,
March 20, 1789. Letter of the abbé d'Osmond, April 2, 1789).--Archives
nationales, manuscript documents (proces-verbeaux) of the
States-General, V. 148. pp. 245-47. Registers of the curates of
Toulouse, t. 150, p. 282, in the representations of the Dijon chapter.]

[Footnote 1432: De Toqueville, book II. This capital truth as been
established by M. de Tocqueville with superior discernment.]

[Footnote 1433: A term indicating a certain division of the kingdom
of France to facilitate the collection of taxes. Each generalship was
subdivided into elections, in which there was a tribunal called the
bureau of finances. (TR.)]

[Footnote 1434: Remonstrances of Malesherbes; Registers by Turgot and
Necker to the king, (Laboulaye, "De l'administration française sous
Louis XVI, Revue des cours littéraires, IV. 423, 759, 814.)]

[Footnote 1435: Financiers have been known to tell citizens: "The ferme
( revenue-agency) ought to be able to grant you favors, you ought to be
forced to come and ask for them.--He who pays never knows what he owes.
The fermier is sovereign legislator in matters relating to his personal
interest. Every petition, in which the interests of a province, or those
of the whole nation are concerned, is regarded as penal foolhardiness
if it is signed by a person in his private capacity, and as illicit
association if it be signed by several." Malesherbes, ibid..]

[Footnote 1436: Mme. Campan, "Mémoires," I. p. 13.--Mme. du Hausset,
"Mémoires," p. 114.]

[Footnote 1437: "Gustave III. et la cour de France," by Geffroy. II.
474. ("Archives de Dresde," French Correspondence, November 20, 1788.)]

[Footnote 1438: Augeard, "Mémoires," p. 135.]

[Footnote 1439: Mme. de Pompadour, writing to Marshal d'Estrées, in the
army, about the campaign operations, and tracing for him a sort of
plan, had marked on the paper with mouches (face-patches), the different
places which she advised him to attack or defend." Mme. de Genlis,
"Souvenirs de Félicie," p. 329. Narrative by Mme. de Puisieux, the
mother-in-law of Marshal d'Estrées.]

[Footnote 1440: According to the manuscript register of Mme. de
Pompadour's expenses, in the archives of the préfecture of Versailles,
she had expended 36,327,268 livres. (Granier de Cassagnac, I. 91.)]

[Footnote 1441: D'Argenson, "Mémoires," VI. 398 (April 24, 1751).--"M.
du Barry declared openly that he had consumed 18,000,000 belonging to
the State." (Correspondence by Métra, I. 27).]

[Footnote 1442: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, vol. II. p.
168 (June 5, 1774).]

[Footnote 1443: "Marie Antoinette," ibid.. vol. II. p. 377; vol. III. p.

[Footnote 1444: Archives nationales, H, 1456, Memoir for M. Bouret de
Vezelay, syndic for the creditors.]

[Footnote 1445: Marquis de Mirabeau, "Traité de la population," p. 81.]

[Footnote 1446: Today, our so-called popular democracies have become
completely irresponsible since the elected, who have full access to the
coffers of the nation, present and future, and who, through alternation
and short duration of tenure, are encouraged to become irresponsible,
will use large amounts to be favorably exposed in the media and to avoid
any kind of mudslinging. They seem to govern their countries according
to the devise: "After me the deluge." (SR.)]

[Footnote 1447: Lord, in Old Saxon, signifies "he who provides food;"
seignior, in the Latin of the middle ages, signifies "the ancient," the
head or chief of the flock.]

[Footnote 1448: Around 1780. (SR.)]



The Court and a life of pomp and parade.

A military staff on furlough for a century and more, around a
commander-in-chief who gives fashionable entertainment, is the principle
and summary of the habits of society under the ancient régime. Hence, if
we seek to comprehend them we must first study them at their center
and their source, that is to say, in the court itself. Like the whole
ancient régime the court is the empty form, the surviving adornment of
a military institution, the causes of which have disappeared while the
effects remain, custom surviving utility. Formerly, in the early times
of feudalism, in the companionship and simplicity of the camp and the
castle, the nobles served the king with their own hands. One providing
for his house, another bringing a dish to his table, another disrobing
him at night, and another looking after his falcons and horses. Still
later, under Richelieu and during the Fronde,[2101] amid the sudden
attacks and the rude exigencies of constant danger they constitute the
garrison of his lodgings, forming an armed escort for him, and a retinue
of ever-ready swordsmen. Now as formerly they are equally assiduous
around his person, wearing their swords, awaiting a word, and eager
to his bidding, while those of highest rank seemingly perform domestic
service in his household. Pompous parade, however, has been substituted
for efficient service; they are elegant adornments only and no longer
useful tools; they act along with the king who is himself an actor,
their persons serving as royal decoration.

I. Versailles.

The Physical aspect and the moral character of Versailles.

It must be admitted that the decoration is successful, and, that since
the fêtes of the Italian Renaissance, more magnificent displays have
not been seen. Let us follow the file of carriages which, from Paris
to Versailles, rolls steadily along like a river. Certain horses
called "des enragés," fed in a particular way, go and come in three
hours.[2102] One feels, at the first glance, as if he were in a city
of a particular stamp, suddenly erected and at one stroke, like a
prize-medal for a special purpose, of which only one is made, its form
being a thing apart, as well as its origin and use. In vain is it one
of the largest cities of the kingdom, with its population of 80,000
souls;[2103] it is filled, peopled, and occupied by the life of a single
man; it is simply a royal residence, arranged entirely to provide for
the wants, the pleasures, the service, the guardianship, the society,
the display of a king. Here and there, in corners and around it,
are inns, stalls, taverns, hovels for laborers and for drudges, for
dilapidated soldiers and accessory menials. These tenements necessarily
exist, since technicians are essential to the most magnificent
apotheosis. The rest, however, consists of sumptuous hotels and
edifices, sculptured façades, cornices and balustrades, monumental
stairways, seigniorial architecture, regularly spaced and disposed, as
in a procession, around the vast and grandiose palace where all this
terminates. Here are the fixed abodes of the noblest families; to the
right of the palace are the hôtels de Bourbon, d'Ecquervilly, de la
Trémoille, de Condé, de Maurepas, de Bouillon, d'Eu, de Noailles, de
Penthièvre, de Livry, du Comte de la Marche, de Broglie, du Prince de
Tingry, d'Orléans, de Chatillon, de Villerry, d'Harcourt, de Monaco;
on the left are the pavilions d'Orléans, d'Harcourt, the hôtels
de Chevreuse, de Babelle, de l'Hôpital, d'Antin, de Dangeau, de
Pontchartrain--no end to their enumeration. Add to these those of Paris,
all those which, ten leagues around. At Sceaux, at Génevilliers,
at Brunoy, at Ile-Adam, at Rancy, at Saint-Ouen, at Colombes, at
Saint-Germain, at Marly, at Bellevue, in countless places, they form a
crown of architectural flowers, from which daily issue as many gilded
wasps to shine and buzz about Versailles, the center of all luster and
affluence. About a hundred of these are "presented each year, men and
women, which makes about 2 or 3,000 in all;[2104] this forms the king's
society, the ladies who courtesy before him, and the seigniors who
accompany him in his carriage; their hotels are near by, or within
reach, ready to fill his drawing room or his antechamber at all hours.

A drawing room like this calls for proportionate dependencies; the
hotels and buildings at Versailles devoted to the private service of the
king and his attendants count by hundreds. No human existence since that
of the Caesars has so spread itself out in the sunshine. In the Rue
des Reservoirs we have the old hotel and the new one of the governor
of Versailles, the hotel of the tutor to the children of the
Comte d'Artois, the ward-robe of the crown, the building for the
dressing-rooms and green-rooms of the actors who perform at the palace,
with the stables belonging to Monsieur.--In the Rue des Bon-Enfants
are the hotel of the keeper of the wardrobe, the lodgings for the
fountain-men, the hotel of the officers of the Comtesse de Provence.
In the Rue de la Pompe, the hotel of the grand-provost, the Duke of
Orleans's stables, the hotel of the Comte d'Artois's guardsmen, the
queen's stables, the pavilion des Sources.--In the Rue Satory the
Comtesse d'Artois's stables, Monsieur's English garden, the king's
ice-houses, the riding-hall of the king's light-horse-guards, the garden
belonging to the hotel of the treasurers of the buildings.--Judge of
other streets by these four. One cannot take a hundred steps without
encountering some accessory of the palace: the hotel of the staff of the
body-guard, the hotel of the staff of light-horse-guards, the immense
hotel of the body-guard itself, the hotel of the gendarmes of the guard,
the hotel of the grand wolf-huntsman, of the grand falconer, of the
grand huntsman, of the grand-master, of the commandant of the canal, of
the comptroller-general, of the superintendent of the buildings, and of
the chancellor; buildings devoted to falconry, and the vol de cabinet,
to boar-hunting, to the grand kennel, to the dauphin kennel, to
the kennel for untrained dogs, to the court carriages, to shops and
storehouses connected with amusements, to the great stable and the
little stables, to other stables in the Rue de Limoges, in the Rue
Royale, and in the Avenue Saint-Cloud; to the king's vegetable garden,
comprising twenty-nine gardens and four terraces; to the great dwelling
occupied by 2,000 persons, with other tenements called "Louises" in
which the king assigned temporary or permanent lodgings,--words on paper
render no physical impression of the physical enormity.--At the present
day nothing remains of this old Versailles, mutilated and appropriated
to other uses, but fragments, which, nevertheless, one should go and
see. Observe those three avenues meeting in the great square. Two
hundred and forty feet broad and twenty-four hundred long, and not too
large for the gathering crowds, the display, the blinding velocity
of the escorts in full speed and of the carriages running "at death's
door."[2105] Observe the two stables facing the chateau with their
railings one hundred and ninety-two feet long. In 1682 they cost three
millions, that is to say, fifteen millions to day. They are so ample and
beautiful that, even under Louis XIV himself, they sometimes served as a
cavalcade circus for the princes, sometimes as a theater, and sometimes
as a ball-room. Then let the eye follow the development of the gigantic
semi-circular square which, from railing to railing and from court to
court, ascends and slowly decreases, at first between the hotels of the
ministers and then between the two colossal wings, terminating in
the ostentatious frame of the marble court where pilasters, statues,
pediments, and multiplied and accumulated ornaments, story above story,
carry the majestic regularity of their lines and the overcharged mass of
their decoration up to the sky. According to a bound manuscript bearing
the arms of Mansart, the palace cost 153 million, that is to say, about
750 million francs of to day;[2106] when a king aims at imposing display
this is the cost of his lodging. Now turn the eye to the other side,
towards the gardens, and this self-display becomes the more impressive.
The parterres and the park are, again, a drawing room in the open
air. There is nothing natural of nature here; she is put in order and
rectified wholly with a view to society; this is no place to be alone
and to relax oneself, but a place for promenades and the exchange of
polite salutations. Those formal groves are walls and hangings; those
shaven yews are vases and lyres. The parterres are flowering carpets. In
those straight, rectilinear avenues the king, with his cane in his hand,
groups around him his entire retinue. Sixty ladies in brocade dresses,
expanding into skirts measuring twenty-four feet in circumference,
easily find room on the steps of the staircases.[2107] Those verdant
cabinets afford shade for a princely collation. Under that circular
portico, all the seigniors enjoying the privilege of entering it witness
together the play of a new jet d'eau. Their counterparts greet them even
in the marble and bronze figures which people the paths and basins, in
the dignified face of an Apollo, in the theatrical air of a Jupiter, in
the worldly ease or studied nonchalance of a Diana or a Venus. The
stamp of the court, deepened through the joint efforts of society for a
century, is so strong that it is graven on each detail as on the whole,
and on material objects as on matters of the intellect.

II. The King's Household.

     Its officials and expenses.--His military family, his
     stable, kennel, chapel, attendants, table, chamber,
     wardrobe, outhouses, furniture, journeys.

The foregoing is but the framework; before 1789 it was completely filled
up. "You have seen nothing," says Châteaubriand, "if you have not
seen the pomp of Versailles, even after the disbanding of the king's
household; Louis XIV was always there."[2108] It is a swarm of liveries,
uniforms, costumes and equipages as brilliant and as varied as in a
picture. I should be glad to have lived eight days in this society.
It was made expressly to be painted, being specially designed for the
pleasure of the eye, like an operatic scene. But how can we of to day
imagine people for whom life was wholly operatic? At that time a grandee
was obliged to live in great state; his retinue and his trappings formed
a part of his personality; he fails in doing himself justice if these
are not as ample and as splendid as he can make them; he would be as
much mortified at any blank in his household as we with a hole in our
coats. Should he make any curtailment he would decline in reputation;
on Louis XVI undertaking reforms the court says that he acts like a
bourgeois. When a prince or princess becomes of age a household is
formed for them; when a prince marries, a household is formed for his
wife; and by a household it must be understood that it is a
pompous display of fifteen or twenty distinct services: stables, a
hunting-train, a chapel, a surgery, the bedchamber and the wardrobe,
a chamber for accounts, a table, pantry, kitchen, and wine-cellars, a
fruitery, a fourrière, a common kitchen, a cabinet, a council;[2109] she
would feel that she was not a princess without all this. There are
274 appointments in the household of the Duc d'Orléans, 210 in that of
Mesdames, 68 in that of Madame Elisabeth, 239 in that of the Comtesse
d'Artois, 256 in that of the Comtesse de Provence, and 496 in that of
the Queen. When the formation of a household for Madame Royale, one
month old, is necessary, "the queen," writes the Austrian ambassador,
"desires to suppress a baneful indolence, a useless affluence of
attendants, and every practice tending to give birth to sentiments of
pride. In spite of the said retrenchment the household of the young
princess is to consist of nearly eighty persons destined to the sole
service of her Royal Highness."[2110] The civil household of Monsieur
comprises 420 appointments, his military household, 179; that of the
Comte d'Artois 237 and his civil household 456.--Three-fourths of them
are for display; with their embroideries and laces, their unembarrassed
and polite expression, their attentive and discreet air, their easy way
of saluting, walking and smiling, they appear well in an antechamber,
placed in lines, or scattered in groups in a gallery; I should have
liked to contemplate even the stable and kitchen array, the figures
filling up the background of the picture. By these stars of inferior
magnitude we may judge of the splendor of the royal sun.

The king must have guards, infantry, cavalry, body-guards, French
guardsmen, Swiss guardsmen, Cent Suisses, light-horse guards, gendarmes
of the guard, gate-guardsmen, in all, 9,050 men,[2111] costing annually
7,681,000 livres. Four companies of the French guard, and two of the
Swiss guard, parade every day in the court of the ministers between the
two railings, and when the king issues in his carriage to go to Paris or
Fontainebleau the spectacle is magnificent. Four trumpeters in front and
four behind, the Swiss guards on one side and the French guards on the
other, form a line as far as it can reach.[2112] The Cent Suisses march
ahead of the horsemen in the costume of the sixteenth century, wearing
the halberd, ruff, plumed hat, and the ample parti-colored striped
doublet; alongside of these are the provost-guard with scarlet facings
and gold frogs, and companies of yeomanry bristling with gold and
silver. The officers of the various corps, the trumpeters and the
musicians, covered with gold and silver lace, are dazzling to look at;
the kettledrum suspended at the saddle-bow, overcharged with painted
and gilded ornaments, is a curiosity for a glass case; the Negro
cymbal-player of the French guards resembles the sultan of a fairy-tale.
Behind the carriage and alongside of it trot the body-guards, with sword
and carbine, wearing red breeches, high black boots, and a blue coat
sewn with white embroidery, all of them unquestionable gentlemen; there
were twelve hundred of these selected among the nobles and according to
size; among them are the guards de la manche, still more intimate, who
at church and on ceremonial occasions, in white doublets starred with
silver and gold spangles, holding their damascene partisans in their
hands, always remain standing and turned towards the king "so as to
see his person from all sides." Thus is his protection ensured. Being
a gentleman the king is a cavalier, and he must have a suitable
stable,[2113] 1,857 horses, 217 vehicles, 1,458 men whom he clothes,
the liveries costing 540,000 francs a year; besides these there were
20 tutors and sub-tutors, almoners, professors, cooks, and valets to
govern, educate and serve the pages; and again about thirty physicians,
apothecaries, nurses for the sick, intendants, treasurers, workmen, and
licensed and paid merchants for the accessories of the service; in
all more than 1,500 men. Horses to the amount of 250,000 francs are
purchased yearly, and there are stock-stables in Limousin and in
Normandy to draw on for supplies. 287 horses are exercised daily in the
two riding-halls; there are 443 saddle-horses in the small stable, 437
in the large one, and these are not sufficient for the "vivacity of the
service." The whole cost 4,600,000 livres in 1775, which sum reaches
6,200,000 livres in 1787.[2114] Still another spectacle should be seen
with one's own eyes,--the pages,[2115] the grooms, the laced pupils,
the silver-button pupils, the boys of the little livery in silk, the
instrumentalists and the mounted messengers of the stable. The use
of the horse is a feudal art; no luxury is more natural to a man of
quality. Think of the stables at Chantilly, which are palaces. To
convey an idea of a well-educated and genteel man he was then called an
accomplished cavalier;" in fact his importance was fully manifest only
when he was in the saddle, on a blood-horse like himself.--Another
genteel taste, an effect of the preceding, is the chase. It costs the
king from 1,100,000 to 1,200,000 livres a year, and requires 280
horses besides those of the two stables. A more varied or more complete
equipment could not be imagined: a pack of hounds for the boar, another
for the wolf another for the roe-buck, a cast (of hawks) for the crow,
a cast for the magpie, a cast for merlins, a cast for hares, a cast for
the fields. In 1783, 179,194 livres are expended for feeding horses, and
53,412 livres for feeding dogs.[2116] The entire territory, ten leagues
around Paris, is a game-preserve; "not a gun could be fired there;[2117]
accordingly the plains are seen covered with partridges accustomed to
man, quietly picking up the grain and never stirring as he passes." Add
to this the princes' captaincies, extending as far as Villers-Cotterets
and Orleans; these form an almost continuous circle around Paris,
thirty leagues in circumference, where game, protected, replaced and
multiplied, swarms for the pleasure of the king. The park of Versailles
alone forms an enclosure of more than ten leagues. The forest
of Rambouillet embraces 25,000 arpents (30,000 acres). Herds of
seventy-five and eighty stags are encountered around Fontainebleau. No
true hunter could read the minute-book of the chase without feeling an
impulse of envy. The wolf-hounds run twice a week, and they take forty
wolves a year. Between 1743 and 1744 Louis XV runs down 6,400 stags.
Louis XVI writes, August 30th, 1781: "Killed 460 head to day." In 1780
he brings down 20,534 head; in 1781, 20,291; in fourteen years, 189,251
head, besides 1,254 stags, while boars and bucks are proportionate; and
it must be noted that this is all done by his own hand, since his
parks approach his houses.--Such, in fine, is the character of
a "well-appointed household," that is to say, provided with its
dependencies and services. Everything is within reach; it is a complete
world in itself and self-sufficient. One exalted being attaches to and
gathers around it, with universal foresight and minuteness of detail,
every appurtenance it employs or can possibly employ.--Thus, each
prince, each princess has a professional surgery and a chapel;[2118] it
would not answer for the almoner who says mass or the doctor who looks
after their health to be obtained outside. So much stronger is the
reason that the king should have ministrants of this stamp; his chapel
embraces seventy-five almoners, chaplains, confessors, masters of the
oratory, clerks, announcers, carpet-bearers, choristers, copyists,
and composers of sacred music; his faculty is composed of forty-eight
physicians, surgeons, apothecaries, oculists, operators, bone-setters,
distillers, chiropodists and spagyrists (a species of alchemists).
We must still note his department of profane music, consisting of one
hundred and twenty-eight vocalists, dancers, instrumentalists, directors
and superintendents; his library corps of forty-three keepers, readers,
interpreters, engravers, medallists, geographers, binders and printers;
the staff of ceremonial display, sixty-two heralds, sword-bearers,
ushers and musicians; the staff of housekeepers, consisting of
sixty-eight marshals, guides and commissaries. I omit other services in
haste to reach the most important,--that of the table; a fine house and
good housekeeping being known by the table.

There are three sections of the table service;[2119] the first for the
king and his younger children; the second, called the little ordinary,
for the table of the grand-master, the grand-chamberlain and the
princes and princesses living with the king; the third, called the great
ordinary, for the grand-master's second table, that of the butlers of
the king's household, the almoners, the gentlemen in waiting, and that
of the valets-de-chambre, in all three hundred and eighty-three officers
of the table and one hundred and three waiters, at an expense of
2,177,771 livres; besides this there are 389,173 livres appropriated
to the table of Madame Elisabeth, and 1,093,547 livres for that
of Mesdames, the total being 3,660,491 livres for the table. The
wine-merchant furnished wine to the amount of 300,000 francs per annum,
and the purveyor game, meat and fish at a cost of 1,000,000 livres. Only
to fetch water from Ville-d'Avray, and to convey servants, waiters and
provisions, required fifty horses hired at the rate of 70,591 francs per
annum. The privilege of the royal princes and princesses "to send to the
bureau for fish on fast days when not residing regularly at the court,"
amounts in 1778 to 175,116 livres. On reading in the Almanach the titles
of these officials we see a Gargantua's feast spread out before us.
The formal hierarchy of the kitchens, so many grand officials of the
table,--the butlers, comptrollers and comptroller-pupils, the clerks and
gentlemen of the pantry, the cup-bearers and carvers, the officers and
equerries of the kitchen, the chiefs, assistants and head-cooks, the
ordinary scullions, turnspits and cellarers, the common gardeners
and salad gardeners, laundry servants, pastry-cooks, plate-changers,
table-setters, crockery-keepers, and broach-bearers, the butler of the
table of the head-butler,--an entire procession of broad-braided backs
and imposing round bellies, with grave countenances, which, with order
and conviction, exercise their functions before the saucepans and around
the buffets.

One step more and we enter the sanctuary, the king's apartment. Two
principal dignitaries preside over this, and each has under him about
a hundred subordinates. On one side is the grand chamberlain with his
first gentlemen of the bedchamber, the pages of the bedchamber, their
governors and instructors, the ushers of the antechamber, with the four
first valets-de-chambre in ordinary, sixteen special valets serving in
turn, his regular and special cloak-bearers, his barbers, upholsterers,
watch-menders, waiters and porters; on the other hand is the
grand-master of the wardrobe, with the masters of the wardrobe and the
valets of the wardrobe regular and special, the ordinary trunk-carriers,
mail-bearers, tailors, laundry servants, starchers, and common waiters,
with the gentlemen, officers and secretaries in ordinary of the cabinet,
in all 198 persons for domestic service, like 50 many domestic utensils
for every personal want, or as sumptuous pieces of furniture for the
decoration of the apartment. Some of them fetch the mall and the balls,
others hold the mantle and cane, others comb the king's hair and dry him
off after a bath, others drive the mules which transport his bed, others
watch his pet greyhounds in his room, others fold, put on and tie his
cravat, and others fetch and carry off his easy chair.[2120] Some there
are whose sole business it is to fill a corner which must not be left
empty. Certainly, with respect to ease of deportment and appearance
these are the most conspicuous of all; being so close to the master they
are under obligation to appear well; in such proximity their bearing
must not create a discord.--Such is the king's household, and I have
only described one of his residences; he has a dozen of them besides
Versailles, great and small, Marly, the two Trianons, la Muette,
Meudon, Choisy, Saint-Hubert, Saint-Germain, Fontainebleau, Compiègne,
Saint-Cloud, Rambouillet,[2121] without counting the Louvre, the
Tuileries and Chambord, with their parks and hunting-grounds, their
governors, inspectors, comptrollers, concierges, fountain tenders,
gardeners, sweepers, scrubbers, mole-catchers, wood-rangers, mounted
and foot-guards, in all more than a thousand persons. Naturally he
entertains, plans and builds, and, in this way expends 3 or 4 millions
per annum.[2122] Naturally, also, he repairs and renews his furniture;
in 1778, which is an average year, this costs him 1,936,853 livres.
Naturally, also, he takes his guests along with him and defrays their
expenses, they and their attendants; at Choisy, in 1780, there are
sixteen tables with 345 seats besides the distributions; at Saint-Cloud,
in 1785, there are twenty-six tables; "an excursion to Marly of
twenty-one days is a matter of 120,000 livres extra expense;" the
excursion to Fontainebleau has cost as much as 400,000 and 500,000
livres. His removals, on the average, cost half a million and more per
annum.[2123]--To complete our idea of this immense paraphernalia it
must be borne in mind that the artisans and merchants belonging to these
various official bodies are obliged; through the privileges they enjoy,
to follow the court "on its journeys that it may be provided on the spot
with apothecaries, armorers, gunsmiths, sellers of silken and
woollen hosiery, butchers, bakers, embroiderers, publicans, cobblers,
belt-makers, candle-makers, hatters, pork-dealers, surgeons, shoemakers,
curriers, cooks, pinkers, gilders and engravers, spur-makers,
sweetmeat-dealers, furbishers, old-clothes brokers, glove-perfumers,
watchmakers, booksellers, linen-drapers, wholesale and retail
wine-dealers, carpenters, coarse-jewelry haberdashers, jewellers,
parchment-makers, dealers in trimmings, chicken-roasters, fish-dealers,
purveyors of hay, straw and oats, hardware-sellers, saddlers, tailors,
gingerbread and starch-dealers, fruiterers, dealers in glass and in
violins."[2124] One might call it an oriental court which, to be set
in motion, moves an entire world: "when it is to move one must, if one
wants to travel anywhere, take the post in well in advance." The total
is near 4,000 persons for the king's civil household, 9,000 to 10,000
for his military household, at least 2,000 for those of his relatives,
in all 15,000 individuals, at a cost of between forty and fifty million
livres, which would be equal to double the amount to day, and which, at
that time, constituted one-tenth of the public revenue.[2125] We have
here the central figure of the monarchical show. However grand and
costly it may be, it is only proportionate to its purpose, since the
court is a public institution, and the aristocracy, with nothing to do,
devotes itself to filling up the king's drawing-room.

III. The King's Associates.

     The society of the king.--Officers of the household.
     --Invited guests.

Two causes maintain this affluence, one the feudal form still preserved,
and the other the new centralization just introduced; one placing the
royal service in the hands of the nobles, and the other converting the
nobles into place-hunters.--Through the duties of the palace the highest
nobility live with the king, residing under his roof; the grand-almoner
is M. de Montmorency-Laval, bishop of Metz; the first almoner is M. de
Bussuéjouls, bishop of Senlis; the grand-master of France is the Prince
de Condé; the first royal butier is the Comte d'Escars; the second
is the Marquis de Montdragon; the master of the pantry is the Duke
de Brissac; the chief cup-bearer is the Marquis de Vemeuil; the chief
carver is the Marquis de la Chesnaye; the first gentlemen of the
bedchamber are the Ducs de Richelieu, de Durfort, de Villequier, and
de Fleury; the grand-master of the wardrobe is the Duc de la
Rochefoucauld-Liancourt; the masters of the wardrobe are the Comte de
Boisgelin and the Marquis de Chauvelin. The captain of the falconry is
the Chevalier du Forget; the captain of the boar-hunt is the Marquis
d'Ecquevilly; the superintendent of edifices is the Comte d'Angevillier;
the grand-equerry is the Prince de Lambesc; the master of the hounds is
the Duc de Penthièvre; the grand-master of ceremonies is the Marquis de
Brèze; the grand-master of the household is the Marquis de la Suze;
the captains of the guards are the Ducs d'Agen, de Villery, de Brissac,
d'Aguillon, and de Biron, the Princes de Poix, de Luxembourg and
de Soubise. The provost of the hotel is the Marquis de Tourzel; the
governors of the residences and captains of the chase are the Duc de
Noailles, Marquis de Champcenetz, Baron de Champlost, Duc de Coigny,
Comte de Modena, Comte de Montmorin, Duc de Laval, Comte de Brienne,
Duc d'Orléans, and the Duc de Gèsvres.[2126] All these seigniors are
the king's necessary intimates, his permanent and generally hereditary
guests, dwelling under his roof; in close and daily intercourse with
him, for they are "his folks" (gens)[2127] and perform domestic service
about his person. Add to these their equals, as noble and nearly as
numerous, dwelling with the queen, with Mesdames, with Mme. Elisabeth,
with the Comte and Comtesse de Provence and the Comte and Comtesse
d'Artois.--And these are only the heads of the service; if; below them
in rank and office, I count the titular nobles, I find, among others,
68 almoners or chaplains, 170 gentlemen of the bedchamber or in waiting,
117 gentlemen of the stable or of the hunting-train, 148 pages, 114
titled ladies in waiting, besides all the officers, even to the lowest
of the military household, without counting 1,400 ordinary guards who,
verified by the genealogist, are admitted by virtue of their title to
pay their court.[2128] Such is the fixed body of recruits for the royal
receptions; the distinctive trait of this régime is the conversion
of its servants into guests, the drawing room being filled from the

Not that the drawing room needs all that to be filled. Being the source
of all preferment and of every favor, it is natural that it should
overflow[2129]. It is the same in our leveling society (in 1875), where
the drawing room of an insignificant deputy, a mediocre journalist, or
a fashionable woman, is full of courtiers under the name of friends and
visitors. Moreover, here, to be present is an obligation; it might be
called a continuation of ancient feudal homage; the staff of nobles is
maintained as the retinue of its born general. In the language of the
day, it is called "paying one's duty to the king." Absence, in the
sovereign's eyes, would be a sign of independence as well as of
indifference, while submission as well as regular attention is his due.
In this respect we must study the institution from the beginning.
The eyes of Louis XIV go their rounds at every moment, "on arising or
retiring, on passing into his apartments, in his gardens,. . . nobody
escapes, even those who hoped they were not seen; it was a demerit with
some, and the most distinguished, not to make the court their ordinary
sojourn, to others to come to it but seldom, and certain disgrace to
those who never, or nearly never, came."[2130] Henceforth, the
main thing, for the first personages in the kingdom, men and women,
ecclesiastics and laymen, the grand affair, the first duty in life,
the true occupation, is to be at all hours and in every place under the
king's eye, within reach of his voice and of his glance. "Whoever," says
La Bruyère, "considers that the king's countenance is the courtier's
supreme felicity, that he passes his life looking on it and within sight
of it, will comprehend to some extent how to see God constitutes the
glory and happiness of the saints." There were at this time prodigies of
voluntary assiduity and subjection. The Duc de Fronsac, every morning
at seven o'clock, in winter and in summer, stationed himself, at his
father's command, at the foot of the small stairway leading to the
chapel, solely to shake hands with Mme. de Maintenon on her leaving for
St. Cyr.[2131] "Pardon me, Madame," writes the Duc de Richelieu to her,
"the great liberty I take in presuming to send you the letter which
I have written to the king, begging him on my knees that he will
occasionally allow me to pay my court to him at Ruel, for I would rather
die than pass two months without seeing him." The true courtier follows
the prince as a shadow follows its body; such, under Louis XIV, was the
Duc de la Rochefoucauld, the master of the hounds. "He never missed the
king's rising or retiring, both changes of dress every day, the hunts
and the promenades, likewise every day, for ten years in succession,
never sleeping away from the place where the king rested, and yet on a
footing to demand leave, but not to stay away all night, for he had not
slept out of Paris once in forty years, but to go and dine away from the
court, and not be present on the promenade."--If; later, and under less
exacting masters, and in the general laxity of the eighteenth century,
this discipline is relaxed, the institution nevertheless subsists;[2132]
in default of obedience, tradition, interest and amour-propre suffice
for the people of the court. To approach the king, to be a domestic in
his household, an usher, a cloak-bearer, a valet, is a privilege that
is purchased, even in 1789, for thirty, forty, and a hundred thousand
livres; so much greater the reason why it is a privilege to form a
part of his society, the most honorable, the most useful, and the most
coveted of all.--In the first place, it is a proof of noble birth. A
man, to follow the king in the chase, and a woman, to be presented to
the queen, must previously satisfy the genealogist, and by authentic
documents, that his or her nobility goes back to the year 1400.--In the
next place, it ensures good fortune. This drawing room is the only
place within reach of royal favors; accordingly, up to 1789, the great
families never stir away from Versailles, and day and night they lie in
ambush. The valet of the Marshal de Noaillles says to him one night on
closing his curtains,

"At what hour will Monseigneur be awakened?" "At ten o'clock, if no one
dies during the night."[2133]

Old courtiers are still found who, "at the age of eighty, have passed
forty-five on their feet in the antechambers of the king, of the
princes, and of the ministers. . .

"You have only three things to do," says one of them to a debutant,
"speak well of everybody, ask for every vacancy, and sit down when you

Hence, the king always has a crowd around him. The Comtesse du Barry
says, on presenting her niece at court, the first of August, 1773, "the
crowd is so great at a presentation, one can scarcely get through the
antechambers."[2134] In December, 1774, at Fontainebleau, when the queen
plays at her own table every evening, "the apartment, though vast, is
never empty. . . . The crowd is so great that one can talk only to the
two or three persons with whom one is playing." The fourteen apartments,
at the receptions of ambassadors are full to overflowing with seigniors
and richly dressed women. On the first of January, 1775, the queen
"counted over two hundred ladies presented to her to pay their court."
In 1780, at Choisy, a table for thirty persons is spread every day for
the king, another with thirty places for the seigniors, another with
forty places for the officers of the guard and the equerries, and one
with fifty for the officers of the bedchamber. According to my estimate,
the king, on getting up and on retiring, on his walks, on his hunts,
at play, has always around him at least forty or fifty seigniors and
generally a hundred, with as many ladies, besides his attendants on
duty. At Fontainebleau, in 1756, although "there were neither fêtes nor
ballets this year, one hundred and six ladies were counted." When the
king holds a "grand apartement," when play or dancing takes place in the
gallery of mirrors, four or five hundred guests, the elect of the nobles
and of the fashion, range themselves on the benches or gather around the
card and cavanole tables.[2135] This is a spectacle to be seen, not by
the imagination, or through imperfect records, but with our own eyes
and on the spot, to comprehend the spirit, the effect and the triumph of
monarchical culture. In an elegantly furnished house, the drawing
room is the principal room; and never was one more dazzling than this.
Suspended from the sculptured ceiling peopled with sporting cupids,
descend, by garlands of flowers and foliage, blazing chandeliers, whose
splendor is enhanced by the tail mirrors; the light streams down in
floods on gilding, diamonds, and beaming, arch physiognomies, on fine
busts, and on the capacious, sparkling and garlanded dresses. The skirts
of the ladies ranged in a circle, or in tiers on the benches, "form
a rich espalier covered with pearls, gold, silver, jewels, spangles,
flowers and fruits, with their artificial blossoms, gooseberries,
cherries, and strawberries," a gigantic animated bouquet of which the
eye can scarcely support the brilliancy. There are no black coats, as
nowadays, to disturb the harmony. With the hair powdered and dressed,
with buckles and knots, with cravats and ruffles of lace, in silk coats
and vests of the hues of fallen leaves, or of a delicate rose tint, or
of celestial blue, embellished with gold braid and embroidery, the men
are as elegant as the women. Men and women, each is a selection; they
all are of the accomplished class, gifted with every grace which good
blood, education, fortune, leisure and custom can bestow; they are
perfect of their kind. There is no toilet, no carriage of the head, no
tone of the voice, no expression in language which is not a masterpiece
of worldly culture, the distilled quintessence of all that is
exquisitely elaborated by social art. Polished as the high society of
Paris may be, it does not approach this;[2136] compared with the court,
it seems provincial. It is said that a hundred thousand roses are
required to make an ounce of the unique perfume used by Persian kings;
such is this drawing-room, the frail vial of crystal and gold containing
the substance of a human vegetation. To fill it, a great aristocracy
had to be transplanted to a hot-house and become sterile in fruit and
flowers, and then, in the royal alembic, its pure sap is concentrated
into a few drops of aroma. The price is excessive, but only at this
price can the most delicate perfumes be manufactured.

IV. Everyday Life In Court.

     The king's occupations.--Rising in the morning, mass,
     dinner, walks, hunting, supper, play, evening receptions.
     --He is always on parade and in company.

An operation of this kind absorbs him who undertakes it as well as those
who undergo it. A nobility for useful purposes is not transformed with
impunity into a nobility for ornament;[2137] one falls himself into the
ostentation which is substituted for action. The king has a court which
he is compelled to maintain. So much the worse if it absorbs all his
time, his intellect, his soul, the most valuable portion of his active
forces and the forces of the State. To be the master of a house is
not an easy task, especially when five hundred persons are to be
entertained; one must necessarily pass one's life in public and all the
time being on exhibition. Strictly speaking it is the life of an actor
who is on the stage the entire day. To support this load, and work
besides, required the temperament of Louis XIV, the vigor of his body,
the extraordinary firmness of his nerves, the strength of his digestion,
and the regularity of his habits; his successors who come after him grow
weary or stagger under the same load. But they cannot throw it off; an
incessant, daily performance is inseparable from their position and it
is imposed on them like a heavy, gilded, ceremonial coat. The king is
expected to keep the entire aristocracy busy, consequently to make a
display of himself, to pay back with his own person, at all hours, even
the most private, even on getting out of bed, and even in his bed. In
the morning, at the hour named by himself beforehand,[2138] the head
valet awakens him; five series of persons enter in turn to perform their
duty, and, "although very large, there are days when the waiting-rooms
can hardly contain the crowd of courtiers."--The first admittance is
"l'entrée familière," consisting of the children of France, the princes
and princesses of the blood, and, besides these, the chief physician,
the chief surgeon and other serviceable persons.[2139] Next, comes the
"grande entrée;' which comprises the grand-chamberlain, the grand-master
and master of the wardrobe, the first gentlemen of the bedchamber, the
Ducs d'Orleans and de Penthièvre, some other highly favored seigniors,
the ladies of honor and in waiting of the queen, Mesdames and other
princesses, without enumerating barbers tailors and various descriptions
of valets. Meanwhile spirits of wine are poured on the king's hands from
a service of plate, and he is then handed the basin of holy water; he
crosses himself and repeats a prayer. Then he gets out of bed before
all these people and puts on his slippers. The grand-chamberlain and the
first gentleman hand him his dressing-gown; he puts this on and seats
himself in the chair in which he is to put on his clothes. At this
moment the door opens and a third group enters, which is the "entrée
des brevets;" the seigniors who compose this enjoy, in addition, the
precious privilege of assisting at the "petite coucher," while, at the
same moment there enters a detachment of attendants, consisting of the
physicians and surgeons in ordinary, the intendants of the amusements,
readers and others, and among the latter those who preside over physical
requirements; the publicity of a royal life is so great that none of
its functions can be exercised without witnesses. At the moment of
the approach of the officers of the wardrobe to dress him the first
gentleman, notified by an usher, advances to read to the king the names
of the grandees who are waiting at the door: this is the fourth entry
called "la chambre," and larger than those preceding it; for, not to
mention the cloak-bearers, gun-bearers, rug-bearers and other valets
it comprises most of the superior officials, the grand-almoner, the
almoners on duty, the chaplain, the master of the oratory, the captain
and major of the body-guard, the colonel-general and major of the French
guards, the colonel of the king's regiment, the captain of the Cent
Suisses, the grand-huntsman, the grand wolf-huntsman, the grand-provost,
the grand-master and master of ceremonies, the first butler, the
grand-master of the pantry, the foreign ambassadors, the ministers and
secretaries of state, the marshals of France and most of the seigniors
and prelates of distinction. Ushers place the ranks in order and, if
necessary, impose silence. Meanwhile the king washes his hands and
begins his toilet. Two pages remove his slippers; the grand-master of
the wardrobe draws off his night-shirt by the right arm, and the first
valet of the wardrobe by the left arm, and both of them hand it to an
officer of the wardrobe, whilst a valet of the wardrobe fetches the
shirt wrapped up in white taffeta. Things have now reached the solemn
point, the culmination of the ceremony; the fifth entry has been
introduced, and, in a few moments, after the king has put his shirt on,
all that is left of those who are known, with other house hold officers
waiting in the gallery, complete the influx. There is quite a formality
in regard to this shirt. The honor of handing it is reserved to the sons
and grandsons of France; in default of these to the princes of the blood
or those legitimized; in their default to the grand-chamberlain or to
the first gentleman of the bedchamber;--the latter case, it must be
observed, being very rare, the princes being obliged to be present at
the king's lever, as were the princesses at that of the queen.[2140]
At last the shirt is presented and a valet carries off the old one;
the first valet of the wardrobe and the first valet-de-chambre hold the
fresh one, each by a right and left arm respectively,[2141] while two
other valets, during this operation, extend his dressing-gown in front
of him to serve as a screen. The shirt is now on his back and the toilet
commences. A valet-de-chambre supports a mirror before the king while
two others on the two sides light it up, if occasion requires, with
flambeaux. Valets of the wardrobe fetch the rest of the attire; the
grand-master of the wardrobe puts the vest on and the doublet, attaches
the blue ribbon, and clasps his sword around him; then a valet assigned
to the cravats brings several of these in a basket, while the master
of the wardrobe arranges around the king's neck that which the king
selects. After this a valet assigned to the handkerchiefs brings three
of these on a silver salver, while the grand-master of the wardrobe
offers the salver to the king, who chooses one. Finally the master of
the wardrobe hands to the king his hat, his gloves and his cane. The
king then steps to the side of the bed, kneels on a cushion and says his
prayers, whilst an almoner in a low voice recites the orison Quoesumus,
deus omnipotens. This done, the king announces the order of the day, and
passes with the leading persons of his court into his cabinet, where he
sometimes gives audience. Meanwhile the rest of the company await him in
the gallery in order to accompany him to mass when he comes out.

Such is the lever, a piece in five acts.--Nothing could be contrived
better calculated to fill up the void of an aristocratic life; a hundred
or thereabouts of notable seigniors dispose of a couple of hours in
coming, in waiting, in entering, in defiling, in taking positions, in
standing on their feet, in maintaining an air of respect and of ease
suitable to a superior class of walking gentlemen, while those
best qualified are about to do the same thing over in the queen's
apartment.[2142]--The king, however, as an indirect consequence, suffers
the same torture and the same inaction as he imposes. He also is
playing a part; all his steps and all his gestures have been determined
beforehand; he has been obliged to arrange his physiognomy and his
voice, never to depart from an affable and dignified air, to award
judiciously his glances and his nods, to keep silent or to speak only of
the chase, and to suppress his own thoughts, if he has any. One cannot
indulge in reverie, meditate or be absent-minded when one is before the
footlights; the part must have due attention. Besides, in a drawing
room there is only drawing room conversation, and the master's thoughts,
instead of being directed in a profitable channel, must be scattered
about like the holy water of the court. All hours of his day are passed
in a similar manner, except three or four during the morning, during
which he is at the council or in his private room; it must be
noted, too, that on the days after his hunts, on returning home from
Rambouillet at three o'clock in the morning, he must sleep the few hours
he has left to him. The ambassador Mercy,[2143] nevertheless, a man of
close application, seems to think it sufficient; he, at least, thinks
that "Louis XVI is a man of order, losing no time in useless things;"
his predecessor, indeed, worked much less, scarcely an hour a day.
Three-quarters of his time is thus given up to show. The same retinue
surrounds him when he puts on his boots, when he takes them off; when
he changes his clothes to mount his horse, when he returns home to dress
for the evening, and when he goes to his room at night to retire. "Every
evening for six years, says a page,[2144] either myself or one of my
comrades has seen Louis XVI get into bed in public," with the ceremonial
just described. "It was not omitted ten times to my knowledge, and
then accidentally or through indisposition." The attendance is yet more
numerous when he dines and takes supper; for, besides men there are
women present, duchesses seated on the folding-chairs, also others
standing around the table. It is needless to state that in the evening
when he plays, or gives a ball, or a concert, the crowd rushes in and
overflows. When he hunts, besides the ladies on horses and in
vehicles, besides officers of the hunt, of the guards, the equerry, the
cloak-bearer, gun-bearer, surgeon, bone-setter, lunch-bearer and I
know not how many others, all the gentlemen who accompany him are
his permanent guests. And do not imagine that this suite is a small
one;[2145] the day M. de Châteaubriand is presented there are four fresh
additions, and "with the utmost punctuality" all the young men of high
rank join the king's retinue two or three times a week. Not only the
eight or ten scenes which compose each of these days, but again the
short intervals between the scenes are besieged and carried. People
watch for him, walk by his side and speak with him on his way from his
cabinet to the chapel, between his apartment and his carriage, between
his carriage and his apartment, between his cabinet and his dining room.
And still more, his life behind the scenes belongs to the public. If he
is indisposed and broth is brought to him, if he is ill and medicine
is handed to him, "a servant immediately summons the 'grande entrée.'"
Verily, the king resembles an oak stifled by the innumerable creepers
which, from top to bottom, cling to its trunk. Under a régime of this
stamp there is a want of air; some opening has to be found; Louis XV
availed himself of the chase and of suppers; Louis XVI of the chase
and of lock-making. And I have not mentioned the infinite detail
of etiquette, the extraordinary ceremonial of the state dinner, the
fifteen, twenty and thirty beings busy around the king's plates and
glasses, the sacramental utterances of the occasion, the procession of
the retinue, the arrival of "la nef" "l'essai des plats," all as if in
a Byzantine or Chinese court.[2146] On Sundays the entire public, the
public in general, is admitted, and this is called the "grand couvert,"
as complex and as solemn as a high mass. Accordingly to eat, to
drink, to get up, to go to bed, is to a descendant of Louis XIV,
to officiate.[2147] Frederick II, on hearing an explanation of this
etiquette, declared that if he were king of France his first edict would
be to appoint another king to hold court in his place. In effect, if
there are idlers to salute there must be an idler to be saluted. Only
one way was possible by which the monarch could have been set free, and
that was to have recast and transformed the French nobles, according
to the Prussian system, into a hard-working regiment of serviceable
functionaries. But, so long as the court remains what it is, that is to
say, a pompous parade and a drawing room decoration, the king himself
must likewise remain a showy decoration, of little or no use.

V. Royal Distractions.

     Diversions of the royal family and of the court.--Louis XV.
     --Louis XVI.

In short, what is the occupation of a well-qualified master of a
house? He amuses himself and he amuses his guests; under his roof a
new pleasure-party comes off daily. Let us enumerate those of a week.
"Yesterday, Sunday," says the Duc de Luynes, "I met the king going to
hunt on the plain of St. Denis, having slept at la Muette, where he
intends to remain shooting to day and to-morrow, and to return here
on Tuesday or Wednesday morning, to run down a stag the same day,
Wednesday."[2148] Two months after this, "the king," again says M. de
Luynes, "has been hunting every day of the past and of the present
week, except to day and on Sundays, killing, since the beginning, 3,500
partridges." He is always on the road, or hunting, or passing from one
residence to another, from Versailles to Fontainebleau, to Choisy,
to Marly, to la Muette, to Compiègne, to Trianon, to Saint-Hubert, to
Bellevue, to Rambouillet, and, generally, with his entire court.[2149]
At Choisy, especially, and at Fontainebleau this company all lead
a merry life. At Fontainebleau "Sunday and Friday, play; Monday and
Wednesday, a concert in the queen's apartments; Tuesday and Thursday,
the French comedians; and Saturday it is the Italians;" there
is something for every day in the week. At Choisy, writes the
Dauphine,[2150] "from one o'clock (in the afternoon) when we dine, to
one o'clock at night we remain out. . . After dining we play until six
o'clock, after which we go to the theater, which lasts until half-past
nine o'clock, and next, to supper; after this, play again, until one,
and sometimes half-past one, o'clock." At Versailles things are more
moderate; there are but two theatrical entertainments and one ball a
week; but every evening there is play and a reception in the
king's apartment, in his daughters', in his mistress's, in his
daughter-in-law's, besides hunts and three petty excursions a week.
Records show that, in a certain year, Louis XV slept only fifty-two
nights at Versailles, while the Austrian Ambassador well says that
"his mode of living leaves him not an hour in the day for attention to
important matters."--As to Louis XVI, we have seen that he reserves a
few hours of the morning; but the machine is wound up, and go it must.
How can he withdraw himself from his guests and not do the honors of his
house? Here propriety and custom are tyrants and a third despotism must
be added, still more absolute: the imperious vivacity of a lively
young queen who cannot endure an hour's reading.--At Versailles, three
theatrical entertainments and two balls a week, two grand suppers
Tuesday and Thursday, and from time to time, the opera in Paris.[2151]
At Fontainebleau, the theater three times a week, and on other days,
play and suppers. During the following winter the queen gives a
masked ball each week, in which "the contrivance of the costumes, the
quadrilles arranged in ballets, and the daily rehearsals, take so much
time as to consume the entire week." During the carnival of 1777 the
queen, besides her own fêtes, attends the balls of the Palais-Royal and
the masked balls of the opera; a little later, I find another ball at
the abode of the Comtesse Diana de Polignac, which she attends with
the whole royal family, except Mesdames, and which lasts from half-past
eleven o'clock at night until eleven o'clock the next morning.
Meanwhile, on ordinary days, there is the rage of faro; in her drawing
room "there is no limit to the play; in one evening the Duc de Chartres
loses 8,000 louis. It really resembles an Italian carnival; there is
nothing lacking, neither masks nor the comedy of private life; they
play, they laugh, they dance, they dine, they listen to music, they don
costumes, they get up picnics (fêtes-champêtres), they indulge in gossip
and gallantries." "The newest song,"[2152] says a cultivated, earnest
lady of the bedchamber, "the current witticism and little scandalous
stories, formed the sole subjects of conversation in the queen's circle
of intimates."--As to the king, who is rather dull and who requires
physical exercise, the chase is his most important occupation.
Between 1755 and 1789,[2153] he himself, on recapitulating what he had
accomplished, finds "104 boar-hunts, 134 stag-hunts, 266 of bucks, 33
with hounds, and 1,025 shootings," in all 1,562 hunting-days, averaging
at least one hunt every three days; besides this there are a 149
excursions without hunts, and 223 promenades on horseback or in
carriages. "During four months of the year he goes to Rambouillet twice
a week and returns after having supped, that is to say, at three o'clock
in the morning."[2154] This inveterate habit ends in becoming a mania,
and even in something worse. "The nonchalance," writes Arthur Young,
June 26, 1789, "and even stupidity of the court, is unparalleled;
the moment demands the greatest decision, and yesterday, while it was
actually a question whether he should be a doge of Venice or a king
of France, the king went a hunting!" His journal reads like that of a
gamekeeper's. On reading it at the most important dates one is amazed at
its entries. He writes nothing on the days not devoted to hunting, which
means that to him these days are of no account:

July 11, 1789, nothing; M. Necker leaves.

July 12th vespers and benediction; Messieurs de Montmorin, de
Saint-Priest and de la Luzerne leave.

July 13th, nothing.

July 14th, nothing.

July 29th, nothing; M. Necker returns.....

August 4th, stag-hunt in the forest at Marly; took one; go and come on

August 13th, audience of the States in the gallery; Te Deum during the
mass below; one stag taken in the hunt at Marly. . .

August 25th, complimentary audience of the States; high mass with
the cordons bleus; M. Bailly sworn in; vespers and benediction; state

October 5th, shooting near Chatillon; killed 81 head; interrupted by
events; go and come on horseback.

October 6th, leave for Paris at half-past twelve; visit the
Hôtel-de-Ville; sup and rest at the Tuileries.

October 7th nothing; my aunts come and dine.

October 8th, nothing. . .

October 12th, nothing; the stag hunted at Port Royal.

Shut up in Paris, held by the crowds, his heart is always with the
hounds. Twenty times in 1790 we read in his journal of a stag-hunt
occurring in this or that place; he regrets not being on hand. No
privation is more intolerable to him; we encounter traces of his chagrin
even in the formal protest he draws up before leaving for Varennes;
transported to Paris, shut up in the Tuileries, "where, far from finding
conveniences to which he is accustomed, he has not even enjoyed the
advantages common to persons in easy circumstances," his crown to him
having apparently lost its brightest jewel.

VI. Upper Class Distractions.

     Other similar lives.--Princes and princesses.--Seigniors of
     the court.--Financiers and parvenus.--Ambassadors,
     ministers, governors, general officers.

As is the general so is his staff; the grandees imitate their monarch.
Like some costly colossal effigy in marble, erected in the center
of France, and of which reduced copies are scattered by thousands
throughout the provinces, thus does royal life repeat itself, in minor
proportions, even among the remotest gentry. The object is to make a
parade and to receive; to make a figure and to pass away time in good
society.--I find, first, around the court, about a dozen princely
courts. Each prince or princess of the blood royal, like the king, has
his house fitted up, paid for, in whole or in part, out of the treasury,
its service divided into special departments, with gentlemen, pages, and
ladies in waiting, in brief, fifty, one hundred, two hundred, and even
five hundred appointments. There is a household of this kind for the
queen, one for Madame Victoire, one for Madame Elisabeth, one for
Monsieur, one for Madame, one for the Comte d'Artois, and one for the
Comtesse d'Artois. There will be one for Madame Royale, one for the
little Dauphin, one for the Duc de Normandie, all three children of the
king, one for the Duc d'Angoulême, one for the Duc de Berry, both sons
of the Comte d'Artois: children six or seven years of age receive and
make a parade of themselves. On referring to a particular date, in
1771,[2155] I find still another for the Duc d'Orléans, one for the Duc
de Bourbon, one for the Duchesse, one for the Prince de Condé, one for
the Comte de Clermont, one for the Princess dowager de Conti, one for
the Prince de Conti, one for the Comte de la Marche, one for the Duc
de Penthièvre.--Each personage, besides his or her apartment under
the king's roof has his or her chateau and palace with his or her own
circle, the queen at Trianon and at Saint-Cloud, Mesdames at Bellevue,
Monsieur at the Luxembourg and at Brunoy, the Comte d'Artois at Meudon
and at Bagatelle, the Duc d'Orléans at the Palais Royal, at Monceaux, at
Rancy and at Villers-Cotterets, the Prince de Conti at the Temple and at
Ile-Adam, the Condés at the Palais-Bourbon and at Chantilly, the Duc de
Penthièvre at Sceaux, Anet and Chateauvilain. I omit one-half of these
residences. At the Palais-Royal those who are presented may come to the
supper on opera days. At Chateauvilain all those who come to pay court
are invited to dinner, the nobles at the duke's table and the rest at
the table of his first gentleman. At the Temple one hundred and fifty
guests attend the Monday suppers. Forty or fifty persons, said the
Duchesse de Maine, constitute "a prince's private company."[2156] The
princes' train is so inseparable from their persons that it follows them
even into camp. "The Prince de Condé," says M. de Luynes, "sets out
for the army to-morrow with a large suite: he has two hundred and
twenty-five horses, and the Comte de la Marche one hundred. M. le duc
d'Orléans leaves on Monday; he has three hundred and fifty horses for
himself and suite."[2157] Below the rank of the king's relatives all the
grandees who figure at the court figure as well in their own residences,
at their hotels at Paris or at Versailles, also in their chateaux a
few leagues away from Paris. On all sides, in the memoirs, we obtain a
foreshortened view of some one of these seignorial existences. Such is
that of the Duc de Gèvres, first gentleman of the bedchamber, governor
of Paris, and of the Ile-de-France, possessing besides this the special
governorships of Laon, Soissons, Noyon, Crespy and Valois, the captainry
of Mousseaux, also a pension of 20,000 livres, a veritable man of the
court, a sort of sample in high relief of the people of his class, and
who, through his appointments, his airs, his luxury, his debts, the
consideration he enjoys, his tastes, his occupations and his turn of
mind presents to us an abridgment of the fashionable world.[2158] His
memory for relationships and genealogies is surprising; he is an adept
in the precious science of etiquette, and on these two grounds he is an
oracle and much consulted. "He greatly increased the beauty of his house
and gardens at Saint-Ouen. At the moment of his death," says the Duc de
Luynes, "he had just added twenty-five arpents to it which he had begun
to enclose with a covered terrace. . . . He had quite a large household
of gentlemen, pages, and domestic of various kinds, and his expenditure
was enormous. . . . He gave a grand dinner every day. . . . He gave
special audiences almost daily. There was no one at the court, nor in
the city, who did not pay his respects to him. The ministers, the royal
princes themselves did so. He received company whilst still in bed. He
wrote and dictated amidst a large assemblage. . . . His house at Paris
and his apartment at Versailles were never empty from the time be arose
till the time he retired." 2 or 300 households at Paris, at Versailles
and in their environs, offer a similar spectacle. Never is there
solitude. It is the custom in France, says Horace Walpole, to burn
your candle down to its snuff in public. The mansion of the Duchesse
de Gramont is besieged at day-break by the noblest seigniors and the
noblest ladies. Five times a week, under the Duc de Choiseul's roof, the
butler enters the drawing room at ten o'clock in the evening to bestow
a glance on the immense crowded gallery and decide if he shall lay the
cloth for fifty, sixty or eighty persons;[2159] with this example before
them all the rich establishments soon glory in providing an open
table for all comers. Naturally the parvenus, the financiers who have
purchased or taken the name of an estate, all those traffickers and
sons of traffickers who, since Law, associate with the nobility, imitate
their ways. And I do not allude to the Bourets, the Beaujons, the St.
Jameses and other financial wretches whose paraphernalia effaces that
of the princes; but take a plain associé des fermes, M. d'Epinay, whose
modest and refined wife refuses such excessive display.[2160] He had
just completed his domestic arrangements, and was anxious that his
wife should take a second maid; but she resisted; nevertheless, in this
curtailed household.

"The officers, women and valets, amounted to sixteen. . . . When M.
d'Epinay gets up his valet enters on his duties. Two lackeys stand
by awaiting his orders. The first secretary enters for the purpose of
giving an account of the letters received by him and which he has to
open; but he is interrupted two hundred times in this business by all
sorts of people imaginable. Now it is a horse-jockey with the finest
horses to sell. . . . Again some saucy girl who calls to bawl out a
piece of music, and on whose behalf some influence has been exerted to
get her into the opera, after giving her a few lessons in good taste and
teaching her what is proper in French music. This young lady has been
made to wait to ascertain if I am still at home. . . . I get up and go
out. Two lackeys open the folding doors to let me make it through
this eye of a needle, while two servants bawl out in the ante-chamber,
'Madame, gentlemen, Madame!' All form a line, the gentlemen consisting
of dealers in fabrics, in instruments, jewellers, hawkers, lackeys,
shoeblacks, creditors, in short everything imaginable that is most
ridiculous and annoying. The clock strikes twelve or one before this
toilet matter is over, and the secretary, who, doubtless, knows by
experience the impossibility of rendering a detailed statement of his
business, hands to his master a small memorandum informing him what he
must say in the assembly of fermiers."

Indolence, disorder, debts, ceremony, the tone and ways of the patron,
all seems a parody of the real thing. We are beholding the last
stages of aristocracy. And yet the court of M. d'Epinay is a miniature
resemblance of that of the king.

So much more essential is it that the ambassadors, ministers and general
officers who represent the king should display themselves in a grandiose
manner. No circumstance rendered the ancient régime so brilliant and
more oppressive; in this, as in all the rest, Louis XIV is the principal
originator of evil as of good. The policy which fashioned the court
prescribed ostentation.

"A display of dress, table, equipages, buildings and play was made
purposely to please; these afforded opportunities for entering into
conversation with him. The contagion had spread from the court into the
provinces and to the armies, where people of any position were esteemed
only in proportion to their table and magnificence."[2161]

During the year passed by the Marshal de Belle-Isle at Frankfort, on
account of the election of Charles VI, he expended 750,000 livres in
journeys, transportations, festivals and dinners, in constructing
a kitchen and dining-hall, and besides all this, 150,000 livres in
snuff-boxes, watches and other presents; by order of Cardinal Fleury, so
economical, he had in his kitchens one hundred and one officials.[2162]
At Vienna, in 1772, the ambassador, the Prince de Rohan, had two
carriages costing together 40,000 livres, forty horses, seven noble
pages, six gentlemen, five secretaries, ten musicians, twelve footmen,
and four grooms whose gorgeous liveries each cost 4,000 livres, and the
rest in proportion.[2163] We are familiar with the profusion, the good
taste, the exquisite dinners, and the admirable ceremonial display of
the Cardinal de Bernis in Rome. "He was called the king of Rome, and
indeed he was such through his magnificence and in the consideration he
enjoyed. . . . His table afforded an idea of what is possible. . .
In festivities, ceremonies and illuminations he was always beyond
comparison." He himself remarked, smiling, "I keep a French inn on the
cross-roads of Europe."[2164] Accordingly their salaries and indemnities
are two or three times more ample than at the present day. "The king
gives 50,000 crowns to the great embassies. The Duc de Duras received
even 200,000 livres per annum for that of Madrid, also, besides this,
100,000 crowns gratuity, 50,000 livres for secret service; and he had
the loan of furniture and effects valued at 400,000 and 500,000 livres,
of which he kept one-half."[2165] The outlays and salaries of the
ministers are similar. In 1789, the Chancellor gets 120,080 livres
salary and the Keeper of the Seals 135,000. "M. de Villedeuil,
as Secretary of State, was to have had 180,670 livres, but as he
represented that this sum would not cover his expenses, his salary was
raised to 226,000 livres, everything included."[2166] Moreover, the
rule is, that on retiring from office the king awards them a pension of
20,000 livres and gives a dowry of 200,000 livres to their daughters.
This is not excessive considering the way they live. "They are obliged
to maintain such state in their households, for they cannot enrich
themselves by their places. All keep open table at Paris three days in
the week, and at Fontainebleau every day."[2167] M. de Lamoignon being
appointed Chancellor with a salary of 100,000 livres, people at
once declare that he will be ruined;[2168] "for he has taken all the
officials of M. d'Aguesseau's kitchen, whose table alone cost 80,000
livres. The banquet he gave at Versailles to the first council held
by him cost 6,000 livres, and he must always have seats at table, at
Versailles and at Paris, for twenty persons." At Chambord,[2169] Marshal
de Saxe always has two tables, one for sixty, and the other for eighty
persons; also four hundred horses in his stables, a civil list of more
than 100,000 crowns, a regiment of Uhlans for his guard, and a theater
costing over 600,000 livres, while the life he leads, or which is
maintained around him, resembles one of Rubens's bacchanalian scenes. As
to the special and general provincial governors we have seen that, when
they reside on the spot, they fulfill no other duty than to entertain;
alongside of them the intendant, who alone attends to business,
likewise receives, and magnificently, especially for the country of
a States-General. Commandants, lieutenants-general, the envoys of
the central government throughout, are equally induced by habit and
propriety, as well as by their own lack of occupation, to maintain a
drawing-room; they bring along with them the elegance and hospitality of
Versailles. If the wife follows them she becomes weary and "vegetates
in the midst of about fifty companions, talking nothing but commonplace,
knitting or playing lotto, and sitting three hours at the dinner table."
But "all the military men, all the neighboring gentry and all the ladies
in the town," eagerly crowd to her balls and delight in commending
"her grace, her politeness, her equality."[2170] These sumptuous
habits prevail even among people of secondary position. By virtue of
established usage colonels and captains entertain their subordinates
and thus expend "much beyond their salaries."[2171] This is one of the
reasons why regiments are reserved for the sons of the best families,
and companies in them for wealthy gentlemen. The vast royal tree,
expanding so luxuriantly at Versailles, sends forth its offshoots to
overrun France by thousands, and to bloom everywhere, as at Versailles,
in bouquets of finery and of drawing room sociability.

VII. Provincial Nobility.

     Prelates, seigniors and minor provincial nobles.--The feudal
     aristocracy transformed into a drawing room group.

Following this pattern, and as well through the effect of temperature,
we see, even in remote provinces, all aristocratic branches having a
flourishing social life. Lacking other employment, the nobles exchange
visits, and the chief function of a prominent seignior is to do the
honors of his house creditably. This applies as well to ecclesiastics as
to laymen. The one hundred and thirty-one bishops and archbishops, the
seven hundred abbés-commendatory, are all men of the world; they behave
well, are rich, and are not austere, while their episcopal palace or
abbey is for them a country-house, which they repair or embellish with
a view to the time they pass in it, and to the company they welcome to
it.[2172] At Clairvaux, Dom Rocourt, very affable with men and still
more gallant with the ladies, never drives out except with four horses,
and with a mounted groom ahead; his monks do him the honors of a
Monseigneur, and he maintains a veritable court. The chartreuse of Val
Saint-Pierre is a sumptuous palace in the center of an immense domain,
and the father-procurator, Dom Effinger, passes his days in entertaining
his guests.[2173] At the convent of Origny, near Saint-Quentin,[2174]
"the abbess has her domestics and her carriage and horses, and receives
men on visits, who dine in her apartments." The princess Christine,
abbess of Remiremont, with her lady canonesses, are almost always
traveling; and yet "they enjoy themselves in the abbey," entertaining
there a good many people "in the private apartments of the princess, and
in the strangers' rooms."[2175] The twenty-five noble chapters of
women, and the nineteen noble chapters of men, are as many permanent
drawing-rooms and gathering places incessantly resorted to by the fine
society which a slight ecclesiastical barrier scarcely divides from the
great world from which it is recruited. At the chapter of Alix, near
Lyons, the canonesses wear hoopskirts into the choir, "dressed as in the
world outside," except that their black silk robes and their mantles are
lined with ermine.[2176] At the chapter of Ottmarsheim in Alsace, "our
week was passed in promenading, in visiting the traces of Roman roads,
in laughing a good deal, and even in dancing, for there were many
people visiting the abbey, and especially talking over dresses." Near
Sarrebuis, the canonesses of Loutre dine with the officers and are
anything but prudish.[2177] Numbers of convents serve as agreeable and
respectable asylums for widowed ladies, for young women whose husbands
are in the army, and for young ladies of rank, while the superior,
generally some noble damsel, wields, with ease and dexterity, the
scepter of this pretty feminine world. But nowhere is the pomp of
hospitality or the concourse greater, than in the episcopal palaces.
I have described the situation of the bishops; with their opulence,
possessors of the like feudal rights, heirs and successors to the
ancient sovereigns of the territory, and besides all this, men of the
world and frequenters of Versailles, why should they not keep a court?
A Cicé, archbishop of Bordeaux, a Dillon, archbishop of Narbonne, a
Brienne, archbishop of Toulouse, a Castellane, bishop of Mende and
seignior-suzerain of the whole of Gévaudan, an archbishop of Cambrai,
duke of Cambray, seignior-suzerain of the whole of Cambrésis, and
president by birth of the provincial States-General, are nearly all
princes; why not parade themselves like princes? Hence, they build,
hunt and have their clients and guests, a lever, an antechamber, ushers,
officers, a free table, a complete household, equipages, and, oftener
still, debts, the finishing touch of a grand seignior. In the almost
regal palace which the Rohans, hereditary bishops of Strasbourg and
cardinals from uncle to nephew, erected for themselves at Saverne,[2178]
there are 700 beds, 180 horses, 14 butlers, and 25 valets. "The whole
province assembles there;" the cardinal lodges as many as two hundred
guests at a time, without counting the valets; at all times there are
found under his roof "from twenty to thirty ladies the most agreeable of
the province, and this number is often increased by those of the court
and from Paris. . . . The entire company sup together at nine o'clock in
the evening, which always looks like a fête," and the cardinal himself
is its chief ornament. Splendidly dressed, fine-looking, gallant,
exquisitely polite, the slightest smile is a grace. "His face, always
beaming, inspired confidence; he had the true physiognomy of a man
expressly designed for pompous display."

Such likewise is the attitude and occupation of the principal lay
seigniors, at home, in summer, when a love of the charms of fine weather
brings them back to their estates. For example, Harcourt in Normandy and
Brienne in Champagne are two chateaux the best frequented. "Persons of
distinction resort to it from Paris, eminent men of letters, while the
nobility of the canton pay there an assiduous court."[2179] There is
no residence where flocks of fashionable people do not light down
permanently to dine, to dance, to hunt, to gossip, to unravel,[2180]
(parfiler) to play comedy. We can trace these birds from cage to cage;
they remain a week, a month, three months, displaying their plumage and
their prattle. From Paris to Ile-Adam, to Villers-Cotterets, to Frétoy,
to Planchette, to Soissons, to Rheims, to Grisolles, to Sillery, to
Braine, to Balincourt, to Vaudreuil, the Comte and Comtesse de Genlis
thus bear about their leisure, their wit, their gaiety, at the domiciles
of friends whom, in their turn, they entertain at Genlis. A glance at
the exteriors of these mansions suffices to show that it was the chief
duty in these days to be hospitable, as it was a prime necessity to
be in society.[2181] Their luxury, indeed, differs from ours. With the
exception of a few princely establishments it is not great in the matter
of country furniture; a display of this description is left to the
financiers. "But it is prodigious in all things which can minister to
the enjoyment of others, in horses, carriages, and in an open table, in
accommodations given even to people not belonging to the house, in boxes
at the play which are lent to friends, and lastly, in servants, much
more numerous than nowadays." Through this mutual and constant attention
the most rustic nobles lose the rust still encrusting their brethren in
Germany or in England. We find in France few Squire Western and Barons
de Thunder-ten-Troenck; an Alsatian lady, on seeing at Frankfort
the grotesque country squires of Westphalia, is struck with the
contrast.[2182] Those of France, even in distant provinces, have
frequented the drawing-rooms of the commandant and intendant, and have
encountered on their visits some of the ladies from Versailles; hence
they always show some familiarity with superior manners and some
knowledge of the changes of fashion and dress." The most barbarous will
descend, with his hat in his hand, to the foot of his steps to escort
his guests, thanking them for the honor they have done him. The greatest
rustic, when in a woman's presence, dives down into the depths of his
memory for some fragment of chivalric gallantry. The poorest and most
secluded furbishes up his coat of royal blue and his cross of St.
Louis that he may, when the occasion offers, tender his respects to his
neighbor, the grand seignior, or to the prince who is passing by.

Thus is the feudal staff wholly transformed, from the lowest to the
highest grades. Taking in at one glance its 30 or 40,000 palaces,
mansions, manors and abbeys, what a brilliant and engaging scene France
presents! She is one vast drawing-room, and I detect only drawing room
company. Everywhere the rude chieftains once possessing authority have
become the masters of households administering favors. Their society is
that in which, before fully admiring a great general, the question is
asked, "is he amiable?" Undoubtedly they still wear swords, and are
brave through pride and tradition, and they know how to die, especially
in duels and according to form. But worldly traits have hidden the
ancient military groundwork; at the end of the eighteenth century their
genius is to be wellbred and their employment consists in entertaining
or in being entertained.



[Footnote 2101: "Mémoires de Laporte" (1632). "M. d'Epernon came to
Bordeaux, where he found His Eminence very ill. He visited him regularly
every morning, having two hundred guards to accompany him to the door
of his chamber."--"Mémoires de Retz." "We came to the audience, M. de
Beaufort and myself; with a corps of nobles which might number three
hundred gentlemen; MM. the princes had with them nearly a thousand
gentlemen."--All the memoirs of the time show on every page that these
escorts were necessary to make or repel sudden attacks.]

[Footnote 2102: Mercier, "Tableau de Paris." IX. 3.]

[Footnote 2103: Leroi, "Histoire de Versailles," Il. 21. (70,000 fixed
population and 10,000 floating population according to the registers of
the mayoralty.)]

[Footnote 2104: Warroquier, "Etat de la France" (1789). The list of persons
presented at court between 1779 and 1789, contains 463 men and 414
women. Vol. II. p. 515.]

[Footnote 2105: People were run over almost every day in Paris by the
fashionable vehicles, it being the habit of the great to ride very

[Footnote 2106: 153,222,827 livres, 10 sous, 3 deniers. ( "Souvenirs d'un
page de la cour de Louis XVI.," by the Count d'Hézecques, p. 142.)--In
1690, before the chapel and the theater were constructed, it had already
cost 100,000,000, (St. Simon, XII. 514. Memoirs of Marinier, clerk of
the king's buildings.)]

[Footnote 2107: Museum of Engravings, National Library. "Histoire de
France par estampes," passim, and particularly the plans and views of
Versailles, by Aveline; also, "the drawing of a collation given by M. le
Prince in the Labyrinth of Chantilly," Aug. 29, 1687.]

[Footnote 2108: Memoirs, I. 221. He was presented at court February 19,

[Footnote 2109: For these details cf. Warroquier, vol. I. passim.--Archives
imperiales, O1, 710 bis, the king's household, expenditure of
1771.--D'Argenson, February 25, 1752.--In 1772 three millions are
expended on the installation of the Count d'Artois. A suite of rooms for
Mme. Adelaide cost 800,000 livres.]

[Footnote 2110: Marie Antoinette, "Correspondance secréte," by d'Arneth
and Geffroy, III.192. Letter of Mercy, January 25, 1779.--Warroquier, in
1789, mentions only fifteen places in the house-hold of Madame Royale.
This, along with other indications, shows the inadequacy of official

[Footnote 2111: The number ascertainable after the reductions of 1775
and 1776, and before those of 1787. See Warroquier, vol. I.--Necker,
"Administration des Finances," II. 119.]

[Footnote 2112: "La Maison du Roi en 1786," colored engravings in the
Museum of Engravings.]

[Footnote 2113: Archives nationales, O1, 738. Report by M. Tessier
(1780), on the large and small stables. The queen's stables comprise
75 vehicles and 330 horses. These are the veritable figures taken
from secret manuscript reports, showing the inadequacy of official
statements. The Versailles Almanach of 1775, for instance, states that
there were only 335 men in the stables while we see that in reality the
number was four or five times as many.--"Previous to all the reforms,
says a witness, I believe that the number of the king's horses amounted
to 3,000." (D'Hézecques, "Souvenirs d'un page de Louis XVI.," p. 121.]

[Footnote 2114: La Maison du Roi justifiée par un soldat citoyen," (1786)
according to Statements published by the government.--"La future maison
du roi" (1790). "The two stables cost in 1786, the larger one 4,207,606
livres, and the smaller 3,509,402 livres, a total of 7,717,058 livres,
of which 486,546 were for the purchase of horses.]

[Footnote 2115: On my arrival at Versailles (1786), there were 150 pages,
not including those of the princes of the blood who lived at Paris. A
page's coat cost 1,500 livres, (crimson velvet embroidered with gold
on all the seams, and a hat with feather and Spanish point lace.)"
D'Hézecques, ibid., 112.]

[Footnote 2116: Archives nationales, O1, 778. Memorandum on the
hunting-train between 1760 and 1792 and especially the report of 1786.]

[Footnote 2117: Mercier, "Tableau de Paris," vol. I. p. 11; vol. V. p.
62.--D'Hézecques, ibid. 253.--"Journal de Louis XVI," published by
Nicolardot, passim.]

[Footnote 2118: Warroquier, vol. I. passim. Household of the Queen: for
the chapel 22 persons, the faculty 6. That of Monsieur, the chapel 22,
the faculty 21. That of Madame, the chapel 20, the faculty 9. That of
the Comte d'Artois, the chapel 20, the faculty 28. That of the Comtesse
d'Artois, the chapel 19, the faculty 17. That of the Duc d'Orléans, the
chapel 6, the faculty 19.]

[Footnote 2119: Archives national, O1, Report by M. Mesnard de Choisy,
(March, 1780).--They cause a reform (August 17, 1780).--"La Maison du
roi justifiée" (1789), p. 24. In 1788 the expenses of the table are
reduced to 2,870,999 livres, of which 600,000 livres are appropriated to
Mesdames for their table.]

[Footnote 2120: D'Hézecques, ibid.. 212. Under Louis XVI. there were two
chair-carriers to the king, who came every morning, in velvet coats and
with swords by their sides, to inspect and empty the object of their
functions; this post was worth to each one 20,000 livres per annum.]

[Footnote 2121: In 1787, Louis XVI. either demolishes or orders to
be sold, Madrid, la Muette and Choisy; his acquisitions, however,
Saint-Cloud, Ile-Adam and Rambouillet, greatly surpassing his reforms.]

[Footnote 2122: Necker; "Compte-rendu," II. 452.--Archives nationales, 01,
738. p.62 and 64, O1 2805, O1 736.--"La Maison du roi Justifiée" (1789).
Constructions in 1775, 3,924,400, in 1786, 4,000,000, in 1788, 3,077,000
livres.--Furniture in 1788, 1,700,000 livres.]

[Footnote 2123: Here are some of the casual expenses. (Archives
nationales, O1, 2805). On the birth of the Duc de Bourgogne in 1751,
604,477 livres. For the Dauphin's marriage in 1770, 1,267,770 livres.
For the marriage of the Comte d'Artois in 1773, 2,016,221 livres. For
the coronation in 1775, 835,862 livre,. For plays, concerts and balls in
1778, 481,744 livres, and in 1779, 382,986 livres.]

[Footnote 2124: Warroquier, vol. I. ibid.,--"Marie Antoinette," by
d'Arneth and Geffroy. Letter of Mercy, Sept. 16, 1773. "The multitude
of people of various occupations following the king on his travels
resembles the progress of an army."]

[Footnote 2125: The civil households of the king, queen, and Mme.
Elisabeth, of Mesdames, and Mme. Royale, 25,700,000.--To the king's
brothers and sisters-in-law, 8,040,000.--The king's military household,
7,681,000, (Necker, "Compte-rendu," II. 119). From 1774 to 1788 the
expenditure on the households of the king and his family varies from 32
to 36 millions, not including the military household, ("La Maison du roi
justiftiée"). In 1789 the households of the king, queen, Dauphin, royal
children and of Mesdames, cost 25 millions.--Those of Monsieur and
Madame, 3,656,000; those of the Count and Countess d'Artois, 3,656,000;
those of the Dukes de Berri and d'Angoulême, 700,000; salaries continued
to persons formerly in the princes' service, 228,000. The total is
33,240,000.--To this must be added the king's military household and two
millions in the princes' appanages. (A general account of fixed incomes
and expenditure on the first of May, 1789, rendered by the minister of
finances to the committee on finances of the National Assembly.)]

[Footnote 2126: Warroquier, ibid,(1789) vol. I., passim.]

[Footnote 2127: An expression of the Comte d'Artois on introducing the
officers of his household to his wife.]

[Footnote 2128: The number of light-horsemen and of gendarmes was reduced
in 1775 and in 1776; both bodies were suppressed in 1787.]

[Footnote 2129: The President of the 5th French Republic founded by
General de Gaulle is even today the source of numerous appointments of
great importance. (SR.)]

[Footnote 2130: Saint-Simon, "Mémoires," XVI. 456. This need of being
always surrounded continues up to the last moment; in 1791, the queen
exclaimed bitterly, speaking of the nobility, "when any proceeding of
ours displeases them they are sulky; no one comes to my table; the king
retires alone; we have to suffer for our misfortunes." (Mme. Campan, II.

[Footnote 2131: Duc de Lévis, "Souvenirs et Portraits," 29.--Mme. de
Maintenon, "Correspondance."]

[Footnote 2132: M. de V--who was promised a king's lieutenancy or command,
yields it to one of Mme. de Pompadour's protégés, obtaining in lieu of
it the part of the exempt in "Tartuffe," played by the seigniors
before the king in the small cabinet. (Mme. de Hausset, 168). "M. de
V,--thanked Madame as if she had made him a duke."]

[Footnote 2133: "Paris, Versailles et les provinces au dix-huitième
siècle," II. 160, 168.--Mercier, "Tableau de Paris," IV. 150.--De Ségur,
"Mémoires," I. 16.]

[Footnote 2134: "Marie Antoinette," by D'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 27, 255,
281. "--Gustave III." by Geffroy, November, 1786, bulletin of Mme. de
Staël.--D'Hézecques, ibid.. 231.--Archives nationales, 01, 736, a letter
by M. Amelot, September 23, 1780.--De Luynes, XV. 260, 367; XVI. 163
ladies, of which 42 are in service, appear and courtesy to the king.
160 men and more than 100 ladies pay their respects to the Dauphin and

[Footnote 2135: Cochin. Engravings of a masked ball, of a dress ball,
of the king and queen at play, of the interior of the theater (1745).
Customes of Moreau (1777). Mme. de Genlis, "Dictionaire des etiquettes,"
the article parure.]

[Footnote 2136: "The difference between the tone and language of the court
and the town was about as perceptible as that between Paris and the
provinces." (De Tilly, "Mémoires," I. 153.)]

[Footnote 2137: The following is an example of the compulsory inactivity
of the nobles--a dinner of Queen Marie Leczinska at Fontainebleau: "I
was introduced into a superb hall where I found about a dozen courtiers
promenading about and a table set for as many persons, which was
nevertheless prepared for but one person. . . . The queen sat own while
the twelve courtiers took their positions in a semi-circle ten steps
from the table; I stood alongside of them imitating their deferential
silence. Her Majesty began to eat very fast, keeping her eyes fixed on
the plate. Finding one of the dishes to her taste she returned to it,
and then, running her eye around the circle, she said "Monsieur de
Lowenthal?"--On hearing this name a fine-looking man advanced,
bowing, and replied, "Madame?"--"I find that this ragout is fricassé
chicken."--"I believe it is' Madame."--On making this answer, in the
gravest manner, the marshal, retiring backwards, resumed his position,
while the queen finished her dinner, never uttering another word
and going back to her room the same way as she came." (Memoirs of

[Footnote 2138: "Under Louis XVI, who arose at seven or eight o'clock,
the lever took place at half-past eleven unless hunting or ceremonies
required it earlier." There is the same ceremonial at eleven, again in
the evening on retiring, and also during the day, when he changes his
boots. (D'Hézecque, 161.)]

[Footnote 2139: Warroquier, I. 94. Compare corresponding detail under
Louis XVI in Saint-Simon XIII. 88.]

[Footnote 2140: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 217.]

[Footnote 2141: In all changes of the coat the left arm of the king is
appropriated by the wardrobe and the right arm to the "chambre."]

[Footnote 2142: The queen breakfasts in bed, and "there are ten or twelve
persons present at this first reception or entrée. . . " The grand
receptions taking place at the dressing hour. "This reception comprises
the princes of the blood, the captains of the guards and most of the
grand-officers." The same ceremony occurs with the chemise as with
the king's shirt. One winter day Mme. Campan offers the chemise to the
queen, when a lady of honor enters, removes her gloves and takes the
chemise in her hands. A movement at the door and the Duchess of Orleans
comes in, takes off her gloves, and receives the chemise. Another
movement and it is the Comtesse d'Artois whose privilege it is to hand
the chemise. Meanwhile the queen sits there shivering with her arms
crossed on her breast and muttering, "It is dreadful, what importunity!"
(Mme. Campan, II. 217; III. 309-316).]

[Footnote 2143: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 223
(August 15, 1774).]

[Footnote 2144: Count D'Hézecques, ibid., p. 7.]

[Footnote 2145: Duc de Lauzun, "Mémoires," 51.--Mme. de Genlis,
"Mémoires," ch. XII.: "Our husbands, regularly on that day (Saturday)
slept at Versailles, to hunt the next day with the king."]

[Footnote 2146: The State dinner takes place every Sunday.--La nef is a
piece of plate at the center of the table containing between scented
cushions, the napkins used by the king.--The essai is the tasting of
each dish by the gentlemen servants and officers of the table before the
king partakes of it. And the same with the beverages.--It requires four
persons to serve the king with a glass of wine and water.]

[Footnote 2147: When the ladies of the king's court, and especially the
princesses, pass before the king's bed they have to make an obeisance;
the palace officials salute the nef on passing that.--A priest or
sacristan does the same thing on passing before the altar.]

[Footnote 2148: De Luynes, IX, 75,79, 105. (August, 1748, October 1748).]

[Footnote 2149: The king is at Marly, and here is a list of the excursions
he is to make before going to Compiègne. (De Luynes, XIV, 163, May,
1755) "Sunday, June 1st, to Choisy until Monday evening.--Tuesday, the
3rd to Trianon, until Wednesday.--Thursday, the 5th, return to Trianon
where he will remain until after supper on Saturday.--Monday, the 9th,
to Crécy, until Friday, 13th.--Return to Crécy the 16th, until the
21st.--St. July 1st to la Muette, the 2nd, to Compiègne."]

[Footnote 2150: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, I. 19 (July
12, 1770). I. 265 (January 23, 1771). I. III. (October 18, 1770).]

[Footnote 2151: Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II, 270
(October 18, 1774). II, 395 (November 15, 1775). II, 295 (February 20,
1775). III, 25 (February 11, 1777). III, 119 (October 17, 1777). III,
409 (March 18, 1780).]

[Footnote 2152: Mme. Campan, I. 147.]

[Footnote 2153: Nicolardot, "Journal de Louis XVI," 129.]

[Footnote 2154: D'Hézecques ibid. 253.--Arthur Young, I. 215.]

[Footnote 2155: List of pensions paid to members of the royal family
in 1771. Duc d'Orléans, 150,000. Prince de Condé, 100,000. Comte de
Clermont, 70,000. Duc de Bourbon, 60,000. Prince de Conti, 60,000.
Comte de la Marche, 60,000. Dowager-Countess de Conti, 50,000. Duc de
Penthièvre, 50,000. Princess de Lamballe, 50,000. Duchess de Bourbon,
50,000. (Archives Nationales. O1. 710, bis).]

[Footnote 2156: Beugnot, I. 77. Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," ch. XVII. De
Goncourt, "La Femme au dix-huitième siècle," 52.--Champfort, "Caractères
et Anecdotes."]

[Footnote 2157: De Luynes, XVI. 57 (May, 1757). In the army of Westphalia
the Count d'Estrées, commander-in-chief; had twenty-seven secretaries,
and Grimm was the twenty-eighth.--When the Duc de Richelieu set out for
his government of Guyenne he was obliged to have relays of a hundred
horses along the entire road.]

[Footnote 2158: De Luynes, XVI. 186 (October, 1757).]

[Footnote 2159: De Goncourt, ibid., 73, 75.]

[Footnote 2160: Mme. d'Epinay, "Mémoires." Ed. Boiteau, I. 306 (1751).]

[Footnote 2161: St. Simon, XII. 457, and Dangeau, VI. 408. The Marshal de
Boufflers at the camp of Compiègne (September, 1698) had every night
and morning two tables for twenty and twenty-five persons, besides extra
tables; 72 cooks, 340 domestics, 400 dozens of napkins, 80 dozens of
silver plates, 6 dozens of porcelain plates. Fourteen relays of horses
brought fruits and liquors daily from Paris; every day an express
brought fish, poultry and game from Ghent, Brussels, Dunkirk, Dieppe
and Calais. Fifty dozens bottles of wine were drunk on ordinary days and
eighty dozens during the visits of the king and the princes.]

[Footnote 2162: De Luynes, XIV. 149.]

[Footnote 2163: Abbé Georgel, "Mémoires," 216.]

[Footnote 2164: Sainte-Beuve, "Causeries du lundi," VIII. 63, the texts of
two witnesses, MM. de Genlis and Roland.]

[Footnote 2165: De Luynes, XV. 455, and XVI. 219 (1757). "The Marshal de
Belle-Isle contracted an indebtedness amounting to 1,200,000 livres,
one-quarter of it for building great piles of houses for his own
pleasure and the rest in the king's service. The king, to indemnify him,
gives him 400,000 livres on the salt revenue, and 80,000 livres income
on the company privileged to refine the precious metals."]

[Footnote 2166: Report of fixed incomes and expenditures, May 1st, 1789,
p. 633.--These figures, it must be noted, must be doubled to have their
actual equivalent.]

[Footnote 2167: Mme. de Genlis, "Dict. des Etiquettes," I. 349.]

[Footnote 2168: Barbier, "Journal," III, 211 (December, 1750).]

[Footnote 2169: Aubertin, "L'Esprit public au dix-huitième siècle," 255.]

[Footnote 2170: Mme. de Genlis, "Adèle et Théodore." III. 54.]

[Footnote 2171: Duc de Lévis, 68. The same thing is found, previous to the
late reform, in the English army.--Cf. Voltaire, "Entretiens entre A,
B, C," 15th entretien. "A regiment is not the reward for services but
rather for the sum which the parents of a young man advance in order
that he may go to the provinces for three months in the year and keep
open house."]

[Footnote 2172: Beugnot, I. 79.]

[Footnote 2173: Merlin de Thionville, "Vie et correspondances." Account of
his visit to the chartreuse of Val St. Pierre in Thierarche.]

[Footnote 2174: Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," ch. 7.]

[Footnote 2175: Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 15.]

[Footnote 2176: Mme. de Genlis, 26, ch. I. Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 62.]

[Footnote 2177: De Lauzun, "Mémoires," 257.]

[Footnote 2178: Marquis de Valfons, "Mémoires," 60.--De Lévis, 156.--Mme.
d'Oberkirk, I, 127, II, 360.]

[Footnote 2179: Beugnot, I, 71.--Hippeau, "Le Gouvernement de Normandie,"

[Footnote 2180: An occupation explained farther on, page 145.--TR.]

[Footnote 2181: Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," passim. "Dict. des
Etiquettes," I. 348.]

[Footnote 2182: Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 395.--The Baron and Baroness de
Sotenville in Molière are people well brought up although provincial and



     Perfect only in France.--Reasons for this derived from the
     French character.--Reasons derived from the tone of the
     court.--This life becomes more and more agreeable and

Similar circumstances have led other aristocracies in Europe to nearly
similar ways and habits. There also the monarchy has given birth to the
court and the court to a refined society. But the development of this
rare plant has been only partial. The soil was unfavorable and the
seed was not of the right sort. In Spain, the king stands shrouded
in etiquette like a mummy in its wrappings, while a too rigid pride,
incapable of yielding to the amenities of the worldly order of things,
ends in a sentiment of morbidity and in insane display.[2202] In
Italy, under petty despotic sovereigns, and most of them strangers, the
constant state of danger and of hereditary distrust, after having tied
all tongues, turns all hearts towards the secret delights of love and
towards the mute gratification of the fine arts. In Germany and in
England, a cold temperament, dull and rebellious to culture, keeps
man, up to the close of the last century, within the Germanic habits
of solitude, inebriety and brutality. In France, on the contrary,
all things combine to make the social sentiment flourish; in this
the national genius harmonizes with the political regime, the plant
appearing to be selected for the soil beforehand.

The Frenchman loves company through instinct, and the reason is that he
does well and easily whatever society calls upon him to do. He has not
the false shame which renders his northern neighbors awkward, nor the
powerful passions which absorb his neighbors of the south. Talking is
no effort to him, having none of the natural timidity which begets
constraint, and with no constant preoccupation to overcome. He
accordingly converses at his ease, ever on the alert, and conversation
affords him extreme pleasure. For the happiness which he requires is of
a peculiar kind: delicate, light, rapid, incessantly renewed and varied,
in which his intellect, his vanity, all his emotional and sympathetic
faculties find nourishment; and this quality of happiness is provided
for him only in society and in conversation. Sensitive as he is,
personal attention, consideration, cordiality, delicate flattery,
constitute his natal atmosphere, outside which he breathes with
difficulty. He would suffer almost as much in being impolite as in
encountering impoliteness in others. For his instincts of kindliness and
vanity there is an exquisite charm in the habit of being amiable, and
this is all the greater because it proves contagious. When we afford
pleasure to others there is a desire to please us, and what we bestow
in deference is returned in attentions. In company of this kind one
can talk, for to talk is to amuse another in being oneself amused, a
Frenchman finding no pleasure equal to it.[2203] Lively and sinuous,
conversation to him is like the flying of a bird; he wings his way
from idea to idea, alert, excited by the inspiration of others, darting
forward, wheeling round and unexpectedly returning, now up, now down,
now skimming the ground, now aloft on the peaks, without sinking into
quagmires, or getting entangled in the briers, and claiming nothing of
the thousands of objects he slightly grazes but the diversity and the
gaiety of their aspects.

Thus endowed, and thus disposed, he is made for a régime which, for ten
hours a day, brings men together; natural feeling in accord with the
social order of things renders the drawing room perfect. The king, at
the head of all, sets the example. Louis XIV had every qualification
for the master of a household: a taste for pomp and hospitality,
condescension accompanied with dignity, the art of playing on the
self-esteem of others and of maintaining his own position, chivalrous
gallantry, tact, and even charms of intellectual expression. "His
address was perfect;[2204] whether it was necessary to jest, or he
was in a playful humor, or deigned to tell a story, it was ever with
infinite grace, and a noble refined air which I have found only in
him." "Never was man so naturally polite,[2205] nor of such circumspect
politeness, so powerful by degrees, nor who better discriminated age,
worth, and rank, both in his replies and in his deportment. . . .
His salutations, more or less marked, but always slight, were of
incomparable grace and majesty. . . . He was admirable in the different
acknowledgments of salutes at the head of the army and at reviews. . . .
But especially toward women, there was nothing like it. . . . Never did
he pass the most insignificant woman without taking off his hat to her;
and I mean chambermaids whom he knew to be such. . . Never did he chance
to say anything disobliging to anybody. . . . Never before company
anything mistimed or venturesome, but even to the smallest gesture, his
walk, his bearing, his features, all were proper, respectful, noble,
grand, majestic, and thoroughly natural."

Such is the model, and, nearly or remotely, it is imitated up to the end
of the ancient régime. If it undergoes any change, it is only to become
more sociable. In the eighteenth century, except on great ceremonial
occasions, it is seen descending step by step from its pedestal. It
no longer imposes "that stillness around it which lets one hear a fly
walk." "Sire," said the Marshal de Richelieu, who had seen three reigns,
addressing Louis XVI, "under Louis XIV no one dared utter a word; under
Louis XV people whispered; under your Majesty they talk aloud." If
authority is a loser, society is the gainer; etiquette, insensibly
relaxed, allows the introduction of ease and cheerfulness. Henceforth
the great, less concerned in overawing than in pleasing, cast off
stateliness like an uncomfortable and ridiculous garment, "seeking
respect less than applause. It no longer suffices to be affable; one
has to appear amiable at any cost with one's inferiors as with one's
equals."[2206] The French princes, says again a contemporary lady, "are
dying with fear of being deficient in favors."[2207] Even around the
throne "the style is free and playful." The grave and disciplined court
of Louis XIV became at the end of the century, under the smiles of the
youthful queen, the most seductive and gayest of drawing-rooms. Through
this universal relaxation, a worldly existence gets to be perfect.
"He who has not lived before 1789," says Talleyrand at a later period,
"knows nothing of the charm of living." It was too great; no other way
of living was appreciated; it engrossed man wholly. When society becomes
so attractive, people live for it alone.

II. Social Life Has Priority.

     Subordination of it to other interests and duties.
     --Indifference to public affairs.--They are merely a subject
     of jest.--Neglect of private affairs.--Disorder in the
     household and abuse of money.

There is neither leisure nor taste for other matters, even for things
which are of most concern to man, such as public affairs, the household,
and the family.--With respect to the first, I have already stated that
people abstain from them, and are indifferent; the administration of
things, whether local or general, is out of their hands and no longer
interests them. They only allude to it in jest; events of the most
serious consequence form the subject of witticisms. After the edict of
the Abbé Terray, which half ruined the state creditors, a spectator, too
much crowded in the theater, cried out, "Ah, how unfortunate that our
good Abbé Terray is not here to cut us down one-half!" Everybody laughs
and applauds. All Paris the following day, is consoled for public
ruin by repeating the phrase.--Alliances, battles, taxation, treaties,
ministries, coups d'état, the entire history of the country, is put
into epigrams and songs. One day,[2208] in an assembly of young people
belonging to the court, one of them, as the current witticism was
passing around, raised his hands in delight and exclaimed, "How can one
help being pleased with great events, even with disturbances, when
they provide us with such amusing witticisms!" Thereupon the sarcasms
circulate, and every disaster in France is turned into nonsense. A song
on the battle of Hochstaedt was pronounced poor, and some one in
this connection said "I am sorry that battle was lost--the song is
so worthless."[2209]--Even when eliminating from this trait all that
belongs to the sway of impulse and the license of paradox, there remains
the stamp of an age in which the State is almost nothing and society
almost everything. We may on this principle divine what order of talent
was required in the ministers. M. Necker, having given a magnificent
supper with serious and comic opera, "finds that this festivity is
worth more to him in credit, favor, and stability than all his financial
schemes put together. . . . His last arrangement concerning the
vingtième was only talked about for one day, while everybody is
still talking about his fête; at Paris, as well as in Versailles, its
attractions are dwelt on in detail, people emphatically declaring that
Monsieur and Mme. Necker are a grace to society."[2210] Good society
devoted to pleasure imposes on those in office the obligation of
providing pleasures for it. It might also say, in a half-serious,
half-ironical tone, with Voltaire, "that the gods created kings only to
give fêtes every day, provided they varied; that life is too short to
make any other use of it; that lawsuits, intrigues, warfare, and the
quarrels of priests, which consume human life, are absurd and horrible
things; that man is born only to enjoy himself;" and that among the
essential things we must put the "superfluous" in the first rank.

According to this, we can easily foresee that they will be as
little concerned with their private affairs as with public affairs.
Housekeeping, the management of property, domestic economy, are in
their eyes vulgar, insipid in the highest degree, and only suited to an
intendant or a butler. Of what use are such persons if we must have such
cares? Life is no longer a festival if one has to provide the ways and
means. Comforts, luxuries, the agreeable must flow naturally and greet
our lips of their own accord. As a matter of course and without his
intervention, a man belonging to this world should find gold always in
his pocket, a handsome coat on his toilet table, powdered valets in his
antechamber, a gilded coach at his door, a fine dinner on his table, so
that he may reserve all his attention to be expended in favors on
the guests in his drawing-room. Such a mode of living is not to be
maintained without waste, and the domestics, left to themselves, make
the most of it. What matter is it, so long as they perform their duties?
Moreover, everybody must live, and it is pleasant to have contented and
obsequious faces around one.--Hence the first houses in the kingdom
are given up to pillage. Louis XV, on a hunting expedition one day,
accompanied by the Duc de Choiseul,[2211] inquired of him how much he
thought the carriage in which they were seated had cost. M. de Choiseul
replied that he should consider himself fortunate to get one like it for
5,000 or 6,000 francs; but, "His Majesty paying for it as a king, and
not always paying cash, might have paid 8,000 francs for it."--"You are
wide of the mark," rejoined the king, "for this vehicle, as you see it,
cost me 30,000 francs. . . . The robberies in my household are enormous,
but it is impossible to put a stop to them."--So the great help
themselves as well as the little, either in money, or in kind, or in
services. There are in the king's household fifty-four horses for the
grand equerry, thirty-eight of them being for Mme. de Brionne, the
administratrix of the office of the stables during her son's minority;
there are two hundred and fifteen grooms on duty, and about as many
horses kept at the king's expense for various other persons, entire
strangers to the department.[2212] What a nest of parasites on this
one branch of the royal tree! Elsewhere I find Madame Elisabeth, so
moderate, consuming fish amounting to 30,000 francs per annum; meat and
game to 70,000 francs; candles to 60,000 francs; Mesdames burn white and
yellow candles to the amount of 215,068 francs; the light for the
queen comes to 157,109 francs. The street at Versailles is still shown,
formerly lined with stalls, to which the king's valets resorted to
nourish Versailles by the sale of his dessert. There is no article from
which the domestic insects do not manage to scrape and glean something.
The king is supposed to drink orgeat and lemonade to the value of 2,190
francs. "The grand broth, day and night," which Mme. Royale, aged six
years, sometimes drinks, costs 5,201 francs per annum. Towards the end
of the preceding reign[2213] the femmes-de-chambre enumerate in the
Dauphine's outlay "four pairs of shoes per week; three ells of ribbon
per diem, to tie her dressing-gown; two ells of taffeta per diem, to
cover the basket in which she keeps her gloves and fan." A few years
earlier the king paid 200,000 francs for coffee, lemonade, chocolate,
barley-water, and water-ices; several persons were inscribed on the list
for ten or twelve cups a day, while it was estimated that the coffee,
milk and bread each morning for each lady of the bed-chamber cost 2,000
francs per annum.[2214] We can readily understand how, in households
thus managed, the purveyors are willing to wait. They wait so well that
often under Louis XV they refuse to provide and "hide themselves." Even
the delay is so regular that, at last; they are obliged to pay them five
per cent. interest on their advances; at this rate, in 1778, after all
Turgot's economic reforms, the king still owes nearly 800,000 livres
to his wine merchant, and nearly three millions and a half to his
purveyor.[2215] The same disorder exists in the houses which surround
the throne. "Mme. de Guéménée owes 60,000 livres to her shoe-maker,
16,000 livres to her paper-hanger, and the rest in proportion." Another
lady, whom the Marquis de Mirabeau sees with hired horses, replies
at his look of astonishment, "It is not because there are not seventy
horses in our stables, but none of them are able to walk to day."[2216]
Mme. de Montmorin, on ascertaining that her husband's debts are greater
than his property, thinks she can save her dowry of 200,000 livres,
but is informed that she had given security for a tailor's bill,
which, "incredible and ridiculous to say, amounts to the sum of 180,000
livres."[2217] "One of the decided manias of these days," says Mme.
d'Oberkirk, "is to be ruined in everything and by everything." "The
two brothers Villemer build country cottages at from 500,000 to 600,000
livres; one of them keeps forty horses to ride occasionally in the Bois
de Boulogne on horseback."[2218] In one night M. de Chenonceaux, son of
M. et Mme. Dupin, loses at play 700,000 livres. "M. de Chenonceaux
and M. de Francueil ran through seven or eight millions at this epoch.
"[2219] "The Duc de Lauzun, at the age of twenty-six, after having run
through the capital of 100,000 crowns revenue, is prosecuted by his
creditors for nearly two millions of indebtedness."[2220] "M. le Prince
de Conti lacks bread and wood, although with an income of 600,000
livres," for the reason that "he buys and builds wildly on all
sides."[2221] Where would be the pleasure if these people were
reasonable? What kind of a seignior is he who studies the price of
things? And how can the exquisite be reached if one grudges money?
Money, accordingly, must flow and flow on until it is exhausted, first
by the innumerable secret or tolerated bleedings through domestic
abuses, and next in broad streams of the master's own prodigality,
through structures, furniture, toilets, hospitality, gallantry, and
pleasures. The Comte d'Artois, that he may give the queen a fête,
demolishes, rebuilds, arranges, and furnishes Bagatelle from top to
bottom, employing nine hundred workmen, day and night, and, as there is
no time to go any distance for lime, plaster, and cut stone, he sends
patrols of the Swiss guards on the highways to seize, pay for, and
immediately bring in all carts thus loaded.[2222] The Marshal de
Soubise, entertaining the king one day at dinner and over night, in his
country house, expends 200,000 livres.[2223] Mme. de Matignon makes
a contract to be furnished every day with a new head-dress at 24,000
livres per annum. Cardinal de Rohan has an alb bordered with point lace,
which is valued at more than 100,000 livres, while his kitchen utensils
are of massive silver.[2224]--Nothing is more natural, considering their
ideas of money; hoarded and piled up, instead of being a fertilizing
stream, it is a useless marsh exhaling bad odors. The queen, having
presented the Dauphin with a carriage whose silver-gilt trappings are
decked with rubies and sapphires, naively exclaims, "Has not the king
added 200,000 livres to my treasury? That is no reason for keeping
them!"[2225] They would rather throw it out of the window. Which was
actually done by the Marshal de Richelieu with a purse he had given to
his grandson, and which the lad, not knowing how to use, brought back
intact. Money, on this occasion, was at least of service to the passing
street-sweeper that picked it up. But had there been no passer-by to
pick it up, it would have been thrown into the river. One day Mme.
de B--, being with the Prince de Conti, hinted that she would like a
miniature of her canary bird set in a ring. The Prince offers to have it
made. His offer is accepted, but on condition that the miniature be
set plain and without jewels. Accordingly the miniature is placed in a
simple rim of gold. But, to cover over the painting, a large diamond,
made very thin, serves as a glass. Mme. de B--, having returned the
diamond, "M. le Prince de Conti had it ground to powder which he used
to dry the ink of the note he wrote to Mme. de B--on the subject." This
pinch of powder cost 4 or 5,000 livres, but we may divine the turn and
tone of the note. The extreme of profusion must accompany the height
of gallantry, the man of the world being so much the more important
according to his contempt for money.

III. Universal Pleasure Seeking.

     Moral divorce of husband and wife.--Gallantry.--Separation
     of parents and children.--Education, its object and
     omissions.--The tone of servants and purveyors.--Pleasure
     seeking universal.

In a drawing room the woman who receives the least attention from a man
is his own wife, and she returns the compliment. Hence at a time like
this, when people live for society and in society, there is no place for
conjugal intimacy.--Moreover, when a married couple occupy an exalted
position they are separated by custom and decorum. Each party has his or
her own household, or at least their own apartments, servants, equipage,
receptions and distinct society, and, as entertainment entails ceremony,
they stand towards each other in deference to their rank on the footing
of polite strangers. They are each announced in each other's apartment;
they address each other "Madame, Monsieur," and not alone in public,
but in private; they shrug their shoulders when, sixty leagues out from
Paris, they encounter in some old chateau a provincial wife ignorant
enough to say "my dear" to her husband before company.[2226]--Already
separated at the fireside, the two lives diverge beyond it at an ever
increasing radius. The husband has a government of his own: his private
command, his private regiment, his post at court, which keeps him absent
from home; only in his declining years does his wife consent to follow
him into garrison or into the provinces.[2227] And rather is this the
case because she is herself occupied, and as seriously as himself; often
with a position near a princess, and always with an important circle
of company which she must maintain. At this epoch woman is as active
as man,[2228] following the same career, and with the same resources,
consisting of the flexible voice, the winning grace, the insinuating
manner, the tact, the quick perception of the right moment, and the art
of pleasing, demanding, and obtaining; there is not a lady at court who
does not bestow regiments and benefices. Through this right the wife has
her personal retinue of solicitors and protégés, also, like her husband,
her friends, her enemies, her own ambitions, disappointments, and
rancorous feeling; nothing could be more effectual in the disruption
of a household than this similarity of occupation and this division
of interests.--The tie thus loosened ends by being sundered under the
ascendancy of opinion. "It looks well not to live together," to grant
each other every species of tolerance, and to devote oneself to society.
Society, indeed, then fashions opinion, and through opinion it creates
the morals which it requires.

Toward the middle of the century the husband and wife lodged under the
same roof, but that was all. "They never saw each other, one never met
them in the same carriage; they are never met in the same house;
nor, with very good reason, are they ever together in public." Strong
emotions would have seemed odd and even "ridiculous;" in any event
unbecoming; it would have been as unacceptable as an earnest remark
"aside" in the general current of light conversation. Each has a duty to
all, and for a couple to entertain each other is isolation; in company
there is no right to the tête-à-tête.[2229] It was hardly allowed for
a few days to lovers.[2230] And even then it was regarded unfavorably;
they were found too much occupied with each other. Their preoccupation
spread around them an atmosphere of "constraint and ennui; one had to
be upon one's guard and to check oneself." They were "dreaded." The
exigencies of society are those of an absolute king, and admit of no
partition. "If morals lost by this, society was infinitely the gainer,"
says M. de Bezenval, a contemporary; "having got rid of the annoyances
and dullness caused by the husbands' presence, the freedom was extreme;
the coquetry both of men and women kept up social vivacity and daily
provided piquant adventures." Nobody is jealous, not even when in love.
"People are mutually pleased and become attached; if one grows weary
of the other, they part with as little concern as they came together.
Should the sentiment revive they take to each other with as much
vivacity as if it were the first time they had been engaged. They may
again separate, but they never quarrel. As they have become enamored
without love, they part without hate, deriving from the feeble desire
they have inspired the advantage of being always ready to oblige."[2231]
Appearances, moreover, are respected. An uninformed stranger would
detect nothing to excite suspicion. An extreme curiosity, says Horace
Walpole,[2232] or a great familiarity with things, is necessary to
detect the slightest intimacy between the two sexes. No familiarity is
allowed except under the guise of friendship, while the vocabulary
of love is as much prohibited as its rites apparently are. Even with
Crébillon fils, even with Laclos, at the most exciting moments, the
terms their characters employ are circumspect and irreproachable.
Whatever indecency there may be, it is never expressed in words, the
sense of propriety in language imposing itself not only on the outbursts
of passion, but again on the grossness of instincts. Thus do the
sentiments which are naturally the strongest lose their point and
sharpness; their rich and polished remains are converted into playthings
for the drawing room, and, thus cast to and fro by the whitest hands,
fall on the floor like a shuttlecock. We must, on this point, listen to
the heroes of the epoch; their free and easy tone is inimitable, and it
depicts both them and their actions. "I conducted myself," says the Duc
de Lauzun, "very prudently, and even deferentially with Mme. de Lauzun;
I knew Mme. de Cambis very openly, for whom I concerned myself very
little; I kept the little Eugénie whom I loved a great deal; I played
high, I paid my court to the king, and I hunted with him with great
punctuality."[2233] He had for others, withal, that indulgence of which
he himself stood in need. "He was asked what he would say if his wife
(whom he had not seen for ten years) should write to him that she had
just discovered that she was enceinte. He reflected a moment and then
replied, 'I would write, and tell her that I was delighted that heaven
had blessed our union; be careful of your health; I will call and pay my
respects this evening.'" There are countless replies of the same sort,
and I venture to say that, without having read them, one could not
imagine to what a degree social art had overcome natural instincts.

"Here at Paris," writes Mme. d'Oberkirk, "I am no longer my own
mistress. I scarcely have time to talk with my husband and to answer my
letters. I do not know what women do that are accustomed to lead this
life; they certainly have no families to look after, nor children
to educate." At all events they act as if they had none, and the men
likewise. Married people not living together live but rarely with their
children, and the causes that disintegrate wedlock also disintegrate the
family. In the first place there is the aristocratic tradition, which
interposes a barrier between parents and children with a view to
maintain a respectful distance. Although enfeebled and about to
disappear,[2234] this tradition still subsists. The son says "Monsieur"
to his father; the daughter comes "respectfully" to kiss her mother's
hand at her toilet. A caress is rare and seems a favor; children
generally, when with their parents, are silent, the sentiment that
usually animates them being that of deferential timidity. At one time
they were regarded as so many subjects, and up to a certain point they
are so still; while the new exigencies of worldly life place them or
keep them effectually aside. M. de Talleyrand stated that he had never
slept under the same roof with his father and mother. And if they do
sleep there, they are not the less neglected. "I was entrusted," says
the Count de Tilly, "to valets; and to a kind of preceptor resembling
these in more respects than one." During this time his father ran after
women. "I have known him," adds the young man, "to have mistresses up
to an advanced age; he was always adoring them and constantly abandoning
them." The Duc de Lauzun finds it difficult to obtain a good tutor for
his son; for this reason the latter writes, "he conferred the duty on
one of my late mother's lackeys who could read and write tolerably well,
and to whom the title of valet-de-chambre was given to insure greater
consideration. They gave me the most fashionable teachers besides; but
M. Roch (which was my mentor's name) was not qualified to arrange their
lessons, or to qualify me to benefit by them. I was, moreover, like
all the children of my age and of my station, dressed in the handsomest
clothes to go out, and naked and dying with hunger in the house,"[2235]
and not through unkindness, but through household oversight,
dissipation, and disorder, attention being given to things elsewhere.
One might easily count the fathers who, like the Marshal de Belle-Isle,
brought up their sons under their own eyes, and themselves attended to
their education methodically, strictly, and with tenderness. As to the
girls, they were placed in convents; relieved from this care, their
parents only enjoy the greater freedom. Even when they retain charge
of them they are scarcely more of a burden to them. Little Félicité de
Saint-Aubin[2236] sees her parents "only on their waking up and at meal
times." Their day is wholly taken up; the mother is making or receiving
visits; the father is in his laboratory or engaged in hunting. Up to
seven years of age the child passes her time with chambermaids who teach
her only a little catechism, "with an infinite number of ghost stories."
About this time she is taken care of; but in a way which well portrays
the epoch. The Marquise, her mother, the author of mythological and
pastoral operas, has a theater built in the chateau; a great crowd of
company resorts to it from Bourbon-Lancy and Moulins; after rehearsing
twelve weeks the little girl, with a quiver of arrows and blue wings,
plays the part of Cupid, and the costume is so becoming she is allowed
to wear it in common during the entire day for nine months. To finish
the business they send for a dancing-fencing master, and, still wearing
the Cupid costume, she takes lessons in fencing and in deportment. "The
entire winter is devoted to playing comedy and tragedy." Sent out of
the room after dinner, she is brought in again only to play on the
harpsichord or to declaim the monologue of Alzire before a numerous
assembly. Undoubtedly such extravagances are not customary; but the
spirit of education is everywhere the same; that is to say, in the eyes
of parents there is but one intelligible and rational existence, that
of society, even for children, and the attentions bestowed on these are
solely with a view to introduce them into it or to prepare them for
it. Even in the last years of the ancient régime[2237] little boys
have their hair powdered, "a pomatumed chignon (bourse), ringlets, and
curls"; they wear the sword, the chapeau under the arm, a frill, and a
coat with gilded cuffs; they kiss young ladies' hands with the air of
little dandies. A lass of six years is bound up in a whalebone waist;
her large hoop-petticoat supports a skirt covered with wreaths; she
wears on her head a skillful combination of false curls, puffs, and
knots, fastened with pins, and crowned with plumes, and so high that
frequently "the chin is half way down to her feet"; sometimes they put
rouge on her face. She is a miniature lady, and she knows it; she is
fully up in her part, without effort or inconvenience, by force of
habit; the unique, the perpetual instruction she gets is that on her
deportment; it may be said with truth that the fulcrum of education in
this country is the dancing-master.[2238] They could get along with him
without any others; without him the others were of no use. For, without
him, how could people go through easily, suitably, and gracefully the
thousand and one actions of daily life, walking, sitting down, standing
up, offering the arm, using the fan, listening and smiling, before eyes
so experienced and before such a refined public? This is to be the great
thing for them when they become men and women, and for this reason it is
the thing of chief importance for them as children. Along with graces
of attitude and of gesture, they already have those of the mind and
of expression. Scarcely is their tongue loosened when they speak the
polished language of their parents. The latter amuse themselves with
them and use them as pretty dolls; the preaching of Rousseau, which,
during the last third of the last century, brought children into
fashion, produces no other effect. They are made to recite their lessons
in public, to perform in proverbs, to take parts in pastorals. Their
sallies are encouraged. They know how to turn a compliment, to invent
a clever or affecting repartee, to be gallant, sensitive, and even
spirituelle. The little Duc d'Angoulême, holding a book in his hand,
receives Suffren, whom he addresses thus: "I was reading Plutarch and
his illustrious men. You could not have entered more apropos."[2239]
The children of M. de Sabran, a boy and a girl, one eight and the other
nine, having taken lessons from the comedians Sainval and Larive, come
to Versailles to play before the king and queen in Voltaire's "Oreste,"
and on the little fellow being interrogated about the classic authors,
he replies to a lady, the mother of three charming girls, "Madame,
Anacreon is the only poet I can think of here!" Another, of the same
age, replies to a question of Prince Henry of Prussia with an agreeable
impromptu in verse.[2240] To cause witticisms, trivialities, and
mediocre verse to germinate in a brain eight years old, what a triumph
for the culture of the day! It is the last characteristic of the régime
which, after having stolen man away from public affairs, from his own
affairs, from marriage, from the family, hands him over, with all his
sentiments and all his faculties, to social worldliness, him and all
that belong to him. Below him fine ways and forced politeness
prevail, even with his servants and tradesmen. A Frontin has a gallant
unconstrained air, and he turns a compliment.[2241] An Abigail needs
only to be a kept mistress to become a lady. A shoemaker is a "monsieur
in black," who says to a mother on saluting the daughter, "Madame, a
charming young person, and I am more sensible than ever of the value of
your kindness," on which the young girl, just out of a convent, takes
him for a suitor and blushes scarlet. Undoubtedly less unsophisticated
eyes would distinguish the difference between this pinchbeck louis d'or
and a genuine one; but their resemblance suffices to show the universal
action of the central mint-machinery which stamps both with the same
effigy, the base metal and the refined gold.

IV. Enjoyment.

     The charm of this life.--Etiquette in the 18th Century.--Its
     perfection and its resources.--Taught and prescribed under
     feminine authority.

A society which obtains such ascendancy must possess some charm; in no
country, indeed, and in no age has so perfect a social art rendered life
so agreeable. Paris is the school-house of Europe, a school of urbanity
to which the youth of Russia, Germany, and England resort to become
civilized. Lord Chesterfield in his letters never tires of reminding
his son of this, and of urging him into these drawing-rooms, which will
remove "his Cambridge rust." Once familiar with them they are never
abandoned, or if one is obliged to leave them, one always sighs for
them. "Nothing is comparable," says Voltaire,[2242] "to the genial
life one leads there in the bosom of the arts and of a calm and refined
voluptuousness; strangers and monarchs have preferred this repose, so
agreeably occupied in it and so enchanting to their own countries and
thrones. The heart there softens and melts away like aromatics slowly
dissolving in moderate heat, evaporating in delightful perfumes."
Gustavus III, beaten by the Russians, declares that he will pass his
last days in Paris in a house on the boulevards; and this is not merely
complimentary, for he sends for plans and an estimate.[2243] A supper
or an evening entertainment brings people two hundred leagues away. Some
friends of the Prince de Ligne "leave Brussels after breakfast, reach
the opera in Paris just in time to see the curtain rise, and, after
the spectacle is over, return immediately to Brussels, traveling all
night."--Of this delight, so eagerly sought, we have only imperfect
copies, and we are obliged to revive it intellectually. It consists, in
the first place, in the pleasure of living with perfectly polite people;
there is no enjoyment more subtle, more lasting, more inexhaustible.
Man's self-esteem or vanity being infinite, intelligent people are
always able to produce some refinement of attention to gratify it.
Worldly sensibility being infinite there is no imperceptible shade of it
permitting indifference. After all, Man is still the greatest source
of happiness or of misery to Man, and in those days this everflowing
fountain brought to him sweetness instead of bitterness. Not only was
it essential not to offend, but it was essential to please; one was
expected to lose sight of oneself in others, to be always cordial and
good-humored, to keep one's own vexations and grievances in one's
own breast, to spare others melancholy ideas and to supply them with
cheerful ideas.

"Was any one old in those days? It is the Revolution which brought old
age into the world, Your grandfather, my child,[2244] was handsome,
elegant, neat, gracious, perfumed, playful, amiable, affectionate, and
good-tempered to the day of his death. People then knew how to live and
how to die; there was no such thing as troublesome infirmities. If
any one had the gout, 'he walked along all the same and made no faces;
people well brought up concealed their sufferings. There was none of
that absorption in business which spoils a man inwardly and dulls his
brain. People knew how to ruin themselves without letting it appear,
like good gamblers who lose their money without showing uneasiness or
spite. A man would be carried half dead to a hunt. It was thought better
to die at a ball or at the play than in one's bed, between four wax
candles and horrid men in black. People were philosophers; they did not
assume to be austere, but often were so without making a display of it.
If one was discreet, it was through inclination and without pedantry or
prudishness. People enjoyed this life, and when the hour of departure
came they did not try to disgust others with living. The last request of
my old husband was that I would survive him as long as possible and live
as happily as I could."

When, especially, women are concerned it is not sufficient to be polite;
it is important to be gallant. Each lady invited by the Prince de Conti
to Ile-Adam "finds a carriage and horses at her disposal; she is free to
give dinners every day in her own rooms to her own friends."[2245] Mme.
de Civrac having to go to the springs, her friends undertake to divert
her on the journey; they keep ahead of her a few posts, and, at every
place where she rests for the night, they give her a little féte
champêtre disguised as villagers and in bourgeois attire, with bailiff
and scrivener, and other masks all singing and reciting verses. A lady
on the eve of Longchamp, knowing that the Vicomte de V--possesses two
calèches, makes a request for one of them; it is disposed of; but he is
careful not to decline, and immediately has one of the greatest elegance
purchased to lend it for three hours; he is only too happy that anybody
should wish to borrow from him, his prodigality appearing amiable but
not astonishing.[2246] The reason is that women then were queens in
the drawing-room; it is their right; this is the reason why, in the
eighteenth century, they prescribe the law and the fashion in all
things.[2247] Having formed the code of usages, it is quite natural that
they should profit by it, and see that all its prescriptions are carried
out. In this respect any circle "of the best company" is a superior
tribunal, serving as a court of last appeal.[2248] The Maréchale de
Luxembourg is an authority; there is no point of manners which she does
not justify with an ingenious argument. Any expression, any neglect of
the standard, the slightest sign of pretension or of vanity incurs her
disapprobation, from which there is no appeal, and the delinquent is
for ever banished from refined society. Any subtle observation, any
well-timed silence, an "oh" uttered in an appropriate place instead
of an "Ah," secures from her, as from M. Talleyrand, a diploma of good
breeding which is the commencement of fame and the promise of a fortune.
Under such an "instructress" it is evident that deportment, gesture,
language, every act or omission in this mundane sphere, becomes, like
a picture or poem, a veritable work of art; that is to say, infinite in
refinement, at once studied and easy, and so harmonious in its details
that its perfection conceals the difficulty of combining them.

A great lady "receives ten persons with one courtesy, bestowing on each,
through the head or by a glance, all that he is entitled to;"[2249]
meaning by this the shade of regard due to each phase of position,
consideration, and birth. "She has always to deal with easily irritated
amour-propres; consequently the slightest deficiency in proportion
would be promptly detected,"[2250] But she is never mistaken, and
never hesitates in these subtle distinctions; with incomparable tact,
dexterity, and flexibility of tone, she regulates the degrees of her
welcome. She has one "for women of condition, one for women of quality,
one for women of the court, one for titled women, one for women of
historic names, another for women of high birth personally, but married
to men beneath them; another for women who by marriage have changed a
common into a distinguished name; another still for women of reputable
names in the law; and, finally, another for those whose relief consists
chiefly of expensive houses and good suppers." A stranger would be
amazed on seeing with what certain and adroit steps she circulates among
so many watchful vanities without ever hurting or being hurt. "She knows
how to express all through the style of her salutations; a varied style,
extending through imperceptible gradations, from the accessory of a
single shrug of the shoulder, almost an impertinence, to that noble and
deferential reverence which so few women, even of the court, know how to
do well; that slow bending forward, with lowered eyes and straightened
figure, gradually recovering and modestly glancing at the person while
gracefully raising the body up, altogether much more refined and more
delicate than words, but very expressive as the means of manifesting
respect."--This is but a single action, and very common; there are
a hundred others, and of importance. Imagine, if it is possible, the
degree of elegance and perfection to which they attained through good
breeding. I select one at random, a duel between two princes of the
blood, the Comte d'Artois and the Duc de Bourbon; the latter being
the offended party, the former, his superior, had to offer him a
meeting[2251], "As soon as the Comte d'Artois saw him he leaped to the
ground, and walking directly up to him, said to him smiling: 'Monsieur,
the public pretends that we are seeking each other.' The Duc de
Bourbon, removing his hat, replied, 'Monsieur, I am here to receive your
orders.'--'To execute your own,' returned the Comte d'Artois, 'but you
must allow me to return to my carriage.' He comes back with a sword, and
the duel begins. After a certain time they are separated, the seconds
deciding that honor is satisfied, 'It is not for me to express an
opinion,' says the Comte d'Artois, 'Monsieur le Duc de Bourbon is to
express his wishes; I am here only to receive his orders.'--'Monsieur,'
responds the Duc de Bourbon, addressing the Comte d'Artois, meanwhile
lowering the point of his sword, 'I am overcome with gratitude for
your kindness, and shall never be insensible to the honor you have
done me.'"--Could there be a more just and delicate sentiment of rank,
position, and circumstance, and could a duel be surrounded with more
graces? There is no situation, however thorny, which is not saved by
politeness. Through habit, and a suitable expression, even in the face
of the king, they conciliate resistance and respect. When Louis XV,
having exiled the Parliament, caused it to be proclaimed through Mme. Du
Barry that his mind was made up and that it would not be changed, "Ah,
Madame," replied the Duc de Nivernais, "when the king said that he
was looking at yourself."--"My dear Fontenelle," said one of his lady
friends to him, placing her hand on his heart, "the brain is there
likewise." Fontenelle smiled and made no reply. We see here, even
with an academician, how truths are forced down, a drop of acid in a
sugar-plum; the whole so thoroughly intermingled that the piquancy
of the flavor only enhances its sweetness. Night after night, in each
drawing-room, sugar-plums of this description are served up, two or
three along with the drop of acidity, all the rest not less exquisite,
but possessing only the sweetness and the perfume. Such is the art of
social worldliness, an ingenious and delightful art, which, entering
into all the details of speech and of action, transforms them into
graces; which imposes on man not servility and falsehood, but civility
and concern for others, and which, in exchange, extracts for him out of
human society all the pleasure it can afford.

V. Happiness.

     What constitutes happiness in the 18th Century.--The
     fascination of display.--Indolence, recreation, light

One can very well understand this kind of pleasure in a summary way,
but how is it to be made apparent? Taken by themselves the pastimes of
society are not to be described; they are too ephemeral; their charm
arises from their accompaniments. A narrative of them would be but
tasteless dregs, does the libretto of an opera give any idea of the
opera itself?--If the reader would revive for himself this vanished
world let him seek for it in those works that have preserved its
externals or its accent, and first in the pictures and engravings of
Watteau, Fragonard and the Saint-Aubins, and then in the novels and
dramas of Voltaire and Marivaux, and even in Collé and Crébillon
fils;[2252] then do we see the breathing figures and hear their voices,
What bright, winning, intelligent faces beaming with pleasure and with
the desire to please! What ease in bearing and in gesture! What piquant
grace in the toilet, in the smile, in vivaciousness of expression, in
the control of the fluted voice, in the coquetry of hidden meanings! How
involuntarily we stop to look and listen! Attractiveness is everywhere,
in the small spirituelle heads, in the slender hands, in the rumpled
attire, in the pretty features, in the demeanor. The slightest gesture,
a pouting or mutinous turn of the head, a plump little wrist peering
from its nest of lace, a yielding waist bent over an embroidery frame,
the rapid rustling of an opening fan, is a feast for the eyes and the
intellect. It is indeed all daintiness, a delicate caress for delicate
senses, extending to the external decoration of life, to the sinuous
outlines, the showy drapery, and the refinements of comfort in the
furniture and architecture. Fill your imagination with these accessories
and with these figures and you will take as much interest in their
amusements as they did. In such a place and in such company it suffices
to be together to be content. Their indolence is no burden to them
for they sport with existence.--At Chanteloup, the Duc de Choiseul, in
disgrace, finds the fashionable world flocking to see him; nothing is
done and yet no hours of the day are unoccupied.[2253] "The Duchess has
only two hours' time to herself and these two hours are devoted to her
toilet and her letters; the calculation is a simple one: she gets up at
eleven; breakfasts at noon, and this is followed by conversation, which
lasts three or four hours; dinner comes at six, after which there is
play and the reading of the memoirs of Mme. de Maintenon." Ordinarily
"the company remains together until two o'clock in the morning."
Intellectual freedom is complete. There is no confusion, no anxiety.
They play whist and tric-trac in the afternoon and faro in the evening.
"They do to day what they did yesterday and what they will do to-morrow;
the dinner-supper is to them the most important affair in life, and
their only complaint in the world is of their digestion. Time goes so
fast I always fancy that I arrived only the evening before." Sometimes
they get up a little race and the ladies are disposed to take part in
it, "for they are all very agile and able to run around the drawing room
five or six times every day." But they prefer indoors to the open air;
in these days true sunshine consists of candle-light and the finest sky
is a painted ceiling; is there any other less subject to inclemencies or
better adapted to conversation and merriment?--They accordingly chat and
jest, in words with present friends, and by letters with absent friends.
They lecture old Mme. du Deffant, who is too lively and whom they style
the "little girl"; the young Duchesse, tender and sensible, is "her
grandmamma." As for "grandpapa," M. de Choiseul, "a slight cold keeping
him in bed he has fairy stories read to him all day long, a species of
reading to which we are all given; we find them as probable as modern
history. Do not imagine that he is unoccupied. He has had a tapestry
frame put up in the drawing room at which he works, I cannot say with
the greatest skill, but at least with the greatest assiduity. . . . Now,
our delight is in flying a kite; grandpapa has never seen this sight
and he is enraptured with it." The pastime, in itself, is nothing; it is
resorted to according to opportunity or the taste of the hour, now taken
up and now let alone, and the abbé soon writes: "I do not speak about
our races because we race no more, nor of our readings because we do not
read, nor of our promenades because we do not go out. What, then, do
we do? Some play billiards, others dominoes, and others backgammon. We
weave, we ravel and we unravel. Time pushes us on and we pay him back."

Other circles present the same spectacle. Every occupation being an
amusement, a caprice or an impulse of fashion brings one into favor.
At present, it is unraveling, every white hand at Paris, and in the
chateaux, being busy in undoing trimmings, epaulettes and old stuffs, to
pick out the gold and silver threads. They find in this employment
the semblance of economy, an appearance of occupation, in any event
something to keep them in countenance. On a circle of ladies being
formed, a big unraveling bag in green taffeta is placed on the table,
which belongs to the lady of the house; immediately all the ladies call
for their bags and "voilà les laquais en l'air"[2254] It is all the
rage. They unravel every day and several hours in the day; some derive
from it a hundred louis d'or per annum. The gentlemen are expected to
provide the materials for the work; the Duc de Lauzun, accordingly,
gives to Madame de V--a harp of natural size covered with gold thread;
an enormous golden fleece, brought as a present from the Comte de
Lowenthal, and which cost 2 or 3,000 francs, brings, picked to pieces,
5 or 600 francs. But they do not look into matters so closely. Some
employment is essential for idle hands, some manual outlet for nervous
activity; a humorous petulance breaks out in the middle of the pretended
work. One day, when about going out, Madame de R--observes that the gold
fringe on her dress would be capital for unraveling, whereupon, with a
dash, she cuts one of the fringes off. Ten women suddenly surround a man
wearing fringes, pull off his coat and put his fringes and laces
into their bags, just as if a bold flock of tomtits, fluttering and
chattering in the air, should suddenly dart on a jay to pluck out its
feathers; thenceforth a man who enters a circle of women stands in
danger of being stripped alive. All this pretty world has the same
pastimes, the men as well as the women. Scarcely a man can be found
without some drawing room accomplishment, some trifling way of keeping
his mind and hands busy, and of filling up the vacant hour; almost all
make rhymes, or act in private theatricals; many of them are musicians
and painters of still-life subjects. M. de Choiseul, as we have just
seen, works at tapestry; others embroider or make sword-knots. M. de
Francueil is a good violinist and makes violins himself; and besides
this he is "watchmaker, architect, turner, painter, locksmith,
decorator, cook, poet, music-composer and he embroiders remarkably
well."[2255] In this general state of inactivity it is essential "to
know how to be pleasantly occupied in behalf of others as well as in
one's own behalf." Madame de Pompadour is a musician, an actress, a
painter and an engraver. Madame Adelaide learns watchmaking and plays
on all instruments from a horn to the jew's-harp; not very well, it is
true, but as well as a queen can sing, whose fine voice is ever only
half in tune. But they make no pretensions. The thing is to amuse
oneself and nothing more; high spirits and the amenities of the
hour cover all. Rather read this capital fact of Madame de Lauzun at
Chanteloup: "Do you know," writes the abbé, "that nobody possesses in
a higher degree one quality you would never suspect of her, that of
preparing scrambled eggs? This talent has been buried in the ground, she
cannot recall the time she acquired it; I believe that she had it at
her birth. Accident made it known, and immediately it was put to test.
Yesterday morning, an hour for ever memorable in the history of eggs,
the implements necessary for this great operation were all brought out,
a heater, some gravy, some pepper and eggs. Behold Madame de Lauzun, at
first blushing and in a tremor, soon with intrepid courage, breaking the
eggs, beating them up in the pan, turning them over, now to the right,
now to the left, now up and now down, with unexampled precision and
success! Never was a more excellent dish eaten." What laughter and
gaiety in the group comprised in this little scene. And, not long after,
what madrigals and allusions! Gaiety here resembles a dancing ray of
sunlight; it flickers over all things and reflects its grace on every

VI. Gaiety.

     Gaiety in the 18th Century.--Its causes and effects.--
     Toleration and license.--Balls, fêtes, hunts, banquets,
     pleasures.--Freedom of the magistrates and prelates.

The Frenchman's characteristic," says an English traveler in 1785, "is
to be always gay;"[2256] and he remarks that he must be so because, in
France, such is the tone of society and the only mode of pleasing the
ladies, the sovereigns of society and the arbiters of good taste. Add
to this the absence of the causes which produce modern dreariness, and
which convert the sky above our heads into one of leaden gloom. There
was no laborious, forced work in those days, no furious competition, no
uncertain careers, no infinite perspectives. Ranks were clearly
defined, ambitions limited, there was less envy. Man was not habitually
dissatisfied, soured and preoccupied as he is nowadays. Few free passes
were allowed where there was no right to pass; we think of nothing
but advancement; they thought only of amusing themselves. An officer,
instead of raging and storming over the army lists, busies himself in
inventing some new disguise for a masked ball; a magistrate, instead of
counting the convictions he has secured, provides a magnificent supper.
At Paris, every afternoon in the left avenue of the Palais-Royal, "fine
company, very richly dressed, gather under the large trees;" and in the
evening "on leaving the opera at half-past eight, they go back there and
remain until two o'clock in the morning." They have music in the open
air by moonlight, Gavat singing, and the chevalier de Saint-George
playing on the violin.[2257] At Moffontaine, "the Comte de Vaudreuil,
Lebrun the poet, the chevalier de Coigny, so amiable and so gay,
Brongniart, Robert, compose charades every night and wake each other
up to repeat them." At Maupertuis in M. de Montesquiou's house, at
Saint-Ouen with the Marshal de Noailles, at Genevilliers with the Comte
de Vandreuil, at Rainay with the Duc d'Orléans, at Chantilly with the
Prince de Condé, there is nothing but festivity. We read no biography
of the day, no provincial document, no inventory, without hearing the
tinkling of the universal carnival. At Monchoix,[2258] the residence of
the Comte de Bédé, Châteaubriand's uncle, "they had music, dancing and
hunting, rollicking from morning to night, eating up both capital and
income." At Aix and Marseilles, throughout the fashionable world, with
the Comte de Valbelle, I find nothing but concerts, entertainment,
balls, gallantries, and private theatricals with the Comtesse de
Mirabeau for the leading performer. At Chateauroux, M. Dupin de
Francueil entertains "a troop of musicians, lackeys, cooks, parasites,
horses and dogs, bestowing everything lavishly, in amusements and in
charity, wishing to be happy himself and everybody else around him,"
never casting up accounts, and going to ruin in the most delightful
manner possible. Nothing arrests this gaiety, neither old age, exile,
nor misfortune; in 1793 it still subsists in the prisons of the
Republic. A man in place is not then made uncomfortable by his official
coat, puffed up by his situation, obliged to maintain a dignified and
important air, constrained under that assumed gravity which democratic
envy imposes on us as if a ransom. In 1753,[2259] the parliamentarians,
just exiled to Bourges, get up three companies of private theatricals
and perform comedies, while one of them, M. Dupré de Saint-Maur, fights
a rival with the sword. In 1787,[2260] when the entire parliament is
banished to Troyes the bishop, M. de Barral, returns from his chateau de
Saint-Lye expressly to receive it, presiding every evening at a dinner
of forty persons. "There was no end to the fêtes and dinners in the
town; the president kept open house," a triple quantity of food being
consumed in the eating-houses and so much wood burned in the kitchens,
that the town came near being put on short allowance. Feasting and
jollity is but little less in ordinary times. A parliamentarian, like
a seignior, must do credit to his fortune. See the letters of the
President des Brosses concerning society in Dijon; it reminds us of the
abbey of Thélème; then contrast this with the same town today.[2261] In
1744, Monseigneur de Montigny, brother of the President de Bourbonne,
apropos of the king's recovery, entertains the workmen, tradesmen and
artisans in his employ to the number of eighty, another table being for
his musicians and comedians, and a third for his clerks, secretaries,
physicians, surgeons, attorneys and notaries; the crowd collects
around a triumphal car covered with shepherdesses, shepherds and rustic
divinities in theatrical costume; fountains flow with wine "as if it
were water," and after supper the confectionery is thrown out of the
windows. Each parliamentarian around him has his "little Versailles, a
grand hotel between court and garden," This town, now so silent, then
rang with the clatter of fine equipages. The profusion of the table is
astonishing, "not only on gala days, but at the suppers of each week,
and I could almost say, of each day."--Amidst all these fête-givers,
the most illustrious of all, the President des Brosses, so grave on the
magisterial bench, so intrepid in his remonstrances, so laborious,[2262]
so learned, is an extraordinary stimulator of fun (boute-entrain), a
genuine Gaul, with a sparkling, inexhaustible fund of salacious
humor: with his friends he throws off his perruque, his gown, and even
something more. Nobody dreams of being offended by it; nobody conceives
that dress is an extinguisher, which is true of every species of dress,
and of the gown in particular. "When I entered society, in 1785," writes
a parliamentarian, "I found myself introduced in a certain way, alike to
the wives and the mistresses of the friends of my family, passing Monday
evening with one, and Tuesday evening with the other. And I was only
eighteen, and I belonged to a family of magistrates."[2263] At Basville,
at the residence of M. de Lamoignon, during the autumnal vacation and
the Whitsuntide holidays, there are thirty persons at the table
daily; there are three or four hunts a week, and the most prominent
magistrates, M. de Lamoignon, M. Pasquier, M. de Rosambo, M. and Mme.
d'Aguesseau, perform the "Barber of Seville" in the chateau theater.

As for the cassock, it enjoys the same freedom as the robe. At Saverne,
at Clairvaux, at Le Mans and at other places, the prelates wear it as
freely as a court dress. The revolutionary upheaval was necessary
to make it a fixture on their bodies, and, afterwards, the hostile
supervision of an organized party and the fear of constant danger. Up to
1789 the sky is too serene and the atmosphere too balmy to lead them to
button it up to the neck. "Freedom, facilities, Monsieur l'Abbé," said
the Cardinal de Rohan to his secretary, "without these this life would
be a desert."[2264] This is what the good cardinal took care to avoid;
on the contrary he had made Saverne an enchanting world according to
Watteau, almost "a landing-place for Cythera." Six hundred peasants and
keepers, ranged in a line a league long, form in the morning and beat
up the surrounding country, while hunters, men and women, are posted at
their stations. "For fear that the ladies might be frightened if left
alone by themselves, the man whom they hated least was always left with
them to make them feel at ease," and as nobody was allowed to leave his
post before the signal "it was impossible to be surprised."--About one
p.m. "the company gathered under a beautiful tent, on the bank of a
stream or in some delightful place, where an exquisite dinner was served
up, and, as everybody had to be made happy, each peasant received a
pound of meat, two of bread and half a bottle of wine, they, as well as
the ladies, only asking to begin it all over again." The accommodating
prelate might certainly have replied to scrupulous people along with
Voltaire, that "nothing wrong can happen in good society." In fact, so
he did and in appropriate terms. One day, a lady accompanied by a young
officer, having come on a visit, and being obliged to keep them over
night, his valet comes and whispers to him that there is no more
room.--"'Is the bath-room occupied?'--'No, Monseigneur!'--'Are there
not two beds there?'--'Yes, Monseigneur, but they are both in the same
chamber, and that officer. . . '--'Very well, didn't they come together?
Narrow people like you always see something wrong. You will find that
they will get along well together; there is not the slightest reason to
consider the matter.'" And really nobody did object, either the officer
or the lady.--At Granselve, in the Gard, the Bernardines are still more
hospitable.[2265] People resort to the fête of St. Bernard which lasts
a couple of weeks; during this time they dance, and hunt, and act
comedies, "the tables being ready at all hours." The quarters of the
ladies are provided with every requisite for the toilet; they lack
nothing, and it is even said that it was not necessary for any of them
to bring their officer.--I might cite twenty prelates not less gallant,
the second Cardinal de Rohan, the hero of the necklace, M. de Jarente,
bishop of Orleans, who keeps the record of benefices, the young M. de
Grimaldi, bishop of Le Mans, M. de Breteuil, bishop of Montauban, M.
de Cicé, archbishop of Bordeaux, the Cardinal de Montmorency,
grand-almoner, M. de Talleyrand, bishop of Autun, M. de Conzié, bishop
of Arras,[2266] and, in the first rank, the Abbé de Saint-Germain des
Prés, Comte de Clermont, prince of the blood, who, with an income
of 370,000 francs succeeds in ruining himself twice, who performs in
comedies in his town and country residences, who writes to Collé in
a pompous style and, who, in his abbatial mansion at Berny, installs
Mademoiselle Leduc, a dancer, to do the honors of his table.--There
is no hypocrisy. In the house of M. Trudaine, four bishops attend the
performance of a piece by Collé entitled "Les accidents ou les Abbés,"
the substance of which, says Collé himself, is so free that he did not
dare print it along with his other pieces. A little later, Beaumarchais,
on reading his "Marriage of Figaro" at the Maréchal de Richelieu's
domicile, not expurgated, much more crude and coarse than it is today,
has bishops and archbishops for his auditors, and these, he says, "after
being infinitely amused by it, did me the honor to assure me that they
would state that there was not a single word in it offensive to good
morals"[2267]: thus was the piece accepted against reasons of State,
against the king's will, and through the connivance of all those most
interested in suppressing it. "There is something more irrational than
my piece, and that is its success," said its author. The attraction
was too strong. People devoted to pleasure could not dispense with
the liveliest comedy of the age. They came to applaud a satire on
themselves; and better still, they themselves acted in it.--When a
prevalent taste is in fashion, it leads, like a powerful passion, to
extreme extravagance; the offered pleasure must, at any price, be had.
Faced with a momentary pleasure gratification, it is as a child
tempted by fruit; nothing arrests it, neither the danger to which it is
insensible, nor the social norms as these are established by itself.

VII. Theater, Parade And Extravagance.

     The principal diversion, elegant comedy.--Parades and

To divert oneself is to turn aside from oneself, to break loose and to
forget oneself; and to forget oneself fully one must be transported into
another, put himself in the place of another, take his mask and play his
part. Hence the liveliest of diversions is the comedy in which one is
an actor. It is that of children who, as authors, actors and audience,
improvise and perform small scenes. It is that of a people whose
political régime excludes exacting manly tasks (soucis virile) and
who sport with life just like children. At Venice, in the eighteenth
century, the carnival lasts six months; in France, under another form,
it lasts the entire year. Less familiar and less picturesque, more
refined and more elegant, it abandons the public square where it lacks
sunshine, to shut itself up in drawing-rooms where chandeliers are the
most suitable for it. It has retained of the vast popular masquerade
only a fragment, the opera ball, certainly very splendid and frequented
by princes, princesses and the queen; but this fragment, brilliant as it
is, does not suffice; consequently, in every chateau, in every mansion,
at Paris and in the provinces, it sets up travesties on society and
domestic comedies.--On welcoming a great personage, on celebrating the
birthday of the master or mistress of the house, its guests or invited
persons perform in an improvised operetta, in an ingenious, laudatory
pastoral, sometimes dressed as gods, as Virtues, as mythological
abstractions, as operatic Turks, Laplanders and Poles, similar to the
figures then gracing the frontispieces of books, sometimes in the dress
of peasants, pedagogues, peddlers, milkmaids and flower-girls like the
fanciful villagers with which the current taste then fills the stage.
They sing, they dance, and come forward in turn to recite petty
verses composed for the occasion consisting of so many well-turned
compliments.[2268]--At Chantilly "the young and charming Duchesse de
Bourbon, attired as a voluptuous Naiad, guides the Comte du Nord, in
a gilded gondola, across the grand canal to the island of Love;" the
Prince de Conti, in his part, serves as pilot to the Grand Duchesse;
other seigniors and ladies "each in allegorical guise," form the
escort,[2269] and on these limpid waters, in this new garden of
Alcinous, the smiling and gallant retinue seems a fairy scene in
Tasso.--At Vaudreuil, the ladies, advised that they are to be carried
off to seraglios, attire themselves as vestals, while the high-priest
welcomes them with pretty couplets into his temple in the park;
meanwhile over three hundred Turks arrive who force the enclosure to
the sound of music, and bear away the ladies in palanquins along the
illuminated gardens. At the little Trianon, the park is arranged as a
fair, and the ladies of the court are the saleswomen, "the queen keeping
a café," while, here and there, are processions and theatricals; this
festival costs, it is said, 100,000 livres, and a repetition of it is
designed at Choisy attended with a larger outlay.

Alongside of these masquerades which stop at costume and require only
an hour, there is a more important diversion, the private theatrical
performance, which completely transforms the man, and which for six
weeks, and even for three months, absorbs him entirely at rehearsals.
Towards 1770,[2270] "the rage for it is incredible; there is not an
attorney in his cottage who does not wish to have a stage and his
company of actors." A Bernardine living in Bresse, in the middle of a
wood, writes to Collé that he and his brethren are about to perform "La
Partie de Chasse de Henri IV," and that they are having a small theater
constructed "without the knowledge of bigots and small minds." Reformers
and moralists introduce theatrical art into the education of children;
Mme. de Genlis composes comedies for them, considering these excellent
for the securing of a good pronunciation, proper self-confidence and the
graces of deportment. The theater, indeed, then prepares man for
society as society prepares him for the theater; in either case he is on
display, composing his attitude and tone of voice, and playing a part;
the stage and the drawing room are on an equal footing. Towards the end
of the century everybody becomes an actor, everybody having been one
before.[2271] "We hear of nothing but little theaters set up in the
country around Paris." For a long time those of highest rank set the
example. Under Louis XV. the Ducs d'Orléans, de Nivernais, d'Ayen, de
Coigny, the Marquises de Courtenvaux, and d'Entraigues, the Comte de
Maillebois, the Duchesse de Brancas, the Comtesse d'Estrades form, with
Madame de Pompadour, the company of the "small cabinets;" the Due de la
Vallière is the director of them; when the piece contains a ballet the
Marquis de Courtenvaux, the Duc de Beuvron, the Comtes de Melfort and
de Langeron are the titular dancers.[2272] "Those who are accustomed to
such spectacles," writes the sedate and pious Duc de Luynes, "agree in
the opinion that it would be difficult for professional comedians to
play better and more intelligently." The passion reaches at last still
higher, even to the royal family. At Trianon, the queen, at first before
forty persons and then before a more numerous audience, performs Colette
in "Le Devin de Village," Gotte, in "La Gageure imprévue," Rosine in
"Le Barbier de Seville," Pierette in "Le Chasseur et la Laitière,"[2273]
while the other comedians consist of the principal men of the court, the
Comte d'Artois, the Comtes d'Adhémar and de Vaudreuil, the Comtesse de
Guiche, and the Canoness de Polignac. A theater is formed in Monsieur's
domicile; there are two in the Comte d'Artois's house, two in that of
the Duc d'Orléans, two in the Comte de Clermont's, and one in the Prince
de Condé's. The Comte de Clermont performs serious characters; the Duc
d'Orléans represents, with completeness and naturalness, peasants and
financiers; M. de Miromesnil, keeper of the seals, is the smartest and
most finished of Scapins; M. de Vaudreuil seems to rival Molé; the Comte
de Pons plays the "Misanthrope" with rare perfection.[2274] "More than
ten of our ladies of high rank," writes the Prince de Ligne, "play and
sing better than the best of those I have seen in our theaters." By
their talent judge of their study, assiduity and zeal. It is evident
that for many of them it is the principal occupation. In a certain
chateau, that of Saint-Aubin, the lady of the house, to secure a large
enough troupe, enrolls her four chambermaids in it, making her little
daughter, ten years old, play the part of Zaire, and for over twenty
months she has no vacation. After her bankruptcy, and in her exile,
the first thing done by the Princess de Guéménée was to send for
upholsterers to arrange a theater. In short, as nobody went out in
Venice without a mask so here nobody comprehended life without the
masqueradings, metamorphoses, representations and triumphs of the

The last trait I have to mention, yet more significant, is the
afterpiece. Really, in this fashionable circle, life is a carnival
as free and almost as rakish as that of Venice. The play commonly
terminates with a parade borrowed from La Fontaine's tales or from the
farces of the Italian drama, which are not only pointed but more than
free, and sometimes so broad that they cant be played only before
princes and courtesans;"[2275] a morbid palate, indeed, having no taste
for orgeat, instead demanding a dram. The Duc d'Orléans sings on the
stage the most spicy songs, playing Bartholin in "Nicaise," and Blaise
in "Joconde." "Le Marriage sans Curé," "Leandre grosse," "L'amant
poussif," "Leandre Etalon," are the showy titles of the pieces composed
by Collé "for the amusement of His Highness and the Court." For one
which contains salt there are ten stuffed with strong pepper. At Brunoy,
at the residence of Monsieur, so gross are they[2276] the king regrets
having attended; "nobody had any idea of such license; two women in
the auditorium had to go out, and, what is most extraordinary, they
had dared to invite the queen."--Gaiety is a sort of intoxication which
draws the cask down to the dregs, and when the wine is gone it draws on
the lees. Not only at their little suppers, and with courtesans, but in
the best society and with ladies, they commit the follies of a bagnio.
Let us use the right word, they are blackguards, and the word is no more
offensive to them than the action. "For five or six months," writes a
lady in 1782,"[2277] "the suppers are followed by a blind man's buff
or by a draw-dance, and they end in general mischievousness, (une
polissonnerie générale)." Guests are invited a fortnight in advance. "On
this occasion they upset the tables and the furniture; they scattered
twenty caraffes of water about the room; I finally got away at half-past
one, wearied out, pelted with handkerchiefs, and leaving Madame de
Clarence hoarse, with her dress torn to shreds, a scratch on her arm,
and a bruise on her forehead, but delighted that she had given such a
gay supper and flattered with the idea of its being the talk the
next day."--This is the result of a craving for amusement. Under its
pressure, as under the sculptor's thumb, the face of the century becomes
transformed and insensibly loses its seriousness; the formal expression
of the courtier at first becomes the cheerful physiognomy of the
worldling, and then, on these smiling lips, their contours changed, we
see the bold, unbridled grin of the scamp.[2278]



[Footnote 2201: "LA VIE DE SALON" is Taine's title. In Le Robert &
Collins' Dictionary salon is translated as "lounge" (Brit.) sitting
room, living room, or (cercle littéraire) salon.]

[Footnote 2202: De Loménie, "Beaumarchais et son temps," I. 403. Letter
of Beaumarchais, (Dec. 24, 1764.)--The travels of Mme. d'Aulnoy and the
letters of Mme. de Villars.--As to Italy see Stendhal, "Rome, Naples et
Florence."--For Germany see the "Mémoires" of the Margrave of Bareith,
also of the Chevalier Lang.--For England see my "Histoire de la
litérature Anglaise," vols. III. IV.]

[Footnote 2203: Volney, "Tableau du climat et du sol des Etats-Unis
d'Amérique." The leading trait of the French Colonist when compared
with the colonists of other nations, is, according to this writer, the
craving for neighbors and conversation]

[Footnote 2204: Mme. de Caylus, "Souvenirs," p. 108.]

[Footnote 2205: St. Simon, 461.]

[Footnote 2206: Duc de Lévis, p. 321.]

[Footnote 2207: Mme. de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Félicie," p. 160.--It
is important, however, to call attention to the old-fashioned royal
attitude under Louis XV and even Louis XVI. "Although I was advised,"
says Alfieri, "that the king never addressed ordinary strangers, I could
not digest the Olympian-Jupiter look with which Louis XV measured the
person presented to him, from head to foot, with such an impassible air;
if a fly should be introduced to a giant, the giant, after looking
at him, would smile, or perhaps remark.--'What a little mite!' In any
event, if he said nothing, his face would express it for him." Alfieri,
Mémoires," I.138, 1768. (Alfieri, Vittorio, born in Asti in 1749--
Florence 1803. Italian poet and playwright. (SR.)--See in Mme.
d'Oberkirk's "Mémoires." (II. 349), the lesson administered by Mme.
Royale, aged seven and a half years, to a lady introduced to her.]

[Footnote 2208: Champfort, 26, 55; Bachaumont, I. 136 (Sept 7,1762). One
month after the Parliament had passed a law against the Jesuits, little
Jesuits in wax appeared, with a snail for a base. "By means of a thread
the Jesuit was made to pop in and out from the shell. It is all the
rage--here is no house without its Jesuit."]

[Footnote 2209: On the other hand, the song on the battle of Rosbach is

[Footnote 2210: "Correspondance secrète," by Métra, Imbert, etc., V. 277
(Nov. 17, 1777).--Voltaire, "Princesse de Babylone."]

[Footnote 2211: Baron de Bezenval, "Mémoires," II. 206. An anecdote
related by the Duke.]

[Footnote 2212: Archives nationales, a report by M. Texier (1780). A
report by M. Mesnard de Chousy (01, 738).]

[Footnote 2213: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, I. 277
(February 29. 1772).]

[Footnote 2214: De Luynes, XVII. 37 (August, 1758).--D'Argenson,
February 11, 1753.]

[Footnote 2215: Archives nationales, 01, 738. Various sums of interest
are paid: 12,969 francs to the baker, 39,631 francs to the wine
merchant, and 173,899 francs to the purveyor.]

[Footnote 2216: Marquis de Mirabeau, "Traité de Population," 60.--"Le
Gouvemement de Normandie," by Hippeau, II. 204 (Sept. 30, 1780).]

[Footnote 2217: Mme. de Larochejacquelein, "Mémoires," p. 30.--Mme.
d'Oberkirk, II. 66.]

[Footnote 2218: D'Argenson, January 26, 1753.]

[Footnote 2219: George Sand, "Histoire de ma vie," I.78.]

[Footnote 2220: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, I. 61
(March 18, 1777).]

[Footnote 2221: D'Argenson, January 26, 1753.]

[Footnote 2222: "Marie Antoinette," III. 135, November 19, 1777.]

[Footnote 2223: Barbier, IV., 155. The Marshal de Soubise had a hunting
lodge to which the king came from time to time to eat an omelet of
pheasants' eggs, costing 157 livres, 10 sous. (Mercier, XII 192;
according to the statement of the cook who made it.)]

[Footnote 2224: Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 129, II. 257.]

[Footnote 2225: Mme. de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Félicie," 80; and "Théâtre
de l'Education," II. 367. A virtuous young woman in ten months runs into
debt to the amount of 70,000 francs: "Ten louis for a small table,
15 louis for another, 800 francs for a bureau, 200 francs for a small
writing desk, 300 francs for a large one. Hair rings, hair glass, hair
chain, hair bracelets, hair clasps, hair necklace, hair box, 9,900
francs," etc.]

[Footnote 2226: Mme. de Genlis, "Adèle et Théodore," III. 14.]

[Footnote 2227: Mme. d'Avray, sister of Mme. de Genlis, sets the
example, for which she is at first much criticized.]

[Footnote 2228: "When I arrived in France M. de Choiseul's reign was
just over. The woman who seemed nice to him, or could only please his
sister-in-law the Duchesse de Gramont, was sure of being able to
secure the promotion to colonel and lieutenant general of any man they
proposed. Women were of consequence even in the eyes of the old and of
the clergy; they were thoroughly familiar, to an extraordinary degree,
with the march of events; they knew by heart the characters and habits
of the king's friends and ministers. One of these, on returning to his
château from Versailles, informed his wife about every thing with which
he had been occupied; at home he says one or two words to her about his
water-color sketches, or remains silent and thoughtful, pondering over
what he has just heard in Parliament. Our poor ladies are abandoned to
the Society of those frivolous men who, for want of intellect, have
no ambition, and of course no employment (dandies)." (Stendhal, "Rome,
Naples, and Florence," 377. A narrative by Colonel Forsyth).]

[Footnote 2229: De Bezenval, 49, 60.--"Out of twenty seigniors at
the court there are fifteen not living with their wives, and keeping
mistresses. Nothing is so common at Paris among certain people."
(Barbier, IV. 496.)]

[Footnote 2230: Ne soyez point époux, ne soyez point amant, Soyez
l'homme du jour et vous serez charmant.]

[Footnote 2231: Crébillon, fills. "La nuit et le moment," IX, 14.]

[Footnote 2232: Horace Walpole's letters (January 15, 1766).--The
Duke de Brissac, at Louveciennes, the lover of Mme. du Barry, and
passionately fond of her, always in her society assumed the attitude of
a polite stranger. (Mme. Vigée-Lebrun, "Souvenirs," I. 165.)]

[Footnote 2233: De Lauzun, 51.--Champfort, 39.--"The Duc de--whose wife
had just been the subject of scandal, complained to his mother-in-law:
the latter replied with the greatest coolness, 'Eh, Monsieur, you make a
good deal of talk about nothing. Your father was much better company.'"
(Mme. d'Oberkirk, II. 135, 241).--"A husband said to his wife, I allow
you everything except princes and lackeys.' He had it right since these
two extremes brought dishonor on account of the scandal attached to
them." (Sénac de Meilhan, "Considérations sur les moeurs.)--On a
wife being discovered by a husband, he simply exclaims, "Madame, what
imprudence! Suppose that I was any other man." (La femme au dix-huitième
siècle," 201.)]

[Footnote 2234: See in this relation the somewhat ancient types,
especially in the provinces. "My mother, my sister, and myself,
transformed into statues by my father's presence, only recover ourselves
after he leaves the room." (Châteaubriand, "Mémoires," I. 17, 28,
130).--"Mémoires de Mirabeau," I. 53.) The Marquis said of his father
Antoine: "I never had the honor of kissing the cheek of that venerable
man. . . At the Academy, being two hundred leagues away from him, the
mere thought of him made me dread every youthful amusement which could
be followed by the least unfavorable results."--Paternal authority seems
almost as rigid among the middle and lower classes. ("Beaumarchais et
son temps," by De Loménie, I. 23.--"Vie de mon père," by Restif de la
Bretonne, passim.)]

[Footnote 2235: Sainte-Beuve, "Nouveaux lundis," XII, 13;--Comte de
Tilly, "Mémoires," I. 12; Duc de Lauzun, 5.--"Beaumarchais," by de
Loménie, II. 299.]

[Footnote 2236: Madame de Genlis, "Mémoires," ch 2 and 3.]

[Footnote 2237: Mme. d'Oberkirk. II. 35.--This fashion lasts until
1783.--De Goncourt, "La femme au dix-huitième siècle, 415,--"Les
petits parrains," engraving by Moreau.--Berquin, "L'ami des
enfants," passim.--Mme. de Genlis, "Théâtre de l'Education," passim.]

[Footnote 2238: Lesage, "Gil Blas de Santillane": the discourse of
the dancing-master charged with the education of the son of Count

[Footnote 2239: "Correspondance." by Métra, XIV. 212; XVI. 109.--Mme.
d'Oberkirk. II, 302.]

[Footnote 2240: De Ségur, I. 297:

     Ma naissance n'a rien de neuf,
     J'ai suivi la commune régle,
     Mais c'est vous qui sortez d'un oeuf,
     Car vous êtes un aigle.

Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," ch. IV. Mme. de Genlis wrote verses of this
kind at twelve years of age.]

[Footnote 2241: Already in the Précieuses of Molière, the Marquis
de Mascarille and the Vicomte de Jodelet.--And the same in Marivaux,
"L'épreuve, les jeux de l'amour et du hasard," ete.--Lesage, "Crispin
rival de son maître."--Laclos, "Les liaisons dangéreuses," first

[Footnote 2242: Voltaire, "Princesse de Babylone."]

[Footnote 2243: "Gustave III," by Geffroy, II. 37.--Mme. Vigée-Lebrun,
I. 81.]

[Footnote 2244: George Sand, I. 58-60. A narration by her grandmother,
who, at thirty years of age, married M. Dupin de Francuiel, aged

[Footnote 2245: Mme. de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Félicie," 77.--Mme.
Campan, III. 74.--Mme. de Genlis, "Dict. des Etiquettes," I. 348.]

[Footnote 2246: See an anecdote concerning this species of royalty in
"Adèle et Théodore, I. 69" by Mme. de Genlis.--Mme. Vigée-Lebrun, I.
156: "Women ruled then; the Revolution has dethroned them. . . This
gallantry I speak of has entirely disappeared."]

[Footnote 2247: "Women in France to some extent dictate whatever is to
be said and prescribe whatever is to be done in the fashionable world."
("A comparative view," by John Andrews, 1785.)]

[Footnote 2248: Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 299.--Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires,"
ch. XI.]

[Footnote 2249: De Tilly, I. 24.]

[Footnote 2250: Necker, "Oeuvres complètes," XV, 259.]

[Footnote 2251: Narrated by M. de Bezenval, a witness of the duel.]

[Footnote 2252: See especially: Saint-Aubin, "Le bal paré," "Le
Concert;"--Moreau, "Les Elégants," "La Vie d'un Seigneur à la mode,"
the vignettes of "La nouvelle Héloise;" Beaudouin, "La Toilette," "Le
Coucher de la Mariée;" Lawreince, "Qu'en dit l'abbé?"--Watteau, the
first in date and in talent, transposes these customs and depicts them
the better by making them more poetic.--Of the rest, reread "Marianne,"
by Marivaux; "La Vérité dans le vin," by Collé; "Le coin du feu,"
"La nuit et le moment," by Crébillon fils; and two letters in the
"Correspondance inédite" of Mme. du Deffant, one by the Abbé Barthélemy
and the other by the Chevalier de Boufflers, (I. 258, 341.).]

[Footnote 2253: "Correspondence inédite de Mme. du Deffant," published
by M. de Saint-Aulaire, I. 235, 258, 296, 302, 363.]

[Footnote 2254: Mme. de Genlis, "Dict. des Etiquettes," II. 38. "Adèle
et Théodore, I, 312, II, 350,--George Sand, "Histoire de ma vie," I.
228.--De Goncourt, p. 111.]

[Footnote 2255: George Sand, I. 59.]

[Footnote 2256: "A comparative view," etc., by John Andrews.]

[Footnote 2257: Mme. Vigée-Lebrun, I. 15, 154.]

[Footnote 2258: Châteaubriand, I. 34.--"Mémoires de Mirabeau,"
passim.--George Sand, I. 59, 76.]

[Footnote 2259: Comptes rendus de la société de Berry (1863-1864).]

[Footnote 2260: "Histoire de Troyes pendant la Révolution," by Albert
Babeau, I. 46.]

[Footnote 2261: Foissets, "Le Président des Brosses," 65, 69, 70,
346.--"Lettres du Président des Brosses," (ed. Coulomb), passim.--Piron
being uneasy concerning his "Ode à Priape," President Bouhier, a man of
great and fine erudition, and the least starched of learned ones, sent
for the young man and said to him, "You are a foolish fellow. If any
one presses you to know the author of the offence tell him that I am."
(Sainte-Beuve, "Nouveaux Lundis," VII. 414.)]

[Footnote 2262: Foisset, ibid.. 185. Six audiences a week and often
two a day besides his labors as antiquarian, historian, linguist,
geographer, editor and academician.]

[Footnote 2263: "Souvenirs", by PASQUIER (Etienne-Dennis, duc),
chancelier de France. in VI volumes, Librarie Plon, Paris 1893.]

[Footnote 2264: De Valfons, "Souvenirs," 60.]

[Footnote 2265: Montgaillard (an eye-witness). "Histoire de France," II.

[Footnote 2266: M. de Conzié is surprised at four o'clock in the morning
by his rival, an officer in the guards. "Make no noise," he said to him,
"a dress like yours will be brought to me and I will have a cock made
then we shall be on the same level." A valet brings him his weapons.
He descends into the garden of the mansion, fights with the officer and
disarms him. ("Correspondance," by Métra, XIV. May 20, 1783.)--"Le Comte
de Clermont," by Jules Cousin, passim.--"Journal de Collé," III. 232
(July, 1769).]

[Footnote 2267: De Loménie, "Beaumarchais et son temps, II. 304.]

[Footnote 2268: De Luynes, XVL 161 (September, 1757). The village
festival given to King Stanislas, by Mme. de Mauconseil at
Bagatelle.--Bachaumont, III. 247 (September 7, 1767). Festival given by
the Prince de Condé.]

[Footnote 2269: "Correspondance," by Métra, XIII. 97 (June 15, 1782),
and V. 232 (June 24 and 25, 1777).--Mme. de Genlis "Mémoires," chap.

[Footnote 2270: Bachaumont, November 17, 1770.--"Journal de Collé,"
III. 136 (April 29, 1767).--De Montlosier, "Mémoires," I. 43. "At the
residence of the Commandant (at Clermont) they would have been glad to
enlist me in private theatricals."]

[Footnote 2271: "Correspondance." by Métra, II. 245 (Nov. 18. 1775).]

[Footnote 2272: Julien. "Histoire du Théâtre de Madame de Pompadour."
These representations last seven years and cost during the winter alone
of 1749, 300,000 livres.--De Luynes, X. 45.--Mme. de Hausset, 230.]

[Footnote 2273: Mme. Campan, I. 130.--Cf. with caution, the Mémoires,
are suspect, as they have been greatly modified and arranged by Fleury.--
De Goncourt, 114.

[Footnote 2274: Jules Cousin, "Le Comte de Clermont," p.21.--Mme.
de Genlis, "Mémoires," chap. 3 and 11.--De Goncourt, 114.]

[Footnote 2275: Bachaumont, III. 343 (February 23, 1768) and IV. 174,
III. 232.--"Journal d Collé," passim.--Collé, Laujon and Poisinet are
the principal purveyors for these displays; the only one of merit is
"La Verité dans le Vin." In this piece instead of "Mylord." there was
at first the "bishop of Avranches," and the piece was thus performed at
Villers-Cotterets in the house of the Duc d'Orléans.]

[Footnote 2276: Mme. d'Oberkirk, II. 82.--On the tone of the best
society see "Correspondance" by Métra, I. 50, III. 68, and Bezenval (Ed.
Barrière) 387 to 394.]

[Footnote 2277: Mme. de Genlis, "Adèle et Théodore," II. 362.]

[Footnote 2278: George Sand, I. 85. "At my grandmother's I have found
boxes full of couplets, madrigals and biting satires.... I burned some
of them so obscene that I would not dare read them through, and these
written by abbés I had known to my infancy and by a marquis of the best
blood." Among other examples, toned down, the songs on the Bird and the
Shepherdess, may be read in "Correspondance," by Métra.]



     Its Barrenness and Artificiality.--Return to Nature and

Mere pleasure, in the long run, ceases to gratify, and however agreeable
this drawing room life may be, it ends in a certain hollowness.
Something is lacking without any one being able to say precisely what
that something is; the soul becomes restless, and slowly, aided by
authors and artists, it sets about investigating the cause of its
uneasiness and the object of its secret longings. Barrenness and
artificiality are the two traits of this society, the more marked
because it is more complete, and, in this one, pushed to extreme,
because it has attained to supreme refinement. In the first
place naturalness is excluded from it; everything is arranged and
adjusted,--decoration, dress, attitude, tone of voice, words, ideas
and even sentiments. "A genuine sentiment is so rare," said M. de V--,
"that, when I leave Versailles, I sometimes stand still in the street
to see a dog gnaw a bone."[2301] Man, in abandoning himself wholly to
society, had withheld no portion of his personality for himself while
decorum, clinging to him like so much ivy, had abstracted from him the
substance of his being and subverted every principle of activity.

"There was then," says one who was educated in this style,[2302] "a
certain way of walking, of sitting down, of saluting, of picking up a
glove, of holding a fork, of tendering any article, in short, a complete
set of gestures and facial expressions, which children had to be taught
at a very early age in order that habit might become a second nature,
and this conventionality formed so important an item in the life of men
and women in aristocratic circles that the actors of the present day,
with all their study, are scarcely able to give us an idea of it."

 Not only was the outward factitious but, again, the inward; there
was a certain prescribed mode of feeling and of thinking, of living and
of dying. It was impossible to address a man without placing oneself at
his orders, or a woman without casting oneself at her feet, Fashion, 'le
bon ton,' regulated every important or petty proceeding, the manner
of making a declaration to a woman and of breaking an engagement, of
entering upon and managing a duel, of treating an equal, an inferior and
a superior. If any one failed in the slightest degree to conform to this
code of universal custom, he is called "a specimen." A man of heart
or of talent, D'Argenson, for example, bore a surname of "simpleton,"
because his originality transcended the conventional standard. "That has
no name, there is nothing like it!" embodies the strongest censure.
In conduct as in literature, whatever departs from a certain type is
rejected. The quantity of authorized actions is as great as the number
of authorized words. The same super-refined taste impoverishes the
initiatory act as well as the initiatory expression, people acting as
they write, according to acquired formulas and within a circumscribed
circle. Under no consideration can the eccentric, the unforeseen, the
spontaneous, vivid inspiration be accepted. Among twenty instances I
select the least striking since it merely relates to a simple gesture,
and is a measure of other things. Mademoiselle de--obtains, through
family influence, a pension for Marcel, a famous dancing-master, and
runs off, delighted, to his domicile to convey him the patent. Marcel
receives it and at once flings it on the floor: "Mademoiselle, did I
teach you to offer an object in that manner? Pick up that paper and hand
it to me as you ought to." She picks up the patent and presents it to
him with all suitable grace. "That's very well, Mademoiselle, I accept
it, although your elbow was not quite sufficiently rounded, and I thank
you."[2303] So many graces end in becoming tiresome; after having eaten
rich food for years, a little milk and dry bread becomes welcome.

Among all these social flavorings one is especially abused; one which,
unremittingly employed, communicates to all dishes its frigid and
piquant relish, I mean insincerity (badinage). Society does not tolerate
passion, and in this it exercises its right. One does not enter company
to be either vehement or somber; a strained air or one of concentration
would appear inconsistent. The mistress of a house is always right
in reminding a man that his emotional constraint brings on silence.
"Monsieur Such-a-one, you are not amiable to day." To be always
amiable is, accordingly, an obligation, and, through this training, a
sensibility that is diffused through innumerable little channels never
produces a broad current. "One has a hundred friends, and out of these
hundred friends two or three may have some chagrin every day; but one
could not award them sympathy for any length of time as, in that
event, one would be wanting in consideration for the remaining
ninety-seven;"[2304] one might sigh for an instant with some one of the
ninety-seven, and that would be all. Madame du Deffant, having lost her
oldest friend, the President Hénault, that very day goes to sup in a
large assemblage: "Alas," she exclaimed, "he died at six o'clock this
evening; otherwise you would not see me here." Under this constant
régime of distractions and diversions there are no longer any profound
sentiments; we have nothing but an epidermic exterior; love itself is
reduced to "the exchange of two fantasies."--And, as one always falls on
the side to which one inclines, levity becomes deliberate and a matter
of elegance.[2305] Indifference of the heart is in fashion; one would
be ashamed to show any genuine emotion. One takes pride in playing with
love, in treating woman as a mechanical puppet, in touching one inward
spring, and then another, to force out, at will, her anger or her pity.
Whatever she may do, there is no deviation from the most insulting
politeness; the very exaggeration of false respect which is lavished on
her is a mockery by which indifference for her is fully manifested.--But
they go still further, and in souls naturally unfeeling, gallantry turns
into wickedness. Through ennui and the demand for excitement, through
vanity, and as a proof of dexterity, delight is found in tormenting, in
exciting tears, in dishonoring and in killing women by slow torture. At
last, as vanity is a bottomless pit, there is no species of blackness
of which these polished executioners are not capable; the personages of
Laclos are derived from these originals.[2306]--Monsters of this kind
are, undoubtedly, rare; but there is no need of reverting to them to
ascertain how much egotism is harbored in the gallantry of society. The
women who erected it into an obligation are the first to realize its
deceptiveness, and, amidst so much homage without heat, to pine for
the communicative warmth of a powerful sentiment.--The character of
the century obtains its last trait and "the man of feeling comes on the

II. Return To Nature And Sentiment.

     Final trait of the century, an increased sensitivity in the
     best circles.--Date of its advent.--Its symptoms in art and
     in literature.--Its dominion in private.--Its affectations.--
     Its sincerity.--Its delicacy.

It is not that the groundwork of habits becomes different, for
these remain equally worldly and dissipated up the last. But fashion
authorizes a new affectation, consisting of effusions, reveries, and
sensibilities as yet unknown. The point is to return to nature, to
admire the country, to delight in the simplicity of rustic manners, to
be interested in village people, to be human, to have a heart, to find
pleasure in the sweetness and tenderness of natural affections, to be
a husband and a father, and still more, to possess a soul, virtues,
and religious emotions, to believe in Providence and immortality, to
be capable of enthusiasm. One wants to be all this, or at least show an
inclination that way. In any event, if the desire does exist it is one
the implied condition, that one shall not be too much disturbed in his
ordinary pursuits, and that the sensations belonging to the new order of
life shall in no respect interfere with the enjoyments of the old one.
Accordingly the exaltation which arises is little more than cerebral
fermentation, and the idyll is to be almost entirely performed in the
drawing-rooms. Behold, then, literature, the drama, painting and all the
arts pursuing the same sentimental road to supply heated imaginations
with factitious nourishment.[2307] Rousseau, in labored periods,
preaches the charms of an uncivilized existence, while other masters,
between two madrigals, fancy the delight of sleeping naked in the
primeval forest. The lovers in "La Nouvelle Héloise" interchange
passages of fine style through four volumes, whereupon a person "not
merely methodical but prudent," the Comtesse de Blot, exclaims, at a
social gathering at the Duchesse de Chartres', "a woman truly sensitive,
unless of extraordinary virtue, could refuse nothing to the passion
of Rousseau."[2308] People collect in a dense crowd in the Exhibition
around "L'Accordée de Village," "La Cruche Cassée," and the "Retour
de nourrice," with other rural and domestic idylls by Greuze; the
voluptuous element, the tempting undercurrent of sensuality made
perceptible in the fragile simplicity of his artless maidens, is a
dainty bit for the libertine tastes which are kept alive beneath
moral aspirations.[2309] After these, Ducis, Thomas, Parny, Colardeau,
Boucher, Delille, Bernardin de St. Pierre, Marmontel, Florian, the mass
of orators, authors and politicians, the misanthrope Champfort, the
logician La Harpe, the minister Necker, the versifiers and the imitators
of Gessner and Young, the Berquins, the Bitaubés, nicely combed and
bedizened, holding embroidered handkerchiefs to wipe away tears, are to
marshal forth the universal eclogue down to the acme of the Revolution.
Marmontel's "Moral Tales" appear in the columns of the "Mercure"
for 1791 and 1792,[2310] while the number following the massacres of
September opens with verses "to the manes of my canary-bird."

Consequently, in all the details of private life, sensibility displays
its magniloquence. A small temple to Friendship is erected in a park. A
little altar to Benevolence is set up in a private closet. Dresses à
la Jean-Jacques-Rousseau are worn "analogous to the principles of that
author." Head-dresses are selected with "puffs au sentiment" in which
one may place the portrait of one's daughter, mother, canary or dog,
the whole "garnished with the hair of one's father or intimate
friend."[2311] People keep intimate friends for whom "they experience
something so warm and so tender that it nearly amounts to a passion" and
whom they cannot go three hours a day without seeing. "Every time female
companions interchange tender ideas the voice suddenly changes into
a pure and languishing tone, each fondly regarding the other with
approaching heads and frequently embracing," and suppressing a yawn a
quarter of an hour after, with a nap in concert, because they have no
more to say. Enthusiasm becomes an obligation. On the revival of "Le
père de famille" there are as many handkerchiefs counted as spectators,
and ladies faint away. "It is customary, especially for young women,
to be excited, to turn pale, to melt into tears and, generally, to be
seriously affected on encountering M. de Voltaire; they rush into his
arms, stammer and weep, their agitation resembling that of the most
passionate love."[2312]--When a society-author reads his work in
a drawing-room, fashion requires that the company should utter
exclamations and sob, and that some pretty fainting subject should be
unlaced. Mme. de Genlis, who laughs at these affectations, is no less
affected than the rest. Suddenly some one in the company is heard to say
to the young orphan whom she is exhibiting: "Pamela, show us Héloise,"
whereupon Pamela, loosening her hair, falls on her knees and turns her
eyes up to heaven with an air of inspiration, to the great applause of
the assembly.[2313] Sensibility becomes an institution. The same Madame
de Genlis founds an order of Perseverance which soon includes "as many
as ninety chevaliers in the very best society." To become a member it is
necessary to solve some riddle, to answer a moral question and pronounce
a discourse on virtue. Every lady or chevalier who discovers and
publishes "three well-verified virtuous actions" obtains a gold medal.
Each chevalier has his "brother in arms," each lady has her bosom
friend and each member has a device, and each device, framed in a little
picture, figures in the "Temple of Honor," a sort of tent gallantly
decorated, and which M. de Lauzun causes to be erected in the middle
of a garden.[2314]--The sentimental parade is complete, a drawing room
masquerade being visible even in this revival of chivalry.

The froth of enthusiasm and of fine words nevertheless leaves in
the heart a residuum of active benevolence, trustfulness, and even
happiness, or, at least, expansiveness and freedom. Wives, for the first
time, are seen accompanying their husbands into garrison; mothers desire
to nurse their infants, and fathers begin to interest themselves in
the education of their children. Simplicity again forms an element of
manners. Hair-powder is no longer put on little boys' heads; many of the
seigniors abandon laces, embroideries, red heels and the sword, except
when in full dress. People appear in the streets "dressed à la Franklin,
in coarse cloth, with a knotty cane and thick shoes."[2315] The taste no
longer runs on cascades, statues and stiff and pompous decorations; the
preference is for the English garden.[2316] The queen arranges a village for
herself at the Trianon, where, "dressed in a frock of white cambric
muslin and a gauze neck-handkerchief, and with a straw hat," she fishes
in the lake and sees her cows milked. Etiquette falls away like the
paint scaling off from the skin, disclosing the bright hue of natural
emotions. Madame Adelaide takes up a violin and replaces an absent
musician to let the peasant girls dance. The Duchesse de Bourbon goes
out early in the morning incognito to bestow alms, and "to see the poor
in their garrets." The Dauphine jumps out of her carriage to assist a
wounded post-boy, a peasant knocked down by a stag. The king and the
Comte d'Artois help a carter to extract his cart from the mud. People no
longer think about self-constraint, and self-adjustment, and of
keeping up their dignity under all circumstances, and of subjecting the
weaknesses of human nature to the exigencies of rank. On the death of
the first Dauphin,[2317] whilst the people in the room place themselves
before the king to prevent him from entering it, the queen falls at
his knees, and he says to her, weeping, "Ah, my wife, our dear child is
dead, since they do not wish me to see him." And the narrator adds with
admiration; "I always seem to see a good farmer and his excellent wife
a prey to the deepest despair at the loss of their beloved child." Tears
are no longer concealed, as it is a point of honor to be a human being.
One becomes human and familiar with one's inferiors. A prince, on a
review, says to the soldiers on presenting the princess to them, "My
boys, here is my wife." There is a disposition to make people happy and
to take great delight in their gratitude. To be kind, to be loved is the
object of the head of a government, of a man in place. This goes so
far that God is prefigured according to this model. The "harmonies of
nature" are construed into the delicate attentions of Providence; on
instituting filial affection the Creator "deigned to choose for our best
virtue our sweetest pleasure."[2318]--The idyll which is imagined to
take place in heaven corresponds with the idyll practiced on earth. From
the public up to the princes, and from the princes down to the public,
in prose, in verse, in compliments at festivities, in official replies,
in the style of royal edicts down to the songs of the market-women,
there is a constant interchange of graces and of sympathies. Applause
bursts out in the theater at any verse containing an allusion to
princes, and, a moment after, at the speech which exalts the merits of
the people, the princes return the compliment by applauding in their
turn.[2319]--On all sides, just as this society is vanishing, a mutual
deference, a spirit of kindliness arises, like a soft and balmy autumnal
breeze, to dissipate whatever harshness remains of its aridity and to
mingle with the radiance of its last hours the perfume of dying roses.
We now encounter acts and words of infinite grace, unique of their kind,
like a lovely, exquisite little figure on old Sèvres porcelain. One day,
on the Comtesse Amélie de Boufflers speaking somewhat flippantly of her
husband, her mother-in-law interposes, "You forget that you are speaking
of my son."--"True, mamma, I thought I was only speaking of your
son-in-law." It is she again who, on playing "the boat," and obliged to
decide between this beloved mother-in-law and her own mother, whom
she scarcely knew, replies, "I would save my mother and drown with my
mother-in-law."[2320] The Duchesse de Choiseul, the Duchesse de Lauzun,
and others besides, are equally charming miniatures. When the heart and
the mind combine their considerations they produce masterpieces, and
these, like the art, the refinements and the society which surrounds
them, possess a charm unsurpassed by anything except their own

III. Personality Defects.

     The failings of character thus formed.--Adapted to one
     situation but not to a contrary situation.--Defects of
     intelligence.--Defects of disposition.--Such a character is
     disarmed by good-breeding.

The reason is that, the better people have become adapted to a certain
situation the less prepared are they for the opposite situation. The
habits and faculties that serve them in the previous condition become
prejudicial to them in the new one. In acquiring talents adapted to
tranquil times they lose those suited to times of agitation, reaching
the extreme of feebleness at the same time with the extreme of urbanity.
The more polished an aristocracy becomes the weaker it becomes, and when
no longer possessing the power to please it not longer possesses the
strength to struggle. And yet, in this world, we must struggle if we
would live. In humanity, as in nature, empire belongs to force. Every
creature that loses the art and energy of self-defense becomes so much
more certainly a prey according as its brilliancy, imprudence and even
gentleness deliver it over in advance to the gross appetites roaming
around it. Where find resistance in characters formed by the habits we
have just described? To defend ourselves we must, first of all, look
carefully around us, see and foresee, and provide for danger. How could
they do this living as they did? Their circle is too narrow and too
carefully enclosed. Confined to their castles and mansions they see only
those of their own sphere, they hear only the echo of their own ideas,
they imagine that there is nothing beyond the public seems to consist of
two hundred persons. Moreover, disagreeable truths are not admitted into
a drawing-room, especially when of personal import, an idle fancy there
becoming a dogma because it becomes conventional. Here, accordingly, we
find those who, already deceived by the limitations of their accustomed
horizon, fortify their delusion still more by delusions about their
fellow men. They comprehend nothing of the vast world, which envelops
their little world; they are incapable of entering into the sentiments
of a bourgeois, of a villager; they have no conception of the peasant as
he is but as they would like him to be. The idyll is in fashion, and no
one dares dispute it; any other supposition would be false because it
would be disagreeable, and as the drawing rooms have decided that all
will go well, all must go well. Never was a delusion more complete and
more voluntary. The Duc d'Orléans offers to wager a hundred louis that
the States-General will dissolve without accomplishing anything, not
even abolishing the lettre-de-cachet.. After the demolition has begun,
and yet again after it is finished, they will form opinions no more
accurate. They have no idea of social architecture; they know nothing
about its materials, its proportions, or its harmonious balance; they
have had no hand in it, they have never worked at it. They are entirely
ignorant of the old building[2321] in which they occupy the first
story. They are not qualified to calculate either its pressure or its
resistance.[2322] They conclude, finally, that it is better to let
the thing tumble in, and that the restoration of the edifice in their
behalf will follow its own course, and that they will return to their
drawing-room, expressly rebuilt for them, and freshly gilded, to begin
over again the pleasant conversation which an accident, some tumult in
the street, had interrupted.[2323] Clear-sighted in society, they are
obtuse in politics. They examine everything by the artificial light of
candles; they are disturbed and bewildered in the powerful light of open
day. The eyelid has grown stiff through age. The organ so long bent on
the petty details of one refined life no longer takes in the popular
life of the masses, and, in the new sphere into which it is suddenly
plunged, its refinement becomes the source of its blindness.

Nevertheless action is necessary, for danger is seizing them by the
throat. But the danger is of an ignoble species, while their education
has provided them with no arms suitable for warding it off. They have
learned how to fence, but not how to box. They are still the sons of
those at Fontenoy, who, instead of being the first to fire, courteously
raised their hats and addressed their English antagonists, "No,
gentlemen, fire yourselves." Being the slaves of good-breeding they
are not free in their movements. Numerous acts, and those the most
important, those of a sudden, vigorous and rude stamp, are opposed to
the respect a well-bred man entertains for others, or at least to the
respect which he owes to himself. They do not consider these allowable
among themselves; they do not dream of their being allowed, and, the
higher their position the more their rank fetters them. When the royal
family sets out for Varennes the accumulated delays by which they are
lost are the result of etiquette. Madame de Touzel insists on her place
in the carriage to which she is entitled as governess of the Children of
France. The king, on arriving, is desirous of conferring the marshal's
baton on M. de Bouillé, and after running to and fro to obtain a baton
he is obliged to borrow that of the Duc de Choiseul. The queen cannot
dispense with a traveling dressing-case and one has to be made large
enough to contain every imaginable implement from a warming-pan to a
silver porridge-dish, with other dishes besides; and, as if there were
no shifts to be had in Brussels, there had to be a complete outfit in
this line for herself and her children.[2324]--A fervent devotion,
even humanness, the frivolity of the small literary spirit, graceful
urbanity, profound ignorance,[2325] the lack or rigidity of the
comprehension and determination are still greater with the princes
than with the nobles.--All are impotent against the wild and roaring
outbreak. They have not the physical superiority that can master it, the
vulgar charlatanism which can charm it away, the tricks of a Scapin to
throw it off the scent, the bull's neck, the mountebank's gestures, the
stentor's lungs, in short, the resources of the energetic temperament
and of animal cunning, alone capable of diverting the rage of the
unchained brute. To find such fighters, they seek three or four men of
a different race and education, men having suffered and roamed about,
a brutal commoner like the abbé Maury, a colossal and dirty satyr like
Mirabeau, a bold and prompt adventurer like that Dumouriez who, at
Cherbourg, when, through the feebleness of the Duc de Beuvron, the
stores of grain were given up and the riot began, hooted at and nearly
cut to pieces, suddenly sees the keys of the storehouse in the hands of
a Dutch sailor, and, yelling to the mob that it was betrayed through
a foreigner having got hold of the keys, himself jumps down from the
railing, seizes the keys and hands them to the officer of the guard,
saying to the people, "I am your father, I am the man to be responsible
for the storehouse!"[2326] To entrust oneself with porters and brawlers,
to be collared by a political club, to improvise on the highways, to
bark louder than the barkers, to fight with the fists or a cudgel, as
much later with the young and rich gangs, against brutes and lunatics
incapable of employing other arguments, and who must be answered in
the same vein, to mount guard over the Assembly, to act as volunteer
constable, to spare neither one's own hide nor that of others, to be
one of the people to face the people, all these are simple and effectual
proceedings, but so vulgar as to appear to them disgusting. The idea of
resorting to such means never enters their head; they neither know how,
nor do they care to make use of their hands in such business.[2327] They
are skilled only in the duel and, almost immediately, the brutality of
opinion, by means of assaults, stops the way to polite combats. Their
arms, the shafts of the drawing-room, epigrams, witticisms, songs,
parodies, and other needle thrusts are impotent against the popular
bull.[2328] Their personality lacks both roots and resources; through
super-refinement it has weakened; their nature, impoverished by
culture, is incapable of the transformations by which we are renewed
and survive.--An all-powerful education has repressed, mollified, and
enfeebled their very instincts. About to die, they experience none of
the reactions of blood and rage, the universal and sudden restoration of
the forces, the murderous spasm, the blind irresistible need of striking
those who strike them. If a gentleman is arrested in his own house by
a Jacobin we never find him splitting his head open.[2329] They allow
themselves to be taken, going quietly to prison; to make an uproar would
be bad taste; it is necessary, above all things, to remain what they
are, well-bred people of society. In prison both men and women dress
themselves with great care, pay each other visits and keep up a
drawing-room; it may be at the end of a corridor, by the light of three
or four candles; but here they circulate jests, compose madrigals, sing
songs and pride themselves on being as gallant, as gay and as gracious
as ever: need people be morose and ill-behaved because accident has
consigned them to a poor inn? They preserve their dignity and their
smile before their judges and on the cart; the women, especially, mount
the scaffold with the ease and serenity characteristic of an evening
entertainment. It is the supreme characteristic of good-breeding,
erected into an unique duty, and become to this aristocracy a second
nature, which is found in its virtues as well as in its vices, in its
faculties as well as in its impotencies, in its prosperity as at its
fall, and which adorns it even in the death to which it conducts.



[Footnote 2301: Champfort, 110.]

[Footnote 2302: George Sand, V. 59. "I was rebuked for everything; I
never made a movement which was not criticized."]

[Footnote 2303: "Paris, Versailles, et les provinces," I. 162.--"The
king of Sweden is here; he wears rosettes on his breeches; all is
over; he is ridiculous, and a provincial king." ("Le Gouvernement de
Normandie," by Hippeau, IV. 237, July 4, 1784.]

[Footnote 2304: Stendhal, "Rome, Naples and Florence," 379. Stated by an
English lord.]

[Footnote 2305: Marivaux, "La Petit-Maître corrigé.--Gresset, "Le
Méchant." Crébillon fils, "La Nuit et le Moment," (especially the scene
between the scene between Citandre and Lucinde).--Collé, "La Verité
dans le Vin," (the part of the abbé with the with the présidente).--De
Bezenval, 79. (The comte de Frise and Mme. de Blot). "Vie privée du
Maréchal de Richelieu," (scenes with Mme. Michelin).--De Goncourt, 167
to 174.]

[Footnote 2306: Laclos, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses." Mme. de Merteuil
was copied after a Marquise de Grenoble.--Remark the difference between
Lovelace and Valmont, one being stimulated by pride and the other by

[Footnote 2307: The growth of sensibility is indicated by the following
dates: Rousseau, "Sur l'influence des lettres et des arts," 1749;
"Sur l'inégalité," 1753; "Nouvelle Héloise," 1759. Greuze, "Le Pére de
Famille lisant la Bible," 1755; "L'Accordée de Village," 1761. Diderot,
"Le fils natural," 1757; "Le Pére de Famille," 1758.]

[Footnote 2308: Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," chap. XVII.--George Sand, I.
72. The young Mme. de Francueil, on seeing Rousseau for the first time,
burst into tears.]

[Footnote 2309: This point has been brought out with as much skill as
accuracy by Messieurs de Goncourt in "L'Art au dix-huitième siècle," I.

[Footnote 2310: The number for August, 1792, contains "Les Rivaux
d'eux-mêmes."--About the same time other pieces are inserted in the
"Mercure," such as "The federal union of Hymen and Cupid," "Les Jaloux,"
"A Pastoral Romance," "Ode Anacréontique à Mlle. S. D. . . . "etc.]

[Footnote 2311: Mme. de Genlis, "Adéle et Théodore," I. 312.--De
Goncourt, "La Femme an dixhuitième siècle," 318.--Mme. d'Oberkirk, I.
56.--Description of the puff au sentiment of the Duchesse de Chartres
(de Goncourt, 311): "In the background is a woman seated in a chair and
holding an infant, which represents the Duc de Valois and his nurse.
On the right is a parrot pecking at a cherry, and on the left a little
Negro, the duchess's two pets: the whole is intermingled with locks of
hair of all the relations of Mme. de Chartres, the hair of her husband,
father and father-in-law."]

[Footnote 2312: Mme. de Genlis, "Les Dangers du Monde." I, scène VII;
II, scène IV;--"Adèle et Théodore," I. 312;--"Souvenirs de Félicie,"
199;--Bachaumont, IV, 320.]

[Footnote 2313: Mme. de la Rochejacquelein, "Mémoires."]

[Footnote 2314: Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," chap. XX.--De Lauzun, 270.]

[Footnote 2315: Mme. d'Oberkirk, II. 35 (1783-1784). Mme. Campan, III.
371.--Mercier, "Tableau de Paris," passim.]

[Footnote 2316: "Correspondance" by Métra, XVII. 55, (1784).--Mme.
d'Oberkirk, II. 234.--"Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II.
63, 29.]

[Footnote 2317: "Le Gouvernement de Normandie," by Hippeau, IV. 387
(Letters of June 4, 1789, by an eye-witness).]

[Footnote 2318: Florian, "Ruth".]

[Footnote 2319: Hippeau, IV. 86 (June 23, 1773), on the representation
of "Le Siege de Calais," at the Comédie Française, at the moment when
Mlle. Vestris has pronounced these words:

     Le Français dans son prince aime à trouver un frère
     Qui, né fils de l'Etat, en devienne le père.

    "Long and universal plaudits greeted the actress who had turned in
    the direction of the Dauphin." In another place these verses recur:

     Quelle leçon pour vous, superbes potentats!
     Veillez sur vos sujets dans le rang le plus bas,
     Tel, loin de vos regards, dans la misère expire,
     Qui quelque jour peut-être, eût sauvé votre empire.

"The Dauphin and the Dauphine in turn applauded the speech. This
demonstration of their sensibility was welcomed with new expressions of
affection and gratitude."]

[Footnote 2320: Madame de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Félicie," 76, 161.]

[Footnote 2321: M. de Montlosier; in the Constituent Assembly, is about
the only person familiar with feudal laws.]

[Footnote 2322: "A competent and impartial man who would estimate the
chances of the success of the Révolution would find that there are more
against it than against the five winning numbers in a lottery; but this
is possible, and unfortunately, this time, they all came out" (Duc de
Lévis, "Souvenirs," 328.)]

[Footnote 2323: "Corinne," by Madame de Staël, the character of the
Comte d'Erfeuil.--Malonet, "Mémoires," II. 297 (a memorable instance of
political stupidity).]

[Footnote 2324: Mme. Campan, II. 140, 313.--Duc de Choiseul,

[Footnote 2325: Journal of Dumont d'Urville, commander of the vessel
which transported Charles X. into exile in 1830.--See note 4 at the end
of the volume.]

[Footnote 2326: Dumouriez, "Mémoires," III. chap. III. (July 21, 1789).]

[Footnote 2327: "All these fine ladies and gentlemen who knew so well
how to bow and courtesy and walk over a carpet, could not take three
steps on God's earth without getting dreadfully fatigued. They could not
even open or shut a door; they had not even strength enough to lift a
log to put it on the fire; they had to call a servant to draw up a chair
for them; they could not come in or go out by themselves. What could
they have done with their graces, without their valets to supply the
place of hands and feet?" (George Sand, V. 61.)]

[Footnote 2328: When Madame de F--had expressed a clever thing she felt
quite proud of it. M--remarked that on uttering something clever about
an emetic she was quite surprised that she was not purged. Champfort,

[Footnote 2329: The following is an example of what armed resistance
can accomplish for a man in his own house. "A gentleman of Marseilles,
proscribed and living in his country domicile, has provided himself
with gun, pistols and saber, and never goes out without this armament,
declaring that he will not be taken alive. Nobody dared to execute
the order of arrest. (Anne Plumptree, "A Residence of three years in
France," (1802-1805), II. 115.]



     The composition of the revolutionary spirit.--Scientific
     acquisition its first element.

On seeing a man with a somewhat feeble constitution, but healthy in
appearance and of steady habits, greedily swallow some new kind of
cordial and then suddenly fall to the ground, foam at the mouth, act
deliriously and writhe in convulsions, we at once surmise that this
agreeable beverage contained some dangerous substance; but a delicate
analysis is necessary to detect and decompose the poison. The philosophy
of the eighteenth century contained poison, and of a kind as potent as
it was peculiar; for, not only is it a long historic elaboration,
the final and condensed essence of the tendency of the thought of the
century, but again its two principal ingredients have this peculiarity,
that, separate, they are salutary, and in combination they form a
venomous compound.

I. Scientific Progress.

     The accumulation and progress of discoveries in science and
     in nature.--They serve as a starting-point for the new

The first is scientific discovery, admirable on all sides, and
beneficent in its nature; it is made up of masses of facts slowly
accumulated and then summarily presented, or in rapid succession. For
the first time in history the sciences expand and affirm each other to
the extent of providing, not, as formerly, under Galileo and Descartes,
constructive fragments, or provisional scaffolding, but a definite and
demonstrated system of the universe, that of Newton.[3101] Around this
capital fact, almost all the discoveries of the century, either as
complementary or as prolongations, range themselves. In pure mathematics
we have the Infinitesimal Calculus discovered simultaneously by Leibnitz
and Newton, mechanics reduced by d'Alembert to a single theorem, and
that superb collection of theories which, elaborated by the Bernouillis,
Euler, Clairaut, d'Alembert, Taylor and Maclaurin, is finally completed
at the end of the century by Monge, Lagrange, and Laplace.[3102] In
astronomy, the series of calculations and observations which, from
Newton to Laplace, transforms science into a problem of mechanics,
explains and predicts the movements of the planets and of their
satellites, indicating the origin and formation of our solar system,
and, extending beyond this, through the discoveries of Herschel,
affording an insight into the distribution of the stellar archipelagos,
and of the grand outlines of celestial architecture. In physics, the
decomposition of light and the principles of optics discovered by
Newton, the velocity of sound, the form of its undulations, and
from Sauveur to Chladni, from Newton to Bernouilli and Lagrange, the
experimental laws and leading theorems of Acoustics, the primary laws of
the radiation of heat by Newton, Kraft and Lambert, the theory of latent
heat by Black, the proportions of caloric by Lavoisier and Laplace, the
first true conceptions of the source of fire and heat, the experiments,
laws, and means by which Dufay, Nollet, Franklin, and especially Coulomb
explain, manipulate and, for the first time, utilize electricity.--In
Chemistry, all the foundations of the science: isolated oxygen, nitrogen
and hydrogen, the composition of water, the theory of combustion,
chemical nomenclature, quantitative analysis, the indestructibility of
matter, in short, the discoveries of Scheele, Priestley, Cavendish
and Stahl, crowned with the clear and concise theory of Lavoisier.--In
Mineralogy, the goniometer, the constancy of angles and the primary laws
of derivation by Romé de Lisle, and next the discovery of types and
the mathematical deduction of secondary forms by Haüy.--In Geology,
the verification and results of Newton's theory, the exact form of the
earth, the depression of the poles, the expansion of the equator,[3103]
the cause and the law of the tides, the primitive fluidity of the
planet, the constancy of its internal heat, and then, with Buffon,
Desmarets, Hutton and Werner, the aqueous or igneous origin of rocks,
the stratifications of the earth, the structure of beds of fossils,
the prolonged and repeated submersion of continents, the slow growth
of animal and vegetable deposits, the vast antiquity of life, the
stripping, fracturing and gradual transformation of the terrestrial
surface,[3104] and, finally the grand picture in which Buffon describes
in approximate manner the entire history of our globe, from the moment
it formed a mass of glowing lava down to the time when our species,
after so many lost or surviving species, was able to inhabit it.--Upon
this science of inorganic matter we see arising at the same time the
science of organic matter. Grew, and then Vaillant had just demonstrated
the sexual system and described the fecundating of plants; Linnaeus
invents botanical nomenclature and the first complete classifications;
the Jussieus discover the subordination of characteristics and natural
classification. Digestion is explained by Réaumur and Spallanzani,
respiration by Lavoisier; Prochaska verifies the mechanism of reflex
actions; Haller and Spallanzani experiment on and describe the
conditions and phases of generation. Scientists penetrate to the lowest
stages of animal life. Réaumur publishes his admirable observations
on insects and Lyonnet devotes twenty years to portraying the
willow-caterpillar; Spallanzani resuscitates his rotifers, Tremblay
dissects his fresh-water polyps, and Needham reveals his infusoria.
The experimental conception of life is deduced from these various
researches. Buffon already, and especially Lamarck, in their great and
incomplete sketches, outline with penetrating divination the leading
features of modern physiology and zoology. Organic molecules everywhere
diffused or everywhere growing, species of globules constantly in course
of decay and restoration, which, through the blind and spontaneous
development, transform themselves, multiply and combine, and which,
without either foreign direction or any preconceived end, solely through
the effect of their structure and surroundings, unite together to
form those masterly organisms which we call plants and animals: in the
beginning, the simplest forms, and next a slow, gradual, complex and
perfected organization; the organ created through habits, necessity and
surrounding medium; heredity transmitting acquired modifications,[3105]
all denoting in advance, in a state of conjecture and approximation,
the cellular theory of later physiologists[3106] and the conclusions of
Darwin. In the picture which the human mind draws of nature, the
general outline is marked by the science of the eighteenth century, the
arrangement of its plan and of the principal masses being so correctly
marked, that to day the leading lines remain intact. With the exception
of a few partial corrections we have nothing to efface.

This vast supply of positive or probable facts, either demonstrated or
anticipated, furnishes food, substance and impulse to the intellect
of the eighteenth century. Consider the leaders of public opinion,
the promoters of the new philosophy: they are all, in various degrees,
versed in the physical and natural sciences. Not only are they familiar
with theories and authorities, but again they have a personal knowledge
of facts and things. Voltaire[3108] is among the first to explain
the optical and astronomical theories of Newton, and again to make
calculations, observations and experiments of his own. He writes memoirs
for the Academy of Sciences "On the Measure of Motive Forces," and "On
the Nature and Diffusion of Heat." He handles Réamur's thermometer,
Newton's prism, and Muschenbrock's pyrometer. In his laboratory at Cirey
he has all the known apparatus for physics and chemistry. He experiments
with his own hand on the reflection of light in space, on the increase
of weight in calcified metals, on the renewal of amputated parts of
animals, and in the spirit of a true savant, persistently, with constant
repetitions, even to the beheading of forty snails and slugs, to verify
an assertion made by Spallanzani.--The same curiosity and the same
preparation prevails with all imbued with the same spirit. In the
other camp, among the Cartesians, about to disappear, Fontenelle is an
excellent mathematician, the competent biographer of all eminent men of
science, the official secretary and true representative of the Academy
of Sciences. In other places, in the Academy of Bordeaux, Montesquieu
reads discourses on the mechanism of the echo, and on the use of the
renal glands; he dissects frogs, tests the effect of heat and cold
on animated tissues, and publishes observations on plants and
insects.--Rousseau, the least instructed of all, attends the lectures
of the chemist Rouelle, botanizing and appropriating to himself all the
elements of human knowledge with which to write his "Emile."--Diderot
taught mathematics and devoured every science and art even to the
technical processes of all industries. D'Alembert stands in the first
rank of mathematicians. Buffon translated Newton's theory of flux, and
the Vegetable Statics of Hales; he is in turn a metallurgist, optician,
geographer, geologist and, last of all, an anatomist. Condillac, to
explain the use of signs and the relation of ideas, writes abridgments
of arithmetic, algebra, mechanics and astronomy.[3109] Maupertuis,
Condorcet and Lalande are mathematicians, physicists and astronomers;
d'Holbach, Lamettrie and Cabanis are chemists, naturalists physiologists
and physicians.--Prophets of a superior or inferior kind, masters or
pupils, specialists or simple amateurs, all draw directly or indirectly
from the living source that has just burst forth. This is their basis
when they begin to teach about Man, what he is, from whence he came,
where he is going, what he may become and what he should be. A new point
of departure leads to new points of view; so that the idea, which was
then entertained of the human being will become completely transformed.

II. Science Detached From Theology.

     Change of the point of view in the science of man.--It is
     detached from theology and is united with the natural

Let us suppose a mind thoroughly imbued with these new truths, to be
placed on the orbit of Saturn, and let him observe[3110]. Amidst this
vast and overwhelming space and in these boundless solar archipelagoes,
how small is our own sphere, and the earth, what a grain of sand! What
multitudes of worlds beyond our own, and, if life exists in them, what
combinations are possible other than those of which we are the result!
What is life, what is organic substance in the monstrous universe but an
indifferent mass, a passing accident, the corruption of a few epidermic
particles? And if this be life, what is that humanity which is so small
a fragment of it?--Such is Man in nature, an atom, and an ephemeral
particle; let this not be lost sight of in our theories concerning his
origin, his importance, and his destiny.

"A mite that would consider itself as the center of all things would
be grotesque, and therefore it is essential that an insect
almost infinitely small should not show conceit almost infinitely

How slow has been the evolution of the globe itself! What myriads
of ages between the first cooling of its mass and the beginnings of
life![3112] Of what consequence is the turmoil of our ant-hill compared
to the geological tragedy in which we have born no part, the strife
between fire and water, the thickening of the earth's crust, formation
of the universal sea, the construction and separation of continents!
Previous to our historical record what a long history of vegetable and
animal existence! What a succession of flora and fauna! What generations
of marine organisms in forming the strata of sediment! What generations
of plans in forming the deposits of coal! What transformations of
climate to drive the pachydermata away from the pole!--And now comes
Man, the latest of all, he is like the uppermost bud on the top of a
tall ancient tree, flourishing there for a while, but, like the tree,
destined to perish after a few seasons, when the increasing and foretold
congelation allowing the tree to live shall force the tree to die. He is
not alone on the branch; beneath him, around him, on a level with him,
other buds shoot forth, born of the same sap; but he must not forget, if
he would comprehend his own being, that, along with himself, other lives
exist in his vicinity, graduated up to him and issuing from the same
trunk. If he is unique he is not isolated, being an animal among other
animals;[3113] in him and with them, substance, organization and birth,
the formation and renewal of the functions, senses and appetites,
are similar, while his superior intelligence, like their rudimentary
intelligence, has for an indispensable organ a nervous matter whose
structure is the same with him as with them.--Thus surrounded, brought
forth and borne along by nature, is it to be supposed that in nature he
is an empire within an empire? He is there as the part of a whole, by
virtue of being a physical body, a chemical composition, an animated
organism, a sociable animal, among other bodies, other compositions,
other social animals, all analogous to him; and by virtue of these
classifications, he is, like them, subject to laws.--For, if the first
cause is unknown to us, and we dispute among ourselves to know what it
is, whether innate or external, we affirm with certainty the mode of its
action, and that it operates only according to fixed and general
laws. Every circumstance, whatever it may be, is conditioned, and, its
conditions being given, it never fails to conform to them. Of two links
forming a chain, the first always draws on the second. There are laws:

* for numbers, forms, and motions,

* for the revolution of the planets and the fall of bodies,

* for the diffusion of light and the radiation of heat,

* for the attractions and repulsion of electricity,

* for chemical combinations, and

* for the birth, equilibrium and dissolution of organic bodies.

They exist for the birth, maintenance, and development of human
societies, for the formation, conflict, and direction of ideas, passions
and determinations of human individuals.[3114] In all this, Man is bound
up with nature; hence, if we would comprehend him, we must observe him
in her, after her, and like her, with the same independence, the same
precautions, and in the same spirit. Through this remark alone the
method of the moral sciences is fixed. In history, in psychology, in
morals, in politics, the thinkers of the preceding century, Pascal,
Bossuet, Descartes, Fenelon, Malebrance, and La Bruyère, all based their
thoughts on dogma; It is plain to every one qualified to read them that
their base is predetermined. Religion provided them with a complete
theory of the moral order of things; according to this theory, latent or
exposed, they described Man and accommodated their observations to the
preconceived model. The writers of the eighteenth century rejected
this method: they dwell on Man, on the observable Man, and on his
surroundings; in their eyes, conclusions about the soul, its origin, and
its destiny, must come afterwards and depend wholly, not on that which
the Revelation provided, but on that which observation does and will
provide. The moral sciences are now divorced from theology and attach
themselves, as if a prolongation of them, to the physical sciences.

III. The Transformation Of History.

     Voltaire.--Criticism and conceptions of unity.--
     Montesquieu.--An outline of social laws.

Through the separation from theology and the attachment to natural
science the humanities become science. In history, every foundation on
which we now build, is laid. Compare Bossuet's "Discours sur l'histoire
universelle," with Voltaire's "Essai sur les moeurs," and we at once see
how new and profound these foundations were.--The critics of religious
dogma here establish their fundamental principle: in view of the fact
that the laws of nature are universal and permanent it follows that,
in the moral world, as in the physical world, there can be no exception
from them, and that no arbitrary or foreign force intervenes to disturb
the regular scientific procedures, which will provide a sure means of
discerning myth from truth.[3115] Biblical exegesis is born out of this
maxim, and not alone that of Voltaire, but also the critical explanatory
methods of the future. [3116] Meanwhile they skeptically examine the
annals of all people, carelessly cutting away and suppressing; too
hastily, extravagantly, especially where the ancients are concerned,
because their historical expedition is simply a scouting trip; but
nevertheless with such an overall insight that we may still approve
almost all the outlines of their summary chart. The (newly discovered)
primitive Man was not a superior being, enlightened from above, but
a coarse savage, naked and miserable, slow of growth, sluggish in
progress, the most destitute and most needy of all animals, and, on this
account, sociable, endowed like the bee and the beaver with an instinct
for living in groups, and moreover an imitator like the monkey, but
more intelligent, capable of passing by degrees from the language of
gesticulation to that of articulation, beginning with a monosyllabic
idiom which gradually increases in richness, precision and
subtlety.[3117] How many centuries are requisite to attain to this
primitive language! How many centuries more to the discovery of the most
necessary arts, the use of fire, the fabrication of "hatches of silex
and jade", the melting and refining of metals, the domestication of
animals, the production and modification of edible plants, the formation
of early civilized and durable communities, the discovery of writing,
figures and astronomical periods.[3118] Only after a dawn of vast and
infinite length do we see in Chaldea and in China the commencement of
an accurate chronological history. There are five or six of these great
independent centers of spontaneous civilization, China, Babylon, ancient
Persia, India, Egypt, Phoenicia, and the two American empires. On
collecting these fragments together, on reading such of their books as
have been preserved, and which travelers bring to us, the five Kings of
the Chinese, the Vedas of the Hindus, the Zoroastrians of the
ancient Persians, we find that all contain religions, moral theories,
philosophies and institutions, as worthy of study as our own. Three of
these codes, those of India, China and the Muslims, still at the present
time govern countries as vast as our Europe, and nations of equal
importance. We must not, like Bossuet, "overlook the universe in a
universal history," and subordinate humanity to a small population
confined to a desolate region around the Dead Sea.[3119] Human history
is a thing of natural growth like the rest; its direction is due to its
own elements; no external force guides it, but the inward forces that
create it; it is not tending to any prescribed end but developing a
result. And the chief result is the progress of the human mind. "Amidst
so many ravages and so much destruction, we see a love of order secretly
animating the human species, and forestalling its utter ruin. It is one
of the springs of nature ever recovering its energy; it is the source
of the formation of the codes of nations; it causes the law and the
ministers of the law to be respected in Tinquin and in the islands
of Formosa as well as in Rome." Man thus possesses, said Voltaire,
a "principle of Reason," namely, a "an instinct for engineering"
suggesting to him useful implements;[3120] also an instinct of right
suggesting to him his moral conceptions. These two instincts form a
part of his makeup; he has them from his birth, "as birds have their
feathers, and bears their hair. Hence he is perfectible through nature,
and merely conforms to nature in improving his mind and in bettering
his condition. Extend the idea farther along with Turgot and
Condorcet,[3121] and, with all its exaggerations, we see arising, before
the end of the century, our modern theory of progress, that which founds
all our aspirations on the boundless advance of the sciences, on the
increase of comforts which their applied discoveries constantly bring
to the human condition, and on the increase of good sense which their
discoveries, popularized, slowly deposit in the human brain.

A second principle has to be established to complete the foundations
of history. Discovered by Montesquieu it still to-day serves as
a constructive support, and, if we resume the work, as if on the
substructure of the master's edifice, it is simply owing to accumulated
erudition placing at our disposal more substantial and more abundant
materials. In human society all parts are interdependent; no
modification of one can take place without effecting proportionate
changes in the others. Institutions, laws and customs are not mingled
together, as in a heap, through chance or caprice, but connected one
with the other through convenience or necessity, as in a harmony.[3122]
According as authority is in all, in several or in one hand, according
as the sovereign admits or rejects laws superior to himself, with
intermediary powers below him, everything changes or tends to differ in
meaning and in importance:

* public intelligence,

* education,

* the form of judgments,

* the nature and order of penalties,

* the condition of women,

* military organization

* and the nature and the extent of taxation.

A multitude of subordinate wheels depend on the great central wheel. For
if the clock runs, it is owing to the harmony of its various parts, from
which it follows that, on this harmony ceasing, the clock gets out of
order. But, besides the principal spring, there are others which, acting
on or in combination with it, give to each clock a special character and
a peculiar movement. Such, in the first place, is climate, that is to
say, the degree of heat or cold, humidity or dryness, with its infinite
effects on man's physical and moral attributes, followed by its
influence on political, civil and domestic servitude or freedom.
Likewise the soil, according to its fertility, its position and its
extent. Likewise the physical régime, according as a people is composed
of hunters, shepherds or agriculturists. Likewise the fecundity of the
race, and the consequent slow or rapid increase of population, and also
the excess in number, now of males and now of females. And finally,
likewise, are national character and religion.--All these causes, each
added to the other, or each limited by the other, contribute together
to form a total result, namely society. Simple or complex, stable or
unstable, barbarous or civilized, this society contains within itself
its explanations of its being. Strange as a social structure may be, it
can be explained; also its institutions, however contradictory. Neither
prosperity, nor decline, nor despotism, nor freedom, is the result of
a throw of the dice, of luck or an unexpected turn of events caused by
rash men. They are conditions we must live with. In any event, it is
useful to understand them, either to improve our situation or bear it
patiently, sometimes to carry out appropriate reforms, sometimes to
renounce impracticable reforms, now to assume the authority necessary
for success, and now the prudence making us abstain.

IV. The New Psychology.

     The transformation of psychology.--Condillac.--The theory of
     sensation and of signs.

We now reach the core of moral science; the human being in general. The
natural history of the mind must be dealt with, and this must be done
as we have done the others, by discarding all prejudice and adhering
to facts, taking analogy for our guide, beginning with origins and
following, step by step, the development by which the infant, the
savage, the uncultivated primitive man, is converted into the rational
and cultivated man. Let us consider life at the outset, the animal at
the lowest degree on the scale, the human being as soon as it is born.
The first thing we find is perception, agreeable or disagreeable, and
next a want, propensity or desire, and therefore at last, by means of
a physiological mechanism, voluntary or involuntary movements, more or
less accurate and more or less appropriate and coordinated. And this
elementary fact is not merely primitive; it is, again, constant and
universal, since we encounter it at each moment of each life, and in
the most complicated as well as in the simplest. Let us accordingly
ascertain whether it is not the thread with which all our mental cloth
is woven, and whether its spontaneous unfolding, and the knotting of
mesh after mesh, is not finally to produce the entire network of our
thought and passion.--Condillac (1715-1780)provides us here with
an incomparable clarity and precision with the answers to all our
questions, which, however the revival of theological prejudice and
German metaphysics was to bring into discredit in the beginning of the
nineteenth century, but which fresh observation, the establishment
of mental pathology, and dissection have now (in 1875) brought back,
justified and completed.[3123] Locke had already stated that our ideas
all originate in outward or inward experience. Condillac shows further
that the actual elements of perception, memory, idea, imagination,
judgment, reasoning, knowledge are sensations, properly so called,
or revived sensations; our loftiest ideas are derived from no other
material, for they can be reduced to signs which are themselves
sensations of a certain kind. Sensations accordingly form the substance
of human or of animal intelligence; but the former infinitely surpasses
the latter in this, that, through the creation of signs, it succeeds in
isolating, abstracting and noting fragments of sensations, that is to
say, in forming, combining and employing general conceptions.--This
being granted, we are able to verify all our ideas, for, through
reflection, we can revive and reconstruct the ideas we had formed
without any reflection. No abstract definitions exist at the outset;
abstraction is ulterior and derivative; foremost in each science must
be placed examples, experiences, evident facts; from these we derive our
general idea. In the same way we derive from several general ideas of
the same degree another general idea, and so on successively, step by
step, always proceeding according to the natural order of things, by
constant analysis, using expressive signs, as with mathematicians in
passing from calculation by the fingers to calculation by numerals, and
from this to calculation by letters, and who, calling upon the eyes
to aid Reason, depict the inward analogy of quantities by the outward
analogy of symbols. In this way science becomes complete by means of a
properly organized language.[3124]--Through this reversal of the
usual method we summarily dispose of disputes about words, escape the
illusions of human speech, simplify study, remodel education, enhance
discoveries, subject every assertion to control, and bring all truths
within reach of all understandings.

V. The Analytical Method.

     The analytical method.--Its principle.--The conditions
     requisite to make it productive.--These conditions wanting
     or inadequate in the 18th century.--The truth and survival
     of the principle.

Such is the course to be pursued with all the sciences, and especially
with the moral and political sciences. To consider in turn each distinct
province of human activity, to decompose the leading notions out
of which we form our conceptions, those of religion, society and
government, those of utility, wealth and exchange, those of justice,
right and duty. To revert to manifest facts, to first experiences,
to the simple circumstances in which the elements of our ideas are
included; to extricate from these the precious lode without omission
or mixture; to recompose our idea with these, to define its meaning and
determine its value; to substitute for the vague and vulgar notion with
which we started out the precise scientific definition we arrive at,
and for the impure metal we received the refined metal we recovered,
constituted the prevalent method taught by the philosophers under
the name of analysis, and which sums up the whole progress of the
century.--Up to this point, and not farther, they are right; truth,
every truth, is found in observable things, and only from these can
it be derived; there is no other pathway leading to discovery.-The
operation, undoubtedly, is productive only when the vein is rich, and
we possess the means of extracting the ore. To obtain a just notion of
government, of religion, of right, of wealth, a man must be a historian
beforehand, a jurisconsult and economist, and have gathered up myriad
of facts; and, besides all this, he must possess a vast erudition, an
experienced and professional perspicacity. If these conditions are only
partially complied with, the result will only be a half finished product
or a doubtful alloy, a few rough drafts of the sciences, the rudiments
of pedagogy as with Rousseau, of political economy with Quesnay, Smith,
and Turgot, of linguistics with Des Brosses, and of arithmetical
morals and criminal legislation with Bentham. Finally, if none of these
conditions are complied with, the same efforts will, in the hands of
philosophical amateurs and oratorical charlatans, undoubtedly only
produce mischievous compounds and destructive explosions.--Nevertheless
good procedure remains good even when ignorant and the impetuous men
make a bad use of it; and if we of to day resume the abortive effort of
the eighteenth century, it should be within the guidelines they set out.



[Footnote 3101: "Philosophioe naturalis principia," 1687; "Optics,"

[Footnote 3102: See concerning this development Comte's "Philosophie
Positive," vol. I.--At the beginning of the eighteenth century,
mathematical instruments are carried to such perfection as to warrant
the belief that all physical phenomena may be analyzed, light,
electricity, sound, crystallization, heat, elasticity, cohesion and
other effects of molecular forces.--See "Whewell's History of the
Inductive Sciences. II., III.]

[Footnote 3103: The travels of La Condamine in Peru and of Maupertuis in

[Footnote 3104: Buffon, "Théorie de la terre," 1749; "Epoques de la
Nature," 1788.--"Carte géologique de l'Auvergne," by Desmarets, 1766.]

[Footnote 3105: See a lecture by M. Lacaze-Duthier on Lamarck, "Revue
Scientifique," III. 276-311.]

[Footnote 3106: Buffon, "Histoire Naturelle, II. 340: "All living beings
contain a vast quantity of living and active molecules. Vegetal and
animal life seem to be only the result of the actions of all the small
lives peculiar to each of the active molecules whose life is primitive."
Cf. Diderot, "Revue d'Alembert."]

[Footnote 3108: "Philosophie de Newton," 1738, and "Physique," by
Voltaire.--Cf. du Bois-Raymond, "Voltaire physician," (Revue des Cours
Scientifique, V. 539), and Saigey, "la Physique de Voltaire,"--"Had
Voltaire," writes Lord Brougham, "continued to devote himself to
experimental physics he would undoubtedly have inscribed his name among
those of the greatest discoverers of his age."]

[Footnote 3109: See his "Langue des Calculs," and his "Art de

[Footnote 3110: For a popular exposition of these ideas see Voltaire,
passim, and particularly the "Micromégas" and "Les Oreilles du Comte de

[Footnote 3111: Cf. Buffon, ibid.. I. 31: "Those who imagine a reply
with final causes do not reflect that they take the effect for the
cause. The relationship which things bear to us having no influence
whatever on their origin, moral convenience can never become a physical
explanation."--Voltaire, "Candide": "When His High Mightiness sends a
vessel to Egypt is he in any respect embarrassed about the comfort of
the mice that happen to be aboard of it?"]

[Footnote 3112: Buffon, ibid. . "Supplement," II. 513; IV. ("Epoques de
la Nature"), 65, 167. According to his experiments with the cooling of a
cannon ball he based the following periods: From the glowing fluid mass
of the planet to the fall of rain 35,000 years. From the beginning of
life to its actual condition 40,000 years. From its actual condition to
the entire congealing of it and the extinction of life 93,000 years. He
gives these figures simply as the minima. We now know that they are much
too limited.]

[Footnote 3113: Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, ib. I. 12: "The first
truth derived from this patient investigation of nature is, perhaps,
a humiliating truth for man, that of taking his place in the order of

[Footnote 3114: Voltaire, "Philosophie, Du principe d'action:" "All
beings, without exception, are subject to invariable laws."]

[Footnote 3115: Voltaire "Essay sur les Moeurs,", chap. CXLVII., the
summary; "The intelligent reader readily perceives that he must believe
only in those great events which appear plausible, and view with pity
the fables with which fanaticism, romantic taste and credulity have at
all times filled the world."]

[Footnote 3116: Note this expression," exegetical methods". (Chambers
defines an exegetist as one who interprets or expounds.) Taine refers
to methods which should allow the Jacobins, socialists, communists, and
other ideologists to, from an irrefutable idea or expression, to deduct,
infer, conclude and draw firm and, to them, irrefutable conclusions.

[Footnote 3117: "Traité de Metaphysique," chap. I. "Having fallen on
this little heap of mud, and with no more idea of man than man has of
the inhabitants of Mars and Jupiter, I set foot on the shore of the
ocean of the country of Caffraria and at once began to search for a man.
I encounter monkeys, elephants and Negroes, with gleams of imperfect
intelligence, etc"--The new method is here clearly apparent.]

[Footnote 3118: "Introduction à l'Essay sur les Moeurs: Des
Sauvages."--Buffon, in "Epoques de la nature," the seventh epoch,
precedes Darwin in his ideas on the modifications of the useful species
of animals.]

[Footnote 3119: Voltaire, "Remarques de l'essay sur les Moeurs." "We
may speak of this people in connection with theology but they are not
entitled to a prominent place in history."--"Entretien entre A, B, C,"
the seventh.]

[Footnote 3120: Franklin defined man as a maker of tools.]

[Footnote 3121: Condorcet, "Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès
de l'esprit humain."]

[Footnote 3122: Montesquieu: "Esprit des Lois," preface. "I, at first,
examined men, thinking that, in this infinite diversity of laws and
customs, they were not wholly governed by their fancies. I brought
principles to bear and I found special cases yielding to them as if
naturally, the histories of all nations being simply the result of
these, each special law being connected with another law or depending on
some general law."]

[Footnote 3123: Pinel, (1791), Esquirol (1838), on mental
diseases.--Prochaska, Legallois (1812) and then Flourens for
vivisection.--Hartley and James Mill at the end of the eighteenth
century follow Condillac on the same psychological road; all
contemporary psychologists have entered upon it. (Wundt, Helmholz,
Fechner, in Germany, Bain, Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer and Carpenter,
in England).]

[Footnote 3124: Condillac, passim, and especially in his last two works
the "Logique," and the "Langue des Calculs."]


This grand and magnificent system of new truths resembles a tower of
which the first story, quickly finished, at once becomes accessible to
the public. The public ascends the structure and is requested by its
constructors to look about, not at the sky and at surrounding space,
but right before it, towards the ground, so that it may at last become
familiar with the country in which it lives. Certainly, the point of
view is good, and the advice is well thought-out. The conclusion that
the public will have an accurate view is not warranted, for the state
of its eyes must be examined, to ascertain whether it is near or
far-sighted, or if the retina naturally, or through habit, is sensitive
to certain colors. In the same way the French of the eighteenth century
must be considered, the structure of their inward vision, that is to
say, the fixed form of their intelligence which they are bringing with
them, unknowingly and unwillingly, up upon their new tower.

I. Through Colored Glasses.

     Its signs, duration and power.--Its origin and public
     supporters.--Its vocabulary, grammar and style.--Its
     method, merits and defects.

This fixed intelligence consists of the classic spirit, which applied
to the scientific acquisitions of the period, produces the philosophy
of the century and the doctrines of the Revolution. Various signs denote
its presence, and notably its oratorical, regular and correct style,
wholly consisting of ready-made phrases and contiguous ideas. It lasts
two centuries, from Malherbe and Balzac to Delille and de Fontanes, and
during this long period, no man of intellect, save two or three, and
then only in private memoirs, as in the case of Saint-Simon, also in
familiar letters like those of the marquis and bailly de Mirabeau,
either dares or can withdraw himself from its empire. Far from
disappearing with the ancient regime it forms the matrix out of which
every discourse and document issues, even the phrases and vocabulary
of the Revolution. Now, what is more effective than a ready-made mold,
enforced, accepted, in which by virtue of natural tendency, of tradition
and of education, everyone can enclose their thinking? This one,
accordingly, is a historic force, and of the highest order; to
understand it let us consider how it came into being.--It appeared
together with the regular monarchy and polite conversation, and it
accompanies these, not accidentally, but naturally and automatically.
For it is product of the new society, of the new regime and its customs:
I mean of an aristocracy left idle due the encroaching monarchy, of
people well born and well educated who, withdrawn from public activity,
fall back on conversation and pass their leisure sampling the different
serious or refined pleasures of the intellect.[3201] Eventually, they
have no other role nor interest than to talk, to listen, to entertain
themselves agreeably and with ease, on all subjects, grave or gay, which
may interest men or even women of society, that's their great affair.
In the seventeenth century they are called "les honnêtes gens"[3202] and
from now on a writer, even the most abstract, addresses himself to them.
"A gentleman," says Descartes, "need not have read all books nor have
studiously acquired all that is taught in the schools;" and he entitles
his last treatise, "A search for Truth according to natural light, which
alone, without aid of Religion or Philosophy, determines the truths
a gentleman should possess on all matters forming the subjects of his
thoughts."[3203] In short, from one end of his philosophy to the other,
the only qualification he demands of his readers is "natural good sense"
added to the common stock of experience acquired by contact with the
world.--As these make up the audience they are likewise the judges. "One
must study the taste of the court," says Molière,[3204] "for in no place
are verdicts more just. . . With simple common sense and intercourse
with people of refinement, a habit of mind is there obtained which,
without comparison, forms a more accurate, judgment of things than the
rusty attainments of the pedants." From this time forth, it may be said
that the arbiter of truth and of taste is not, as before, an
erudite Scaliger, but a man of the world, a La Rochefoucauld, or a
Tréville.[3205] The pedant and, after him, the savant, the specialist,
is set aside. "True honest people," says Nicole after Pascal, "require
no sign. They need not be divined; they join in the conversation
going on as they enter the room. They are not styled either poets
or surveyors, but they are the judges of all these."[3206] In the
eighteenth century they constitute the sovereign authority. In the great
crowd of blockheads sprinkled with pedants, there is, says Voltaire,
"a small group apart called good society, which, rich, educated and
polished, forms, you might say, the flower of humanity; it is for this
group that the greatest men have labored; it is this group which accords
social recognition."[3207] Admiration, favor, importance, belong not to
those who are worthy of it but to those who address themselves to this
group. "In 1789," said the Abbé Maury, "the French Academy alone enjoyed
any esteem in France, and it really bestowed a standing. That of the
Sciences signified nothing in public opinion, any more than that of
Inscriptions. . . The languages is considered a science for fools.
D'Alembert was ashamed of belonging to the Academy of Sciences. Only a
handful of people listen to a mathematician, a chemist, etc. but the man
of letters, the lecturer, has the world at his feet."[3208]--Under such
a strong pressure the mind necessarily follows a literary and verbal
route in conformity with the exigencies, the proprieties, the tastes,
and the degree of attention and of instruction of its public.[3209]
Hence the classic mold,--formed out of the habit of speaking, writing
and thinking for a drawing room audience.[3210]

This is immediately evident in its style and language. Between Amyot,
Rabelais and Montaigne on the one hand, and Châteaubriand, Victor Hugo
and Honoré de Balzac on the other, classic French comes into being and
dies. From the very first it is described at the language of "honest
people." It is fashioned not merely for them, but by them, and
Vaugelas,[3211] their secretary, devotes himself for thirty years to
the registry of decisions according to the usages only of good society.
Hence, throughout, both in vocabulary and in grammar, the language
is refashioned over and over again, according to the cast of their
intellects, which is the prevailing intellect.--

In the first place the vocabulary is diminished:

* Most of the words specially employed on erudite and technical
subjects, expressions that are too Greek or too Latin, terms peculiar to
the schools, to science, to occupations, to the household, are excluded
from discourse;

* those too closely denoting a particular occupation or profession are
not considered proper in general conversation.

* A vast number of picturesque and expressive words are dropped, all
that are crude, gaulois or naifs, all that are local and provincial, or
personal and made-up, all familiar and proverbial locutions,[3212] many
brusque, familiar and frank turns of thought, every haphazard, telling
metaphor, almost every description of impulsive and dexterous utterance
throwing a flash of light into the imagination and bringing into
view the precise, colored and complete form, but of which a too vivid
impression would run counter to the proprieties of polite conversation.

"One improper word," said Vaugelas, "is all that is necessary to bring a
person in society into contempt,"

and, on the eve of the Revolution, an objectionable term denounced by
Madame de Luxembourg still consigns a man to the rank of
"espèces," because correct expression is ever an element of good
manners.--Language, through this constant scratching, is attenuated and
becomes colorless: Vaugelas estimates that one-half of the phrases and
terms employed by Amyot are set aside.[3213] With the exception of
La Fontaine, an isolated and spontaneous genius, who reopens the old
sources, and La Bruyère, a bold seeker, who opens a fresh source, and
Voltaire an incarnate demon who, in his anonymous and pseudonymous
writings, gives the rein to the violent, crude expressions of his
inspiration,[3214] the terms which are most appropriate fall into
desuetude. One day, Gresset, in a discourse at the Academy, dares utter
four or five of these,[3215] relating, I believe, to carriages and
head-dresses, whereupon murmurs at once burst forth. During his long
retreat he had become provincial and lost the touch.--By degrees,
discourses are composed of "general expressions" only. These are even
employed, in accordance with Buffon's precept, to designate concrete
objects. They are more in conformity with the polished courtesy which
smoothes over, appeases, and avoids rough or familiar expressions, to
which some views appear gross or rude unless partly hidden by a veil.
This makes it easier for the superficial listener; prevailing terms
alone will immediately arouse current and common ideas; they are
intelligible to every man from the single fact that he belongs to the
drawing-room; special terms, on the contrary, demand an effort of the
memory or of the imagination. Suppose that, in relation to Franks or
to savages, I should mention "a battle-ax," which would be at once
understood; should I mention a "tomahawk," or a "francisque,"[3216]
many would imagine that I was speaking Teuton or Iroquois.[3217] In this
respect the more fashionable and refined the style, the more punctilious
the effort. Every appropriate term is banished from poetry; if one
happens to enter the mind it must be evaded or replaced by a paraphrase.
An eighteenth century poet can hardly permit himself to employ more
than one-third of the dictionary, poetic language at last becomes
so restricted as to compel a man with anything to say not to express
himself in verse.[3218]

On the other hand the more you prune the more you thin out. Reduced to
a select vocabulary the Frenchman deals with fewer subjects, but he
describes them more agreeably and more clearly. "Courtesy, accuracy",
(Urbanité, exactitude!), these two words, born at the same time with the
French Academy, describes in a nutshell the reform of which it is the
tool, and which the drawing-room, by it, and alongside of it, imposes on
the public. Grand seigniors in retirement, and unoccupied fine ladies,
enjoy the examination of the subtleties of words for the purpose
of composing maxims, definitions and characters. With admirable
scrupulousness and infinitely delicate tact, writers and people society
apply themselves to weighing each word and each phrase in order to
fix its sense, to measure its force and bearing, to determine its
affinities, use and connections This work of precision is carried on
from the earliest academicians, Vaugelas, Chapelain and Conrart, to the
end of the classic epoch, in the Synonymes by Bauzée and by Girard, in
the Remarque by Duclos, in the Commentaire by Voltaire on Corneille, in
the Lycée by la Harpe,[3219] in the efforts, the example, the practice
and the authority of the great and the inferior writers of which all are
correct. Never did architects, obliged to use ordinary broken highway
stones in building, better understand each piece, its dimensions,
its shape, its resistance, its possible connections and suitable
position.--Once this was learned, the task was to construct with the
least trouble and with the utmost solidity; the grammar was consequently
changed at the same time and in the same way as the dictionary. Hence no
longer permitting the words to reflect the way impressions and emotions
were felt; they now had to be regularly and rigorously assigned
according to the invariable hierarchy of concepts. The writer may no
longer begin his text with the leading figure or the main purpose of
his story; the setting is given and the places assigned beforehand. Each
part of the discourse has its own place; no omission or transposition is
permitted, as was done in the sixteenth century[3220]. All parts must
be included, each in its definite place: at first the subject of the
sentence with its appendices, then the verb, then the object direct,
and, finally, the indirect connections. In this way the sentence forms a
graduated scaffolding, the substance coming foremost, then the quality,
then the modes and varieties of the quality, just as a good architect
in the first place poses his foundation, then the building, then the
accessories, economically and prudently, with a view to adapt each
section of the edifice to the support of the section following after it.
No sentence demands any less attention than another, nor is there any in
which one may not at every step verify the connection or incoherence of
the parts.[3221]--The procedure used in arranging a simple sentence also
governs that of the period, the paragraph and the series of paragraphs;
it forms the style as it forms the syntax. Each small edifice occupies
a distinct position, and but one, in the great total edifice. As the
discourse advances, each section must in turn file in, never before,
never after, no parasitic member being allowed to intrude, and no
regular member being allowed to encroach on its neighbor, while all
these members bound together by their very positions must move onward,
combining all their forces on one single point. Finally, we have for
the first time in a writing, natural and distinct groups, complete and
compact harmonies, none of which infringe on the others or allow others
to infringe on them. It is no longer allowable to write haphazard,
according to the caprice of one's inspiration, to discharge one's ideas
in bulk, to let oneself be interrupted by parentheses, to string along
interminable rows of citations and enumerations. An end is proposed;
some truth is to be demonstrated, some definition to be ascertained,
some conviction to be brought about; to do this we must march, and ever
directly onward. Order, sequence, progress, proper transitions, constant
development constitute the characteristics of this style. To such
an extent is this pushed, that from the very first, personal
correspondence, romances, humorous pieces, and all ironical and gallant
effusions, consist of morsels of systematic eloquence.[3222] At the
Hôtel Rambouillet, the explanatory period is displayed with as much
fullness and as rigorously as with Descartes himself. One of the words
most frequently occurring with Mme. de Scudéry is the conjunction for
(in French car). Passion is worked out through close-knit arguments.
Drawing room compliments stretch along in sentences as finished as
those of an academical dissertation. Scarcely completed, the instrument
already discloses its aptitudes. We are aware of its being made to
explain, to demonstrate, to persuade and to popularize. Condillac, a
century later, is justified in saying that it is in itself a systematic
means of decomposition and of recomposition, a scientific method
analogous to arithmetic and algebra. At the very least it possesses the
incontestable advantage of starting with a few ordinary terms, and of
leading the reader along with facility and promptness, by a series of
simple combinations, up to the loftiest.[3223] By virtue of this, in
1789, the French tongue ranks above every other. The Berlin Academy
promises a prize to for anyone who best can explain its pre-eminence. It
is spoken throughout Europe. No other language is used in diplomacy. As
formerly with Latin, it is international, and appears that, from now on,
it is to be the preferred tool whenever men are to reason.

It is the organ only of a certain kind of reasoning, la raison
raisonnante, that requiring the least preparation for thought, giving
itself as little trouble as possible, content with its acquisitions,
taking no pains to increase or renew them, incapable of, or unwilling to
embrace the plenitude and complexity of the facts of real life. In its
purism, in its disdain of terms suited to the occasion, in its avoidance
of lively sallies, in the extreme regularity of its developments, the
classic style is powerless to fully portray or to record the infinite
and varied details of experience. It rejects any description of
the outward appearance of reality, the immediate impressions of the
eyewitness, the heights and depths of passion, the physiognomy, at once
so composite yet absolute personal, of the breathing individual, in
short, that unique harmony of countless traits, blended together
and animated, which compose not human character in general but one
particular personality, and which a Saint-Simon, a Balzac, or a
Shakespeare himself could not render if the rich language they used,
and which was enhanced by their temerities, did not contribute its
subtleties to the multiplied details of their observation.[3224]
Neither the Bible, nor Homer, nor Dante, nor Shakespeare[3225] could be
translated with this style. Read Hamlet's monologue in Voltaire and see
what remains of it, an abstract piece of declamation, with about as much
of the original in it as there is of Othello in his Orosmane. Look at
Homer and then at Fenelon in the island of Calypso; the wild, rocky
island, where "gulls and other sea-birds with long wings," build their
nests, becomes in pure French prose an orderly park arranged "for the
pleasure of the eye." In the eighteenth century, contemporary novelists,
themselves belonging to the classic epoch, Fielding, Swift, Defoe,
Sterne and Richardson, are admitted into France only after excisions and
much weakening; their expressions are too free and their scenes are to
impressive; their freedom, their coarseness, their peculiarities, would
form blemishes; the translator abbreviates, softens, and sometimes,
in his preface, apologizes for what he retains. Room is found, in this
language, only for a partial lifelikeness, for some of the truth, a
scanty portion, and which constant refining daily renders still more
scanty. Considered in itself, the classic style is always tempted to
accept slight, insubstantial commonplaces for its subject materials.
It spins them out, mingles and weaves them together; only a fragile
filigree, however, issues from its logical apparatus; we may admire the
elegant workmanship; but in practice, the work is of little, none, or
negative service.

From these characteristics of style we divine those of the mind for
which it serves as a tool.--Two principal operations constitute the
activity of the human understanding.--Observing things and events,
it receives a more or less complete, profound and exact impression
of these; and after this, turning away from them, it analyses its
impressions, and classifies, distributes, and more or less skillfully
expresses the ideas derived from them.--In the second of these
operations the classicist is superior. Obliged to adapt himself to his
audience, that is to say, to people of society who are not specialists
and yet critical, he necessarily carries to perfection the art of
exciting attention and of making himself heard; that is to say, the art
of composition and of writing.--With patient industry, and multiplied
precautions, he carries the reader along with him by a series of easy
rectilinear conceptions, step by step, omitting none, beginning with the
lowest and thus ascending to the highest, always progressing with
steady and measured peace, securely and agreeably as on a promenade. No
interruption or diversion is possible: on either side, along the
road, balustrades keep him within bounds, each idea extending into the
following one by such an insensible transition, that he involuntarily
advances, without stopping or turning aside, until brought to the final
truth where he is to be seated. Classic literature throughout bears
the imprint of this talent; there is no branch of it into which the
qualities of a good discourse do not enter and form a part.--They
dominate those sort of works which, in themselves, are only
half-literary, but which, by its help, become fully so, transforming
manuscripts into fine works of art which their subject-matter would
have classified as scientific works, as reports of action, as historical
documents, as philosophical treatises, as doctrinal expositions, as
sermons, polemics, dissertations and demonstrations. It transforms even
dictionaries and operates from Descartes to Condillac, from Bossuet to
Buffon and Voltaire, from Pascal to Rousseau and Beaumarchais, in short,
becoming prose almost entirely, even in official dispatches, diplomatic
and private correspondence, from Madame de Sévigné to Madame du Deffant;
including so many perfect letters flowing from the pens of women who
were unaware of it.--Such prose is paramount in those works which, in
themselves, are literary, but which derive from it an oratorical
turn. Not only does it impose a rigid plan, a regular distribution of
parts[3226] in dramatic works, accurate proportions, suppressions and
connections, a sequence and progress, as in a passage of eloquence,
but again it tolerates only the most perfect discourse. There is no
character that is not an accomplished orator; with Corneille and Racine,
with Molière himself, the confidant, the barbarian king, the young
cavalier, the drawing room coquette, the valet, all show themselves
adepts in the use of language. Never have we encountered such adroit
introductions, such well-arranged evidence, such just reflections, such
delicate transitions, such conclusive summing ups. Never have dialogues
borne such a strong resemblance to verbal sparring matches. Each
narration, each portrait, each detail of action, might be detached and
serve as a good example for schoolboys, along with the masterpieces of
the ancient tribune. So strong is this tendency that, on the approach
of the final moment, in the agony of death, alone and without
witnesses, the character finds the means to plead his own frenzy and die

II. Its Original Deficiency.

     Its original deficiency.--Signs of this in the 17th
     century.--It grows with time and success.--Proofs of this
     growth in the 18th century.--Serious poetry, the drama,
     history and romances.--Short-sighted views of man and of
     human existence.

This excess indicates a deficiency. In the two operations which the
human mind performs, the classicist is more successful in the second
than in the first. The second, indeed, stands in the way of the first,
the obligation of always speaking correctly makes him refrain from
saying all that ought to be said. With him the form is more important
than abundant contents, the firsthand observations which serve as
a living source losing, in the regulated channels to which they are
confined, their force, depth and impetuosity. Real poetry, able to
convey dream and illusion, cannot be brought forth. Lyric poetry proves
abortive, and likewise the epic poem.[3227] Nothing sprouts on these
distant fields, remote and sublime, where speech unites with music and
painting. Never do we hear the involuntary scream of intense torment,
the lonely confession of a distraught soul,[3228] pouring out his heart
to relieve himself. When a creation of characters is imperative, as
in dramatic poetry, the classic mold fashions but one kind, that which
through education, birth, or impersonation, always speak correctly,
in other words, like so many people of high society. No others are
portrayed on the stage or elsewhere, from Corneille and Racine to
Marivaux and Beaumarchais. So strong is the habit that it imposes
itself even on La Fontaine's animals, on the servants of Molière, on
Montesquieu's Persians, and on the Babylonians, the Indians and the
Micromégas of Voltaire.--It must be stated, furthermore, that
these characters are only partly real. In real persons two kinds of
characteristics may be noted; the first, few in number, which he or
she shares with others of their kind and which any reader readily
may identify; and the other kind, of which there are a great many,
describing only one particular person and these are much more difficult
to discover. Classic art concerns itself only with the former; it
purposely effaces, neglects or subordinates the latter. It does not
build individual persons but generalized characters, a king, a queen,
a young prince, a confidant, a high-priest, a captain of the guards,
seized by some passion, habit or inclination, such as love, ambition,
fidelity or perfidy, a despotic or a yielding temper, some species of
wickedness or of native goodness. As to the circumstances of time and
place, which, amongst others, exercise a most powerful influence in
shaping and diversifying man, it hardly notes them, even setting them
aside. In a tragedy the scene is set everywhere and any time, the
contrary, that the action takes place nowhere in no specific epoch, is
equally valid. It may take place in any palace or in any temple,[3229]
in which, to get rid of all historic or personal impressions, habits
and costumes are introduced conventionally, being neither French nor
foreign, nor ancient, nor modern. In this abstract world the address
is always "you"(as opposed to the familiar thou),[3230] "Seigneur" and
"Madame," the noble style always clothing the most different characters
in the same dress. When Corneille and Racine, through the stateliness
and elegance of their verse, afford us a glimpse of contemporary figures
they do it unconsciously, imagining that they are portraying man in
himself; and, if we of the present time recognize in their pieces
either the gentleman, the duelists, the bullies, the politicians or
the heroines of the Fronde, or the courtiers, princes and bishops, the
ladies and gentlemen in waiting of the regular monarchy, it is because
they have inadvertently dipped their brush in their own experience, some
of its color having fallen accidentally on the bare ideal outline which
they wished to trace. We have simply a contour, a general sketch, filled
up with the harmonious gray tone of correct diction.--Even in comedy,
necessarily employing current habits, even with Molière, so frank and
so bold, the model is unfinished, all individual peculiarities being
suppressed, the face becoming for a moment a theatrical mask, and
the personage, especially when talking in verse, sometimes losing
its animation in becoming the mouth-piece for a monologue or a
dissertation.[3231] The stamp of rank, condition or fortune, whether
gentleman or bourgeois, provincial or Parisian, is frequently
overlooked.[3232] We are rarely made to appreciate physical externals,
as in Shakespeare, the temperament, the state of the nervous system,
the bluff or drawling tone, the impulsive or restrained action, the
emaciation or obesity of a character.[3233] Frequently no trouble is
taken to find a suitable name, this being either Chrysale, Orgon, Damis,
Dorante, or Valère. The name designates only a simple quality, that of
a father, a youth, a valet, a grumbler, a gallant, and, like an ordinary
cloak, fitting indifferently all forms alike, as it passes from
the wardrobe of Molière to that of Regnard, Destouche, Lesage or
Marivaux.[3234] The character lacks the personal badge, the unique,
authentic appellation serving as the primary stamp of an individual. All
these details and circumstances, all these aids and accompaniments of
a man, remain outside of the classic theory. To secure the admission
of some of them required the genius of Molière, the fullness of his
conception, the wealth of his observation, the extreme freedom of his
pen. It is equally true again that he often omits them, and that, in
other cases, he introduces only a small number of them, because he
avoids giving to these general characters a richness and complexity that
might interfere with the story. The simpler the theme the clearer its
development, the first duty of the author throughout this literature
being to clearly develop the restricted theme of which he makes a

There is, accordingly, a radical defect in the classic spirit, the
defect of its qualities, and which, at first kept within proper bounds,
contributes towards the production of its purest master-pieces, but
which, in accordance with the universal law, goes on increasing and
turns into a vice through the natural effect of age, use, and success.
Contracted at the start, it is to become yet more so. In the eighteenth
century the description of real life, of a specific person, just as he
is in nature and in history, that is to say, an undefined unit, a rich
plexus, a complete organism of peculiarities and traits, superposed,
entangled and co-ordinated, is improper. The capacity to receive and
contain all these is wanting. Whatever can be discarded is cast aside,
and to such an extent that nothing is left at last but a condensed
extract, an evaporated residuum, an almost empty name, in short, what
is called a hollow abstraction. The only characters in the eighteenth
century exhibiting any life are the off-hand sketches, made in passing
and as if contraband, by Voltaire, Baron de Thundertentronk and Milord
Watthen, the lesser figures in his stories, and five or six portraits of
secondary rank, Turcaret, Gil Blas, Marianne, Manon Lescaut, Rameau, and
Figaro, two or three of the rough sketches of Crébillon the younger
and of Collé, all so many works in which sap flows through a familiar
knowledge of things, comparable with those of the minor masters in
painting, Watteau, Fragonard, Saint-Aubin, Moreau, Lancret, Pater, and
Beaudouin, and which, accepted with difficulty, or as a surprise, by the
official drawing room are still to subsist after the grander and soberer
canvases shall have become moldy through their wearisome exhalations.
Everywhere else the sap dries up, and, instead of blooming plants, we
encounter only flowers of painted paper. What are all the serious poems,
from the "la Henriade" of Voltaire to the "Mois" by Roucher or the
"l'Imagination" by Delille, but so many pieces of rhetoric garnished
with rhymes? Examine the innumerable tragedies and comedies of which
Grimm and Collé gives us mortuary extracts, even the meritorious works
of Voltaire and Crébillon, and later, those of authors of repute, Du
Belloy, Laharpe, Ducis, and Marie Chénier? Eloquence, art, situations,
correct verse, all exist in these except human nature; the personages
are simply well-taught puppets, and generally mere mouthpieces by
which the author makes his declamation public; Greeks, Romans, Medieval
knights, Turks, Arabs, Peruvians, Giaours, or Byzantines, they have
all the same declamatory mechanisms. The public, meanwhile, betrays
no surprise. It is not aware of history. It assumes that humanity is
everywhere the same. It establishes the success alike of the "Incas" by
Marmontel, and of "Gonsalve" and the "Nouvelles" by Florian; also of the
peasants, mechanics, Negroes, Brazilians, Parsees, and Malabarites
that appear before it churning out their exaggerations. Man is simply
regarded as a reasoning being, alike in all ages and alike in all
places; Bernardin de Saint-Pierre endows his pariah with this habit,
like Diderot, in his Tahitians. The one recognized principle is that
every human being must think and talk like a book.--And how inadequate
their historical background! With the exception of "Charles XII.," a
contemporary on whom Voltaire, thanks to eye eye-witnesses, bestows
fresh life, also his spirited sketches of Englishmen, Frenchmen,
Spaniards, Italians and Germans, scattered through his stories, where
are real persons to be found? With Hume, Gibbon and Robertson, belonging
to the French school, and who are at once adopted in France, in the
researches into our middle ages of Dubos and of Mably, in the "Louis XI"
of Duclos, in the "Anarcharsis" of Barthélemy, even in the "Essai sur
les Moeurs," and in the "Siecle de Louis XIV" of Voltaire, even in the
"Grandeur des Romains," and the "Esprit des Lois" of Montesquieu, what
peculiar deficiency! Erudition, criticism, common sense, an almost
exact exposition of dogmas and of institutions, philosophic views of the
relationships between events and on the general run of these, nothing
is lacking but the people! On reading these it seems as if the climates,
institutions and civilizations which so completely modifies the human
intellect, are simply so many outworks, so many fortuitous exteriors,
which, far from reflecting its depths scarcely penetrate beneath its
surface. The vast differences separating the men of two centuries, or
of two peoples, escape them entirely.[3235] The ancient Greek, the early
Christian, the conquering Teuton, the feudal man, the Arab of Mahomet,
the German, the Renaissance Englishman, the puritan, appear in their
books as in engravings and frontispieces, with some difference in
costume, but the same bodies, the same faces, the same countenances,
toned down, obliterated, proper, adapted to the conventionalities of
good manners. That sympathetic imagination by which the writer enters
into the mind of another, and reproduces in himself a system of habits
and feelings so different from his own, is the talent the most absent in
the eighteenth century. With the exception of Diderot, who uses it badly
and capriciously, it almost entirely disappears in the last half of
the century. Consider in turn, during the same period, in France and
in England, where it is most extensively used, the romance, a sort of
mirror everywhere transportable, the best adapted to reflect all phrases
of nature and of life. After reading the series of English novelists,
Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, and Goldsmith down to
Miss Burney and Miss Austen, I have become familiar with England in the
eighteenth century; I have encountered clergymen, country gentlemen,
farmers, innkeepers, sailors, people of every condition in life, high
and low; I know the details of fortunes and of careers, how much is
earned, how much is expended, how journeys are made and how people eat
and drink: I have accumulated for myself a file of precise biographical
events, a complete picture in a thousand scenes of an entire community,
the amplest stock of information to guide me should I wish to frame
a history of this vanished world. On reading a corresponding list of
French novelists, the younger Crébillon, Rousseau, Marmontel, Laclos,
Restif de la Breton, Louvet, Madame de Staël, Madame de Genlis and the
rest, including Mercier and even Mme. Cottin, I scarcely take any
notes; all precise and instructive little facts are left out; I
find civilities, polite acts, gallantries, mischief-making, social
dissertations and nothing else. They carefully abstain from mentioning
money, from giving me figures, from describing a wedding, a trial, the
administration of a piece of property; I am ignorant of the situation
of a curate, of a rustic noble, of a resident prior, of a steward, of an
intendant. Whatever relates to a province or to the rural districts, to
the bourgeoisie or to the shop,[3236] to the army or to a soldier, to
the clergy or to convents, to justice or to the police, to business or
to housekeeping remains vaguely in my mind or is falsified; to clear
up any point I am obliged to recur to that marvelous Voltaire who, on
laying aside the great classic coat, finds plenty of elbow room
and tells all. On the organs of society of vital importance, on the
practices and regulations that provoke revolutions, on feudal rights and
seigniorial justice, on the mode of recruiting and governing monastic
bodies, on the revenue measures of the provinces, of corporations and of
trade-unions, on the tithes and the corvées,[3237] literature provides
me with scarcely any information. Drawing-rooms and men of letters are
apparently its sole material. The rest is null and void. Outside
the good society that is able to converse France appears perfectly
empty.--On the approach of the Revolution the elimination increases.
Look through the harangues of the clubs and of the tribune, through
reports, legislative bills and pamphlets, and through the mass of
writings prompted by passing and exciting events; in none of them do we
see any sign of the human creature as we see him in the fields and
in the street; he is always regarded as a simple robot, a well
known mechanism. Among writers he was a moment ago a dispenser of
commonplaces, among politicians he is now a pliable voter; touch him in
the proper place and he responds in the desired manner. Facts are never
apparent; only abstractions, long arrays of sentences on nature,
Reason, and the people, on tyrants and liberty, like inflated balloons,
uselessly conflicting with each other in space. Were we not aware that
all this would terminate in terrible practical effects then we could
regard it as competition in logic, as school exercises, academic
parades, or ideological compositions. It is, in fact, Ideology, the last
product of the century, which will stamp the classic spirit with its
final formula and last word.

III. The Mathematical Method.

     The philosophic method in conformity with the Classic Sprit.
    --Ideology.--Abuse of the mathematical process.--Condillac,
     Rousseau, Mably, Condorcet, Volney, Sieyès, Cabanis, and de
     Tracy.--Excesses of simplification and boldness of

The natural process of the classic spirit is to pursue in every
research, with the utmost confidence, without either reserve or
precaution, the mathematical method: to derive, limit and isolate a few
of the simplest generalized notions and then, setting experience aside,
comparing them, combining them, and, from the artificial compound thus
obtained, by pure reasoning, deduce all the consequences they involve.
It is so deeply implanted as to be equally encountered in both
centuries, as well with Descartes, Malebranche[3238] and the partisans
of innate ideas as with the partisans of sensation, of physical needs
and of primary instinct, Condillac, Rousseau, Helvétius, and later,
Condorcet, Volney, Sieyès, Cabanis and Destutt de Tracy. In vain do
the latter assert that they are the followers of Bacon and reject (the
theory of) innate ideas; with another starting point than the Cartesians
they pursue the same path, and, as with the Cartesians, after borrowing
a little, they leave experience behind them. In this vast moral and
social world, they only remove the superficial bark from the human tree
with its innumerable roots and branches; they are unable to penetrate
to or grasp at anything beyond it; their hands cannot contain more. They
have no suspicion of anything outside of it; the classic spirit, with
limited comprehension, is not far-reaching. To them the bark is the
entire tree, and, the operation once completed, they retire, bearing
along with them the dry, dead epidermis, never returning to the trunk
itself. Through intellectual incapacity and literary pride they omit the
characteristic detail, the animating fact, the specific circumstance,
the significant, convincing and complete example. Scarcely one of
these is found in the "Logique" and in the "Traité des Sensations" by
Condillac, in the "Idéologie" by Destutt de Tracy, or in the "Rapports
du Physique et du Morale" by Cabanis.[3239] Never, with them, are we on
the solid and visible ground of personal observation and narration, but
always in the air, in the empty space of pure generalities. Condillac
declares that the arithmetical method is adapted to psychology and that
the elements of our ideas can be defined by a process analogous "to the
rule of three." Sieyès holds history in profound contempt, and believes
that he had "perfected the science of politics"[3240] at one stroke,
through an effort of the brain, in the style of Descartes, who thus
discovers analytic geometry. Destutt de Tracy, in undertaking to
comment on Montesquieu, finds that the great historian has too servilely
confined himself to history, and attempts to do the work over again by
organizing society as it should be, instead of studying society as it
is.--Never were such systematic and superficial institutions built up
with such a moderate extract of human nature.[3241] Condillac, employing
sensation, animates a statue, and then, by a process of pure reasoning,
following up its effects, as he supposes, on smell, taste, hearing,
sight and touch, fashions a complete human soul. Rousseau, by means of a
contract, founds political association, and, with this given idea, pulls
down the constitution, government and laws of every balanced social
system. In a book which serves as the philosophical testament of the
century,[3242] Condorcet declares that this method is the "final step of
philosophy, that which places a sort of eternal barrier between humanity
and its ancient infantile errors." "By applying it to morals, politics
and political economy the moral sciences have progressed nearly as much
as the natural sciences. With its help we have been able to discover
the rights of man." As in mathematics, they have been deduced from one
primordial statement only, which statement, similar to a first principle
in mathematics, becomes a fact of daily experience, seen by all and
therefore self-evident.--This school of thought is to endure throughout
the Revolution, the Empire and even into the Restoration,[3243] together
with the tragedy of which it is the sister, with the classic spirit
their common parent, a primordial, sovereign power, as dangerous as it
is useful, as destructive as it is creative, as capable of propagating
error as truth, as astonishing in the rigidity of its code, the
narrow-mindedness of its yoke and in the uniformity of its works as in
the duration of its reign and the universality of its ascendancy.[3244]



[Footnote 3201: Voltaire, "Dict. Phil.," see the articles on Language.
"Of all the languages in Europe the French is most generally used
because it is the best adapted to conversation. Its character is derived
from that of the people who speak it. For more than a hundred and fifty
years past, the French have been the most familiar with (good) society
and the first to avoid all embarrassment. . . It is a better currency
than any other, even if it should lack weight."]

[Footnote 3202: HIST: honnête homme means gentleman. (SR.)]

[Footnote 3203: Descartes, ed. Cousin, XI. 333, I. 121,. . . Descartes
depreciates "simple knowledge acquired without the aid of reflection,
such as languages, history, geography, and, generally, whatever is not
based on experience. . . . It is no more the duty of an honest man to
know Greek or Latin than to know the Swiss or Breton languages, nor
the history of the Romano-Germanic empire any more than of the smallest
country in Europe."]

[Footnote 3204: Molière, "Les Femmes Savantes," and "La Critique de
l'école des femmes." The parts of Dorante with Lycidas and of Clitandre
with Trissotin.]

[Footnote 3205: The learned Huet, (1630-1721), true to the taste of the
sixteenth century, describes this change very well from his point of
view. "When I entered the world of letters these were still flourishing;
great reputations maintained their supremacy. I have seen letters
decline and finally reach an almost entire decay. For I scarcely know
a person of the present time that one can truly call a savant." The
few Benedictines like Ducange and Mabillon, and later, the academician
Fréret, the president Bouhier of Dijon, in short, the veritable erudites
exercise no influence.]

[Footnote 3206: Nicole, "Oeuvres morales," in the second essay on
Charity and Self-love, 142.]

[Footnote 3207: Voltaire, "Dialogues," "L'intendant des menus et l'abbé
Grizel," 129.]

[Footnote 3208: Maury adds with his accustomed coarseness, "We, in the
French Academy, looked upon the members of the Academy of Sciences
as our valets."--These valets at that time consisted of Lavoisier,
Fourcroy, Lagrange, Laplace, etc. (A narrative by Joseph de Maistre,
quote by Sainte-Beuve, "Causeries du lundi," IV. 283.)]

[Footnote 3209: This description makes me think of the contemporary
attitudes pejoratively called "politically correctness." Thus the
drawings-room audience of the 18th century have today been replaced by
the "political correct" elite holding sway in teacher training schools,
schools of journalism, the media and hence among the television public.
The same mechanism which moved the upper class in the 18th century moves
it in the 20th century.. (S.R.)]

[Footnote 3210: Today in 1999 we may speak of the TV mold forced by the
measured popularity or "ratings" of the programs. (SR.]

[Footnote 3211: Vaugelas, "Remarques sur la langue française:" "It is
the mode of speech of the most sensible portion of the court, as well
as the mode of writing of the most sensible authors of the day. It is
better to consult women and those who have not studied than those who
are very learned in Greek and in Latin."]

[Footnote 3212: One of the causes of the fall and discredit of the
Marquis d'Argenson in the eighteenth century, was his habit of using

[Footnote 3213: Vaugelas, ibid.. "Although we may have eliminated
one-half of his phrases and terms we nevertheless obtain in the
other half all the riches of which we boast and of which we make a
display."--Compare together a lexicon of two or three writers of the
sixteenth century and one of two or three writers of the seventeenth. A
brief statement of the results of the comparison is here given. Let any
one, with pen in hand, note the differences on a hundred pages of any
of these texts, and he will be surprised at it. Take, for examples,
two writers of the same category, and of secondary grade, Charron and

[Footnote 3214: For instance, in the article "Ignorance," in the "Dict.

[Footnote 3215: La Harpe, "Cours de Littérature," ed. Didot. II. 142.]

[Footnote 3216: A battle-axe used by the Franks.--TR.]

[Footnote 3217: I cite an example haphazard from the "Optimiste" (1788),
by Colin d'Harleville. In a certain description, "The scene represents
a bosquet filled with odoriferous trees."--The classic spirit rebels
against stating the species of tree, whether lilacs, lindens or
hawthorns.--In paintings of landscapes of this era we have the same
thing, the trees being generalized,--of no known species.]

[Footnote 3218: This evolution is seen today as well, television having
the same effect upon its actors as the 18th century drawing-room. (SR.)]

[Footnote 3219: See in the "Lycée," by la Harpe, after the analysis of
each piece, his remarks on detail in style.]

[Footnote 3220: The omission of the pronouns, I, he, we, you, they, the
article the, and of the verb, especially the verb to be.--Any page of
Rabelais, Amyot or Montaigne, suffices to show how numerous and various
were the transpositions.]

[Footnote 3221: Vaugelas, ibid. "No language is more inimical to
ambiguities and every species of obscurity."]

[Footnote 3222: See the principal romances of the seventeenth century,
the "Roman Bourgeois," by Furetière, the "Princess de Clèves," by Madame
de Lafayette, the "Clélie," by Mme. de Scudéry, and even Scarron's
"Roman Comique."--See Balzac's letters, and those of Voiture and their
correspondents, the "Récit des grands jours d'Auvergne," by Fléchier,
etc. On the oratorical peculiarities of this style cf. Sainte-Beuve,
"Port-Royal," 2nd ed. I. 515.]

[Footnote 3223: Voltaire, 'Esay sur le poème épique', "Our nation,
regarded by strangers as superficial is, with the pen in its hand, the
wisest of all. Method is the dominant quality of all our writers."]

[Footnote 3224: Milton's works are built up with 8,000. "Shakespeare,
who displayed a greater variety of expression than probably any writer
in any language, produced all his plays with about 15,000 words and the
Old Testament says all it has to say with 5,642 words." (Max Müller,
"Lectures on the Science of language," I. 309.)--It would be interesting
to place alongside of this Racine's restricted vocabulary. That of
Mme. de Scudery is extremely limited. In the best romance of the XVIIth
century, the "Princesse de Clèves," the number of words is reduced to
the minimum. The Dictionary of the old French Academy contains 29,712
words; the Greek Thesaurus, by H. Estienne, contains about 150,000.]

[Footnote 3225: Compare together the translations of the Bible made by
de Sacy and Luther; those of Homer by Dacier, Bitaubé and Lecomte de
Lisle; those of Herodotus, by Larcher and Courrier, the popular tales of
Perrault and those by Grimm, etc.]

[Footnote 3226: See the "Discours académique," by Racine, on the
reception of Thomas Corneille: "In this chaos of dramatic poetry your
illustrious brother brought Reason on the stage, but Reason associated
with all the pomp and the ornamentation our language is capable of."]

[Footnote 3227: Voltaire, "Essay sur le poème épique," 290. "It must be
admitted that a Frenchman has more difficulty in writing an epic poem
than anybody else. . . . Dare I confess it? Our own is the least poetic
of all polished nations. The works in verse the most highly esteemed in
France are those of the drama, which must be written in a familiar style
approaching conversation."]

[Footnote 3228: Except in "Pensées," by Pascal, a few notes dotted down
by a morbidly exalted Christian, and which certainly, in the perfect
work, would not have been allowed to remain as they are.]

[Footnote 3229: See in the Cabinet of Engravings the theatrical costumes
of the middle of the XVIIIth century.--Nothing could be more opposed
to the spirit of the classic drama than the parts of Esther and
Brittannicus, as they are played nowadays, in the accurate costumes and
with scenery derived from late discoveries at Pompeii or Nineveh.]

[Footnote 3230: The formality which this indicates will be understood
by those familiar with the use of the pronoun thou in France, denoting
intimacy and freedom from restraint in contrast with ceremonious and
formal intercourse.--Tr.]

[Footnote 3231: See the parts of the moralizers and reasoners like
Cléante in "Tartuffe," Ariste in "Les Femmes Savantes," Chrysale in
"L'Ecole des Femmes," etc. See the discussion between the two brothers
in "Le Festin de Pierre," III. 5; the discourse of Ergaste in
"L'Ecole des Maris"; that of Eliante, imitated from Lucretius in the
"Misanthrope," II. 5; the portraiture, by Dorine in "Tartuffe," I.
1.--The portrait of the hypocrite, by Don Juan in "Le Festin de Pierre,"
V. 2.]

[Footnote 3232: For instance the parts of Harpagon and Arnolphe.]

[Footnote 3233: We see this in Tartuffe, but only through an expression
of Dorine, and not directly. Cf. in Shakespeare, the parts of
Coriolanus, Hotspur, Falstaff, Othello, Cleopatra, etc.]

[Footnote 3234: Balzac passed entire days in reading the "Almanach
des cent mille adresses," also in a cab in the streets during the
afternoons, examining signs for the purpose of finding suitable names
for his characters. This little circumstance shows the difference
between two diverse conceptions of mankind.]

[Footnote 3235: "At the present day, whatever may be said, there is no
such thing as Frenchmen, Germans, Spaniards, and Englishmen, for all are
Europeans. All have the same tastes, the same passions, the same habits,
none having obtained a national form through any specific institution."
Rousseau, "Sur le gouvernement de Pologne," 170.]

[Footnote 3236: Previous to 1750 we find something about these in
"Gil-Blas," and in "Marianne," (Mme. Dufour the sempstress and her
shop).--Unfortunately the Spanish travesty prevents the novels of Lesage
from being as instructive as they might be.]

[Footnote 3237: Interesting details are found in the little stories by
Diderot as, for instance, "Les deux amis de Bourbonne." But elsewhere
he is a partisan, especially in the "Religieuse," and conveys a false
impression of things.]

[Footnote 3238: "To attain to the truth we have only to fix our
attention on the ideas which each one finds within his own mind."
(Malebranche, "Recherche de la Vérité," book I. ch. 1.)--"Those long
chains of reasoning, all simple and easy, which geometers use to arrive
at their most difficult demonstrations, suggested to me that all things
which come within human knowledge must follow each other in a similar
chain." (Descartes, "Discours de la Methode," I. 142).--In the
seventeenth century In the 17th century constructions a priori were
based on ideas, in the 18th century on sensations, but always following
the same mathematical method fully displayed in the "Ethics" of

[Footnote 3239: See especially his memoir: "De l'influence du climat
sur les habitudes morales," vague, and wholly barren of illustrations
excepting one citation from Hippocrates.]

[Footnote 3240: These are Sieyès own words.--He adds elsewhere,
"There is no more reality in assumed historical truths than in assumed
religious truths." ("Papiers de Sieyès," the year 1772, according to
Sainte-Beuve, "Causeries du lundi," V. 194).--Descartes and Malebranche
already expressed this contempt for history.]

[Footnote 3241: Today, in 1998, we know that Taine was right. The
research on animal and human behavior, on animal and human brain
circuitry, and the behavior of the cruel human animal during the 20th
century, confirmed his views. Still mankind persists in preferring
simple solutions and ideas to complex ones. This is the way our brains
and our nature as gregarious animals make us think and feel. This our
basic human nature make ambitious men able to appeal to and dominate the
crowd. (SR.)]

[Footnote 3242: Condorcet, "Esquisse d'un tableau historique de l'esprit
humain," ninth epoch.]

[Footnote 3243: See the "Tableau historique," presented to the Institute
by Chénier in 1808, showing by its statements that the classic spirit
still prevails in all branches of literature.--Cabanis died in 1818,
Volney in 1820, de Tracy and Sieyès in 1836, Daunou in 1840. In May,
1845, Saphary and Valette are still professors of Condillac's philosophy
in the two lycées in Paris.]

[Footnote 3244: The world did not heed Taine's warnings. The leaders and
the masses of the Western world were to be seduced by the terrible
new ideologies of the 20th century. The ideology of socialism persists
making good use of the revised 20th century editions of the Rights of
Man, enlarged to cover the physical well-being and standard of living
of man, woman, child and animal and in this manner allowing the state to
replace all individual responsibility and authority, thus, as Taine saw,
dealing a death blow to the family, to individual responsibility and
enterprise and to effective local government. (SR.).]


I. Birth Of A Doctrine, A Revelation.

     The doctrine, its pretensions, and its character.--A new
     authority for Reason in the regulation of human affairs.--
     Government thus far traditional.

OUT of the scientific acquisitions thus set forth, elaborated by
the spirit we have just described, is born a doctrine, seemingly a
revelation, and which, under this title, was to claim the government of
human affairs. On the approach of 1789 it is generally admitted that
man is living in "a century of light," in "the age of Reason;" that,
previously, the human species was in its infancy and that now it has
attained to its "majority." Truth, finally, is made manifest and, for
the first time, its reign on earth is apparent. The right is supreme
because it is truth itself. It must direct all things because through
its nature it is universal. The philosophy of the eighteenth century, in
these two articles of faith, resembles a religion, the Puritanism of the
seventeenth century, and Islam in the seventh century. We see the same
outburst of faith, hope and enthusiasm, the same spirit of propaganda
and of dominion, the same rigidity and intolerance, the same ambition to
recast man and to remodel human life according to a preconceived type.
The new doctrine is also to have its scholars, its dogmas, its popular
catechism, its fanatics, its inquisitors and its martyrs. It is to speak
as loudly as those preceding it, as a legitimate authority to which
dictatorship belongs by right of birth, and against which rebellion is
criminal or insane. It differs, however, from the preceding religions
in this respect, that instead of imposing itself in the name of God, it
imposes itself in the name of Reason.

The authority, indeed, was a new one. Up to this time, in the control
of human actions and opinions, Reason had played but a small and
subordinate part. Both the motive and its direction were obtained
elsewhere; faith and obedience were an inheritance; a man was
a Christian and a subject because he was born Christian and
subject.--Surrounding the nascent philosophy and the Reason which
enters upon its great investigation, is a system of recognized laws, an
established power, a reigning religion; all the stones of this structure
hold together and each story is supported by a preceding story. But
what does the common cement consist of, and where is the basic
foundation?--Who sanctions all these civil regulations which control
marriages, testaments, inheritances, contracts, property and persons,
these fanciful and often contradictory regulations? In the first place
immemorial custom, varying according to the province, according to the
title to the soil, according to the quality and condition of the person;
and next, the will of the king who caused the custom to be inscribed and
who sanctioned it.--Who authorizes this will, this sovereignty of the
prince, this first of public obligations? In the first place, eight
centuries of possession, a hereditary right similar to that by which
each one enjoys his own field and domain, a property established in a
family and transmitted from one eldest son to another, from the first
founder of the State to his last living successor; and, in addition to
this, a religion directing men to submit to the constituted powers.--And
who, finally, authorizes this religion? At first, eighteen centuries
of tradition, the immense series of anterior and concordant proofs, the
steady belief of sixty preceding generations; and after this, at the
beginning of it, the presence and teachings of Christ, then, farther
back, the creation of the world, the command and the voice of
God.--Thus, throughout the moral and social order of things the past
justifies the present; antiquity provides its title, and if beneath all
these supports which age has consolidated, the deep primitive rock
is sought for in subterranean depths, we find it in the divine
will.--During the whole of the seventeenth century this theory still
absorbs all souls in the shape of a fixed habit and of inward respect;
it is not open to question. It is regarded in the same light as the
heart of the living body; whoever would lay his hand upon it would
instantly draw back, moved by a vague sentiment of its ceasing to beat
in case it were touched. The most independent, with Descartes at the
head, "would be grieved" at being confounded with those chimerical
speculators who, instead of pursuing the beaten track of custom, dart
blindly forward "in a direct line across mountains and over precipices."
In subjecting their belief to systematic investigation not only do they
leave out and set apart "the truths of faith,"[3301] but again the dogma
they think they have thrown out remains in their mind latent and active,
to guide them on unconsciously and to convert their philosophy into a
preparation for, or a confirmation of, Christianity.[3302]--Summing it
all up, faith, the performance of religious duties, with religious and
political institutions, are at base of all thought of the seventeenth
century. Reason, whether she admits it or is ignorant of it, is only a
subaltern, an oratorical agency, a setter-in-motion, forced by religion
and the monarchy to labor in their behalf. With the exception of La
Fontaine, whom I regard as unique in this as in other matters, the
greatest and most independent, Pascal, Descartes, Bossuet, La Bruyère,
borrows from the established society their basic concepts of nature,
man, society, law and government.[3303] So long as Reason is limited
to this function its work is that of a councilor of State, an extra
preacher dispatched by its superiors on a missionary tour in the
departments of philosophy and of literature. Far from proving
destructive it consolidates; in fact, even down to the Regency, its
chief employment is to produce good Christians and loyal subjects.

But now the roles are reversed; tradition descends from the upper to the
lower ranks, while Reason ascends from the latter to the former.--On
the one hand religion and monarchy, through their excesses and misdeeds
under Louis XIV, and their laxity and incompetence under Louis XV,
demolish piece by piece the basis of hereditary reverence and filial
obedience so long serving them as a foundation, and which maintained
them aloft above all dispute and free of investigation; hence the
authority of tradition insensibly declines and disappears. On the other
hand science, through its imposing and multiplied discoveries, erects
piece by piece a basis of universal trust and deference, raising itself
up from an interesting subject of curiosity to the rank of a public
power; hence the authority of Reason augments and occupies its place.--A
time comes when, the latter authority having dispossessed the former,
the fundamental ideas tradition had reserved to itself fall into the
grasp of Reason. Investigation penetrates into the forbidden sanctuary.
Instead of deference there is verification, and religion, the state,
the law, custom, all the organs, in short, of moral and practical life,
become subject to analysis, to be preserved, restored or replaced,
according to the prescriptions of the new doctrine.

II. Ancestral Tradition And Culture.

     Origin, nature and value of hereditary prejudice.--How far
     custom, religion and government are legitimate.

Nothing could be better had the new doctrine been complete, and if
Reason, instructed by history, had become critical, and therefore
qualified to comprehend the rival she replaced. For then, instead of
regarding her as an usurper to be repelled she would have recognized in
her an elder sister whose part must be left to her. Hereditary prejudice
is a sort of Reason operating unconsciously. It has claims as well as
reason, but it is unable to present these; instead of advancing those
that are authentic it puts forth the doubtful ones. Its archives are
buried; to exhume these it is necessary to make researches of which it
is incapable; nevertheless they exist, and history at the present day
is bringing them to light.--Careful investigations shows that, like
science, it issues from a long accumulation of experiences; a people,
after a multitude of gropings and efforts, has discovered that a certain
way of living and thinking is the only one adapted to its situation, the
most practical and the most salutary, the system or dogma now seeming
arbitrary to us being at first a confirmed expedient of public safety.
Frequently it is so still; in any event, in its leading features it
is indispensable; it may be stated with certainty that, if the leading
prejudices of the community should suddenly disappear, Man, deprived of
the precious legacy transmitted to him by the wisdom of ages, would at
once fall back into a savage condition and again become what he was at
first, namely, a restless, famished, wandering, hunted brute. There was
a time when this heritage was lacking; there are populations to day with
which it is still utterly lacking.[3304] To abstain from eating human
flesh, from killing useless or burdensome aged people, from exposing,
selling or killing children one does not know what to do with, to be
the one husband of but one woman, to hold in horror incest and unnatural
practices, to be the sole and recognized owner of a distinct field, to
be mindful of the superior injunctions of modesty, humanity, honor
and conscience, all these observances, formerly unknown and slowly
established, compose the civilization of human beings. Because we accept
them in full security they are not the less sacred, and they become
only the more sacred when, submitted to investigation and traced
through history, they are disclosed to us as the secret force which has
converted a herd of brutes into a society of men. In general, the older
and more universal a custom, the more it is based on profound motives,
on physiological motives on those of hygiene, and on those instituted
for social protection. At one time, as in the separation of castes, a
heroic or thoughtful stock must be preserved by preventing the
mixtures by which inferior blood introduces mental debility and low
instincts.[3305] At another, as in the prohibition of spirituous
liquors, and of animal food, it is necessary to conform to the climate
prescribing a vegetable diet, or to the race-temperament for which
strong drink is pernicious.[3306]At another, as in the institution of
the right of first-born to inherit title and castle, it was important
to prepare and designate beforehand the military commander who the
tribe would obey, or the civil chieftain that would preserve the domain,
superintend its cultivation, and support the family.[3307]--If there are
valid reasons for legitimizing custom there are reasons of higher import
for the consecration of religion Consider this point, not in general
and according to a vague notion, but at the outset, at its birth, in
the texts, taking for an example one of the faiths which now rule in
society, Christianity, Hinduism, the law of Mohammed or of Buddha. At
certain critical moments in history, a few men, emerging from their
narrow and daily routine of life, are seized by some generalized
conception of the infinite universe; the august face of nature is
suddenly unveiled to them; in their sublime emotion they seem to have
detected its first cause; they have at least detected some of its
elements. Through a fortunate conjunction of circumstances these
elements are just those which their century, their people, a group of
peoples, a fragment of humanity is in a state to comprehend. Their point
of view is the only one at which the graduated multitudes below them are
able to accept. For millions of men, for hundreds of generations, only
through them is any access to divine things to be obtained. Theirs
is the unique utterance, heroic or affecting, enthusiastic or
tranquilizing; the only one which the hearts and minds around them and
after them will heed; the only one adapted to profound cravings,
to accumulated aspirations, to hereditary faculties, to a complete
intellectual and moral organism; Yonder that of Hindostan or of the
Mongolian; here that of the Semite or the European; in our Europe
that of the German, the Latin or the Slave; in such a way that its
contradictions, instead of condemning it, justify it, its diversity
producing its adaptation and its adaptation producing benefits.--This is
no barren formula. A sentiment of such grandeur, of such comprehensive
and penetrating insight, an idea by which Man, compassing the vastness
and depth of things, so greatly oversteps the ordinary limits of his
mortal condition, resembles an illumination; it is easily transformed
into a vision; it is never remote from ecstasy; it can express itself
only through symbols; it evokes divine figures.[3308]Religion in its
nature is a metaphysical poem accompanied by faith. Under this title it
is popular and efficacious; for, apart from an invisible select few,
a pure abstract idea is only an empty term, and truth, to be apparent,
must be clothed with a body. It requires a form of worship, a legend,
and ceremonies in order to address the people, women, children, the
credulous, every one absorbed by daily cares, any understanding in which
ideas involuntarily translate themselves through imagery. Owing to this
palpable form it is able to give its weighty support to the conscience,
to counterbalance natural egoism, to curb the mad onset of brutal
passions, to lead the will to abnegation and devotion, to tear Man away
from himself and place him wholly in the service of truth, or of his
kind, to form ascetics, martyrs, sisters of charity and missionaries.
Thus, throughout society, religion becomes at once a natural and
precious instrumentality. On the one hand men require it for the
contemplation of infinity and to live properly; if it were suddenly to
be taken away from them their souls would be a mournful void, and they
would do greater injury to their neighbors. Besides, it would be vain
to attempt to take it away from them; the hand raised against it would
encounter only its envelope; it would be repelled after a sanguinary
struggle, its germ lying too deep to be extirpated.

And when, at length, after religion and custom, we regard the State,
that is to say, the armed power possessing both physical force and moral
authority, we find for it an almost equally noble origin. It has, in
Europe at least, from Russia to Portugal and from Norway to the two
Sicilies, in its origin and essence, a military foundation in which
heroism constitutes itself the champion of right. Here and there in
the chaos of tribes and crumbling societies, some man has arisen who,
through his ascendancy, rallies around him a loyal band, driving
out intruders, overcoming brigands, re-establishing order, reviving
agriculture, founding a patrimony, and transmitting as property to
his descendants his office of hereditary justiciary and born general.
Through this permanent delegation a great public office is removed from
competition, fixed in one family, sequestered in safe hands; thenceforth
the nation possesses a vital center and each right obtains a visible
protector. If the sovereign confines himself to his traditional
responsibilities, is restrained in despotic tendencies, and avoids
falling into egoism, he provides the country with the best government
of which the world has any knowledge. Not alone is it the most stable,
capable of continuation, and the most suitable for maintaining together
a body of 20 or 30 million people, but again one of the most noble
because devotion dignifies both command and obedience and, through the
prolongation of military tradition, fidelity and honor, from grade
to grade, attaches the leader to his duty and the soldier to his
commander.--Such are the strikingly valid claims of social traditions
which we may, similar to an instinct, consider as being a blind form of
reason. That which makes it fully legitimate is that reason herself,
to become efficient, is obliged to borrow its form. A doctrine becomes
inspiring only through a blind medium. To become of practical use,
to take upon itself the government of souls, to be transformed into a
spring of action, it must be deposited in minds given up to systematic
belief, of fixed habits, of established tendencies, of domestic
traditions and prejudice, and that it, from the agitated heights of the
intellect, descends into and become amalgamated with the passive forces
of the will; then only does it form a part of the character and become
a social force. At the same time, however, it ceases to be critical and
clairvoyant; it no longer tolerates doubt and contradiction, nor admits
further restrictions or nice distinctions; it is either no longer
cognizant of, or badly appreciates, its own evidences. We of the present
day believe in infinite progress about the same as people once believed
in original sin; we still receive ready-made opinions from above, the
Academy of Sciences occupying in many respects the place of the ancient
councils. Except with a few special savants, belief and obedience
will always be unthinking, while Reason would wrongfully resent the
leadership of prejudice in human affairs, since, to lead, it must itself
become prejudiced.

III. Reason At War With Illusion.

     The classic intellect incapable of accepting this point of
     view.--The past and present usefulness of tradition are
     misunderstood.--Reason undertakes to set them aside.

Unfortunately, in the eighteenth century, reason was classic; not only
the aptitude but the documents which enable it to comprehend tradition
were absent. In the first place, there was no knowledge of history;
learning was, due to its dullness and tediousness, refused; learned
compilations, vast collections of extracts and the slow work of
criticism were held in disdain. Voltaire made fun of the Benedictines.
Montesquieu, to ensure the acceptance of his "Esprit des lois," indulged
in wit about laws. Reynal, to give an impetus to his history of commerce
in the Indies, welded to it the declamation of Diderot. The Abbé
Barthélemy covered over the realities of Greek manners and customs with
his literary varnish. Science was expected to be either epigrammatic or
oratorical; crude or technical details would have been objectionable to
a public composed of people of the good society; correctness of style
therefore drove out or falsified those small significant facts
which give a peculiar sense and their original relief to ancient
personalities.--Even if writers had dared to note them, their sense and
bearing would not have been understood. The sympathetic imagination did
not exist[3309]; people were incapable of going out of themselves,
of betaking themselves to distant points of view, of conjecturing
the peculiar and violent states of the human brain, the decisive and
fruitful moment during which it gives birth to a vigorous creation,
a religion destined to rule, a state that is sure to endure. The
imagination of Man is limited to personal experiences, and where in
their experience, could individuals in this society have found the
material which would have allowed them to imagine the convulsions of a
delivery? How could minds, as polished and as amiable as these, fully
adopt the sentiments of an apostle, of a monk, of a barbarian or feudal
founder; see these in the milieu which explains and justifies them;
picture to themselves the surrounding crowd, at first souls in despair
and haunted by mystic dreams, and next the rude and violent intellects
given up to instinct and imagery, thinking with half-visions, their
resolve consisting of irresistible impulses? A speculative reasoning of
this stamp could not imagine figures like these. To bring them within
its rectilinear limits they require to be reduced and made over; the
Macbeth of Shakespeare becomes that of Ducis, and the Mahomet of the
Koran that of Voltaire. Consequently, as they failed to see souls, they
misconceived institutions. The suspicion that truth could have been
conveyed only through the medium of legends, that justice could have
been established only by force, that religion was obliged to assume the
sacerdotal form, that the State necessarily took a military form, and
that the Gothic edifice possessed, as well as other structures, its own
architecture, proportions, balance of parts, solidity, and even beauty,
never entered their heads.--Furthermore, unable to comprehend the past,
they could not comprehend the present. They knew nothing about the
mechanic, the provincial bourgeois, or even the lesser nobility; these
were seen only far away in the distance, half-effaced, and wholly
transformed through philosophic theories and sentimental haze. "Two or
three thousand"[3310] polished and cultivated individuals formed the
circle of ladies and gentlemen, the so-called honest folks, and they
never went outside of their own circle. If they fleeting had a glimpse
of the people from their chateaux and on their journeys, it was in
passing, the same as of their post-horses, or of the cattle on their
farms, showing compassion undoubtedly, but never divining their anxious
thoughts and their obscure instincts. The structure of the still
primitive mind of the people was never imagined, the paucity and
tenacity of their ideas, the narrowness of their mechanical, routine
existence, devoted to manual labor, absorbed with the anxieties
for daily bread, confined to the bounds of a visible horizon;
their attachment to the local saint, to rites, to the priest, their
deep-seated rancor, their inveterate distrust, their credulity growing
out of the imagination, their inability to comprehend abstract rights,
the law and public affairs, the hidden operation by which their brains
would transform political novelties into nursery fables or into ghost
stories, their contagious infatuations like those of sheep, their
blind fury like that of bulls, and all those traits of character the
Revolution was about to bring to light. Twenty millions of men and more
had scarcely passed out of the mental condition of the middle ages;
hence, in its grand lines, the social edifice in which they could dwell
had necessarily to be mediaeval. It had to be cleaned up, windows put
in and walls pulled down, but without disturbing the foundations, or the
main building and its general arrangement; otherwise after demolishing
it and living encamped for ten years in the open air like savages,
its inmates would have been obliged to rebuild it on the same plan. In
uneducated minds, those having not yet attained to reflection, faith
attaches itself only to the corporeal symbol, obedience being brought
about only through physical restraint; religion is upheld by the priest
and the State by the policeman.--One writer only, Montesquieu, the best
instructed, the most sagacious, and the best balanced of all the spirits
of the age, made these truths apparent, because he was at once an
erudite, an observer, a historian and a jurisconsult. He spoke, however,
as an oracle, in maxims and riddles; and every time he touched matters
belonging to his country and epoch he hopped about as if upon red
hot coals. That is why he remained respected but isolated, his fame
exercising no influence. The classic reason refused[3311] to go so far
as to make a careful study of both the ancient and the contemporary
human being. It found it easier and more convenient to follow its
original bent, to shut its eyes on man as he is, to fall back on its
stores of current notions, to derive from these an idea of man in
general, and build in empty space.--Through this natural and complete
state of blindness it no longer heeds the old and living roots of
contemporary institutions; no longer seeing them makes it deny their
existence. Custom now appears as pure prejudice; the titles of tradition
are lost, and royalty seems based on robbery. So from now on Reason is
armed and at war with its predecessor to wrench away its control over
the minds and to replace a rule of lies with a rule of truth.

IV. Casting Out The Residue Of Truth And Justice.

     Two stages in this operation.--Voltaire, Montesquieu, the
     deists and the reformers represent the first one.--What they
     destroy and what they respect.

In this great undertaking there are two stages. Owing to common sense or
timidity many stop half-way. Motivated by passion or logic others go to
the end.--A first campaign results in carrying the enemy's out-works and
his frontier fortresses, the philosophical army being led by Voltaire.
To combat hereditary prejudice, other prejudices are opposed to it
whose empire is as extensive and whose authority is not less recognized.
Montesquieu looks at France through the eyes of a Persian, and Voltaire,
on his return from England, describes the English, an unknown species.
Confronting dogma and the prevailing system of worship, accounts
are given, either with open or with disguised irony, of the various
Christian sects, the Anglicans, the Quakers, the Presbyterians, the
Socinians, those of ancient or of remote people, the Greeks, Romans,
Egyptians, Muslims, and Guebers, of the worshippers of Brahma, of the
Chinese and of pure idolaters. In relation to established laws and
customs, expositions are made, with evident intentions, of other
constitutions and other social habits, of despotism, of limited
monarchy, of a republic, here the church subject to the state, there the
church free of the state, in this country castes, in another polygamy,
and, from country to country, from century to century, the diversity,
contradiction and antagonism of fundamental customs which, each on its
own ground, are all equally consecrated by tradition, all legitimately
forming the system of public rights. From now on the charm is broken.
Ancient institutions lose their divine prestige; they are simply human
works, the fruits of the place and of the moment, and born out of
convenience and a covenant. Skepticism enters through all the breaches.
With regard to Christianity it at once enters into open hostility, into
a bitter and prolonged polemical warfare; for, under the title of a
state religion this occupies the ground, censuring free thought, burning
writings, exiling, imprisoning or disturbing authors, and everywhere
acting as a natural and official adversary. Moreover, by virtue of being
an ascetic religion, it condemns not only the free and cheerful ways
tolerated by the new philosophy but again the natural tendencies it
sanctions, and the promises of terrestrial felicity with which it
everywhere dazzles the eyes. Thus the heart and the head both agree in
their opposition.--Voltaire, with texts in hand, pursues it from one end
to the other of its history, from the first biblical narration to the
latest papal bulls, with unflagging animosity and energy, as critic,
as historian, as geographer, as logician, as moralist, questioning its
sources, opposing evidences, driving ridicule like a pick-ax into every
weak spot where an outraged instinct beats against its mystic walls,
and into all doubtful places where ulterior patchwork disfigures the
primitive structure.--He respects, however, the first foundation, and,
in this particular, the greatest writers of the day follow the same
course. Under positive religions that are false there is a natural
religion that is true. This is the simple and authentic text of which
the others are altered and amplified translations. Remove the ulterior
and divergent excesses and the original remains; this common essence, on
which all copies harmonize, is deism.--The same operation is to be
made on civil and political law. In France, where so many survive their
utility, where privileges are no longer paid for with service, where
rights are changed into abuses, how incoherent is the architecture of
the old Gothic building! How poorly adapted to a modern nation! Of
what use, in an unique and compact state, are those feudal compartments
separating orders, corporations and provinces? What a living paradox
is the archbishop of a semi-province, a chapter owning 12,000 serfs,
a drawing room abbé well supported by a monastery he never saw, a lord
liberally pensioned to figure in antechambers, a magistrate purchasing
the right to administer justice, a colonel leaving college to take the
command of his inherited regiment, a Parisian trader who, renting a
house for one year in Franche-Comté, alienates through this act alone
the ownership of his property and of his person. Throughout Europe
there are others of the same character. The best that can be said of
"a civilized nation" [3312] is that its laws, customs and practices are
composed "one-half of abuses and one-half of tolerable usage".--But,
underneath these concrete laws, which contradict each other, and of
which each contradicts itself, a natural law exists, implied in the
codes, applied socially, and written in all hearts.

"Show me a country where it is honest to steal the fruits of my labor,
to violate engagements, to lie for injurious purposes, to calumniate, to
assassinate, to poison, to be ungrateful to one's benefactor, to strike
one's father and mother on offering you food".--"Justice and injustice
is the same throughout the universe," and, as in the worst community
force always, in some respects, is at the service of right, so, in the
worst religion, the extravagant dogma always in some fashion proclaims
a supreme architect.--Religions and communities, accordingly,
disintegrated under the investigating process, disclose at the bottom
of the crucible, some residue of truth, others a residue of justice, a
small but precious balance, a sort of gold ingot of preserved tradition,
purified by Reason, and which little by little, freed from its alloys,
elaborated and devoted to all usage, must solely provide the substance
of religion and all threads of the social warp.

V. The Dream Of A Return To Nature.

     The second stage, a return to nature.--Diderot, d'Holbach
     and the materialists.--Theory of animated matter and
     spontaneous organization.--The moral of animal instinct and
     self-interest properly understood.

Here begins the second philosophic expedition. It consists of two
armies: the first composed of the encyclopedists, some of them skeptics
like d'Alembert, others pantheists like Diderot and Lamarck, the second
open atheists and materialists like d'Holbach, Lamettrie and Helvétius,
and later Condorcet, Lalande and Volney, all different and independent
of each other, but unanimous in regarding tradition as the common enemy.
As a result of prolonged hostilities the parties become increasingly
exasperated and feel a desire to be master of everything, to push the
adversary to the wall, to drive him out of all his positions. They
refuse to admit that Reason and tradition can occupy and defend the
same citadel together; as soon as one enters the other must depart;
henceforth one prejudice is established against another prejudice.--In
fact, Voltaire, "the patriarch, does not desire to abandon his redeeming
and avenging God;"[3313] let us tolerate in him this remnant of
superstition on account of his great services; let us nevertheless
examine this phantom in man which he regards with infantile vision. We
admit it into our minds through faith, and faith is always suspicious.
It is forged by ignorance, fear, and imagination, which are all
deceptive powers. At first it was simply the fetish of savages; in
vain have we striven to purify and aggrandize it; its origin is always
apparent; its history is that of a hereditary dream which, arising in
a rude and doting brain, prolongs itself from generation to generation,
and still lasts in the healthy and cultivated brain. Voltaire wanted
that this dream should be true because, otherwise, he could not explain
the admirable order of the world. Since a watch suggests a watchmaker
he had firstly to prove that the world is a watch and, then see if the
half-finished arrangement, such as it is and which we have observed,
could not better be explained by a simpler theory, more in conformity
with experience, that of eternal matter in which motion is eternal.
Mobile and active particles, of which the different kinds are in
different states of equilibrium, these are minerals, inorganic
substances, marble, lime, air, water and coal.[3314] I form humus out of
this, "I sow peas, beans and cabbages;" plants find their nourishment
in the humus, and "I find my nourishment in the plants." At every meal,
within me, and through me, inanimate matter becomes animate; "I convert
it into flesh. I animalize it. I render it sensitive." It harbors
latent, imperfect sensibility rendered perfect and made manifest.
Organization is the cause, and life and sensation are the effects; I
need no spiritual monad to account for effects since I am in possession
of the cause. "Look at this egg, with which all schools of theology and
all the temples of the earth can be overthrown. What is this egg? An
inanimate mass previous to the introduction of the germ. And what is it
after the introduction of the germ? An insensible mass, an inert fluid."
Add heat to it, keep it in an oven, and let the operation continue
of itself, and we have a chicken, that is to say, "sensibility, life,
memory, conscience, passions and thought." That which you call soul
is the nervous center in which all sensitive chords concentrate. Their
vibrations produce sensations; a quickened or reviving sensation is
memory; our ideas are the result of sensations, memory and signs.
Matter, accordingly, is not the work of an intelligence, but matter,
through its own arrangement, produces intelligence. Let us fix
intelligence where it is, in the organized body; we must not detach it
from its support to perch it in the sky on an imaginary throne. This
disproportionate conception, once introduced into our minds, ends in
perverting the natural play of our sentiments, and, like a monstrous
parasite, abstracts for itself all our substance.[3315] The first
interest of a sane person is to get rid of it, to discard every
superstition, every "fear of invisible powers."[3316]--Then only can he
establish a moral order of things and distinguish "the natural law." The
sky consisting of empty space, we have no need to seek commands from on
high. Let us look down to the ground; let us consider man in himself, as
he appears in the eyes of the naturalist, namely, an organized body, a
sensitive animal possessing wants, appetites and instincts. Not only
are these indestructible but they are legitimate. Let us throw open the
prison in which prejudice confines them; let us give them free air and
space; let them be displayed in all their strength and all will go well.
According to Diderot,[3317] a lasting marriage is an abuse, being
"the tyranny of a man who has converted the possession of a woman into
property." Purity is an invention and conventional, like a dress;[3318]
happiness and morals go together only in countries where instinct is
sanctioned; as in Tahiti, for instance, where marriage lasts but a
month, often only a day, and sometimes a quarter of an hour, where, in
the evening and with hospitable intent, a host offers his daughters and
wife to his guests, where the son espouses his mother out of politeness,
where the union of the sexes is a religious festivity celebrated in
public.--And, pushing things to extremes, the logician ends with five
or six pages calculated "to make one's hair stand on end,"[3319] himself
avowing that his doctrine is "neither suited for children nor for
adults."--With Diderot, to say the least, these paradoxes have their
correctives. In his pictures of modern ways and habits, he is the
moralist. He not only is familiar with all the chords of the human
keyboard, but he classifies each according to its rank. He loves fine
and pure tones, and is full of enthusiasm for noble harmonies; his
heart is equal to his genius.[3320] And better still, on the question
of primitive impulses arising, he assigns, side by side with vanity,
an independent and superior position to pity, friendship, kindness and
charity; to every generous affection of the heart displaying sacrifice
and devotion without calculation or personal benefit.--But associated
with him are others, cold and narrow, who form moral systems according
to the mathematical methods of the ideologists, [3321] after the style
of Hobbes. One motive alone satisfies these, the simplest and most
palpable, utterly gross, almost mechanical, completely physiological,
the natural animal tendency of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure:

"Pain and pleasure," says Helvétius, "form the only springs of the moral
universe, while the sentiment of vanity is the only basis on which we
can lay the foundations of moral usefulness. What motive but that of
self-interest could lead a man to perform a generous action? He can as
little love good for the sake of good as evil for the sake of
evil."[3322] "The principles of natural law, say the disciples, are
reduced to one unique and fundamental principle,
self-preservation."[3323] "To preserve oneself, to be happy," is instinct,
right and duty. "Oh, yea,"[3324] says nature, "who, through the
impulsion I bestow on you, tending towards happiness at every moment of
your being, resist not my sovereign law, strive for your own felicity,
enjoy fearlessly and be happy!" But to be happy, contribute to the
happiness of others; if you wish them to be useful to you, be useful to
them. "every man, from birth to death, has need of mankind." "Live then
for them, that they may live for you." "Be good, because goodness links
hearts together; be gentle, because gentleness wins affection; be
modest, because pride repels beings full of their self-importance. . . .
Be citizens, because your country is necessary to ensure your safety and
well-being. Defend your country, because it renders you happy and
contains your possessions."

Virtue thus is simply egotism furnished with a telescope; man has no
other reason for doing good but the fear of doing himself harm, while
self-devotion consists of self-interest.

One goes fast and far on this road. When the sole law for each person
is to be happy, each wishes to be so immediately and in his own way;
the herd of appetites is let loose, rushing ahead and breaking down all
barriers. And the more readily because it has been demonstrated to
them that every barrier is an evil, invented by cunning and malicious
shepherds, the better to milk and shear them:

"The state of society is a state of warfare of the sovereign against
all, and of each member against the rest.[3325]. . We see on the face
of the globe only incapable, unjust sovereigns, enervated by luxury,
corrupted by flattery, depraved through unpunished license, and without
talent, morals, or good qualities. . . . Man is wicked not because he is
wicked, but because he has been made so."-"Would you know the story,
in brief, of almost all our wretchedness? Here it is. There existed
the natural man, and into this man was introduced an artificial man,
whereupon a civil war arose within him, lasting through life. [3326]. .
If you propose to become a tyrant over him,. . . do your best to poison
him with a theory of morals against nature; impose every kind of
fetter on him; embarrass his movements with a thousand obstacles; place
phantoms around him to frighten him. . . . Would you see him happy and
free? Do not meddle with his affairs. . . Remain convinced of this,
(wrote Diderot) that these wise legislators have formed and shaped you
as they have done, not for your benefit, but for their own. I appeal
to every civil, religious, and political institution; examine these
closely, and, if I am not mistaken, you will find the human species,
century after century, subject to a yoke which a mere handful of knaves
chose to impose on it.... Be wary of him who seeks to establish order;
to order is to obtain the mastery of others by giving them trouble."

There nothing any more to be ashamed of; the passions are good, and if
the herd would eat freely, its first care must be to trample under its
wooden shoes the mitered and crowned animals who keep it in the fold for
their own advantage.[3327]

VI. The Abolition Of Society. Rousseau.

     Rousseau and the spiritualists.--The original goodness of
     man.--The mistake committed by civilization.--The injustice
     of property and of society.

A return to nature, meaning by this the abolition of society, is the
war-cry of the whole encyclopedic battalion. The same shout is heard
in another quarter, coming the battalion of Rousseau and the socialists
who, in their turn, march up to the assault of the established régime.
The mining and the sapping of the walls practiced by the latter seems
less extensive, but are nevertheless more effective, and the destructive
machinery it employs consists of a new conception of human nature. This
Rousseau has drawn exclusively from the spectacle in his own heart:
[3328] Rousseau, a strange, original and superior man, who, from his
infancy, harbored within him a germ of insanity, and who finally became
wholly insane; a wonderful, ill-balanced mind in which sensations,
emotions and images are too powerful: at once blind and perspicacious,
a veritable poet and a morbid poet, who, instead of things and events
beheld reveries, living in a romance and dying in a nightmare of his own
creation; incapable of controlling and of behaving himself, confounding
resolution with action, vague desire with resolution, and the role
he assumed with the character he thought he possessed; wholly
disproportionate to the ordinary ways of society, hitting, wounding
and soiling himself against every hindrance on his way; at times
extravagant, mean and criminal, yet preserving up to the end a delicate
and profound sensibility, a humanity, pity, the gift of tears, the
faculty of living, the passion for justice, the sentiment of religion
and of enthusiasm, like so many vigorous roots in which generous sap is
always fermenting, whilst the stem and the branches prove abortive and
become deformed or wither under the inclemency of the atmosphere. How
explain such a contrast? How did Rousseau himself account for it? A
critic, a psychologist would merely regard him as a singular case, the
effect of an extraordinarily discordant mental formation, analogous to
that of Hamlet, Chatterton, René or Werther, adopted to poetic spheres,
but unsuitable for real life. Rousseau generalizes; occupied with
himself, even to infatuation, and, seeing only himself, he imagines
mankind to be like himself, and "describes it as the feels it inside
himself". His pride, moreover, finds this profitable; he is gratified at
considering himself the prototype of humanity; the statue he erects of
himself becomes more important; he rises in his own estimation when,
in confessing to himself, he thinks he is confessing the human species.
Rousseau convokes the assembly of generations with the trumpet of the
day of judgment, and boldly stands up in the eyes of all men and of the
Supreme Judge, exclaiming, "Let anyone say, if he dares: 'I was a better
man than Thou!'"[3329] All his blemishes must be the fault of society;
his vices and his baseness must be attributed to circumstances:

"If I had fallen into the hands of a better master....I should have been
a good Christian, a good father, a good friend, a good workman, a good
man in all things."

The wrong is thus all on the side of society.--In the same way, with Man
in general, his nature is good.

"His first impulses are always right..... The fundamental principle of
all moral questions which I have argued in all my writings, is that
Man is naturally good, and loving justice and order..... 'Emile,'
especially, is a treatise on the natural goodness of Man, intended to
show how vice and error, foreign to his constitution, gradually find
their way into it from without and insensibly change him.....Nature
created Man happy and good, while society has depraved him and made him

Imagine him divested of his factitious habits, of his superadded
necessities, of his false prejudices; put aside systems, study your own
heart, listen to the inward dictates of feeling, let yourself be guided
by the light of instinct and of conscience, and you will again find the
first Adam, like an incorruptible marble statue that has fallen into
a marsh, a long time lost under a crust of slime and mud, but which,
released from its foul covering, may be replaced on its pedestal in the
completeness of its form and in the perfect purity of its whiteness.

Around this central idea a reform occurs in the spiritualistic
doctrine.--A being so noble cannot possibly consist of a simple
collection of organs; he is something more than mere matter; the
impression he derives from his senses do not constitute his full being.

"I am not merely a sensitive and passive being, but an active and
intelligent being, and, whatever philosophy may say, I dare claim the
honor of thinking."

And better still, this thinking principle, in Man, at least, is of a
superior kind.

"Show me another animal on the globe capable of producing fire and of
admiring the sun. What? I who am able to observe, to comprehend beings
and their associations; who can appreciate order, beauty and virtue; who
can contemplate the universe and exalt myself to the hand which controls
it; who can love the good and do good, should I compare myself to
brutes!" Man is free, capable of deciding between two actions, and
therefore the creator of his actions; he is accordingly a first and
original cause, "an immaterial substance," distinct from the body, a
soul hampered by the body and which may survive the body.--This immortal
soul imprisoned within the flesh has conscience for its organ. "O
Conscience, divine instinct, immortal and celestial voice, unfailing
guide of an ignorant and finite but free and intelligent being,
infallible judge between good and evil, and rendering Man similar to
God, Thou foremost the superiority of his nature!"

Alongside of vanity, by which we subordinate everything to ourselves,
there is a love of order by which we subordinate ourselves to the whole.
Alongside of egoism, by which Man seeks happiness even at the expense of
others, is sympathy, by which he seeks the happiness of others even
at the expense of his own. Personal enjoyment does not suffice him;
he still needs tranquillity of conscience and the effusions of the
heart.--Such is Man as God designed and created him; in his organization
there is no defect. Inferior elements are as serviceable as the superior
elements; all are essential, proportionate, in proper place, not only
the heart, the conscience, the intellect, and the faculties by which we
surpass brutes, but again the inclinations in common with animals, the
instinct of self-preservation and of self-defense, the need of physical
activity, sexual appetite, and other primitive impulses as we observe
them in the child, the savage and the uncultivated Man.[3331] None
of these in themselves are either vicious or injurious. None are too
strong, even the love of self. None come into play out of season. If we
would not interfere with them, if we would impose no constraint on them,
if we would permit these sparkling fountains to flow according to their
bent, if we would not confine them to our artificial and foul channels,
we should never see them boiling over and becoming turbid. We look with
wonder on their ravages and on their stains; we forget that, in the
beginning, they were pure and undefiled. The fault is with us, in our
social arrangements, in our encrusted and formal channels whereby we
cause deviations and windings, and make them heave and bound. "Your very
governments are the cause of the evils which they pretend to remedy. Ye
scepters of iron! ye absurd laws, ye we reproach for our inability to
fulfill our duties on earth!" Away with these dikes, the work of tyranny
and routine! An emancipated nature will at once resume a direct and
healthy course and man, without effort, will find himself not only happy
but virtuous as well.[3332] On this principle the attack begins:
there is none that is pushed further, nor conducted with more bitter
hostility. Thus far existing institutions are described simply as
oppressive and unreasonable; but now they are now they are accused of
being unjust and corrupting as well. Reason and the natural desires were
the only insurgents; conscience and pride are now in rebellion. With
Voltaire and Montesquieu all I might hope for is that fewer evils might
be anticipated. With Diderot and d'Holbach the horizon discloses only
a glowing El Dorado or a comfortable Cythera. With Rousseau I behold
within reach an Eden where I shall immediately recover a nobility
inseparable from my happiness. It is my right; nature and Providence
summon me to it; it is my heritage. One arbitrary institution alone
keeps me away from it, the creator of my vices as of my misery. With
what rage and fury I will overthrow this ancient barrier!--We detect
this in the vehement tone, in the embittered style, and in the sombre
eloquence of the new doctrine. Fun and games are no longer in vogue,
a serious tone is maintained; people become exasperated, while the
powerful voice now heard penetrates beyond the drawing-room, to the rude
and suffering crowd to which no word had yet been spoken, whose
mute resentment for the first time finds an interpreter, and whose
destructive instincts are soon to be set in motion at the summons of its
herald.--Rousseau is a man of the people, and not a man of high
society. He feels awkward in a drawing-room.[3333] He is not capable of
conversing and of appearing amiable; the nice expressions only come into
his head too late, on the staircase as he leaves the house; he keeps
silent with a sulky air or utters stupidities, redeeming his awkwardness
with the sallies of a clown or with the phrases of a vulgar pedant.
Elegance annoys him, luxury makes him uncomfortable, politeness is
a lie, conversation mere prattle, ease of manner a grimace, gaiety a
convention, wit a parade, science so much charlatanry, philosophy an
affection and morals utter corruption. All is factitious, false and
unwholesome,[3334] from the make-up, toilet and beauty of women to the
atmosphere of the apartments and the ragouts on the dinner-table, in
sentiment as in amusement, in literature as in music, in government as
in religion. This civilization, which boasts of its splendor, is simply
the restlessness of over-excited, servile monkeys each imitating the
other, and each corrupting the other to, through sophistication, end
up in worry and boredom. Human culture, accordingly, is in itself bad,
while the fruit it produces is merely excrescence or poison.--Of what
use are the sciences? Uncertain and useless, they afford merely a
pasture-ground for idlers and wranglers.[3335]

"Who would want to pass a lifetime in sterile observation, if they,
apart from their duties and nature's demands, had had to bestow their
time on their country, on the unfortunate and on their friends!"--Of
what use are the fine arts? They serve only as public flattery of
dominant passions. "The more pleasing and the more perfect the drama,
the more baneful its influence;" the theater, even with Molière, is
a school of bad morals, "inasmuch as it excites deceitful souls to
ridicule, in the name of comedy, the candor of artless people." Tragedy,
said to be moralizing, wastes in counterfeit effusions the little virtue
that still remains. "When a man has been admiring the noble feats in the
fables what more is expected of him? After paying homage to virtue is
he not discharged from all that he owes to it? What more would they have
him do? Must he practice it himself? He has no part to play, he is not a
comedian."--The sciences, the fine arts, the arts of luxury, philosophy,
literature, all this serve only to effeminate and distract the mind;
all that is only made for the small crowd of brilliant and noisy insects
buzzing around the summits of society and sucking away all public
substance.--As regards the sciences, but one is important, that of our
duties, and, without so many subtleties and so much study, our innermost
conscience suffice to show us the way.--As regards the arts and the
skills, only those should be tolerated which, ministering to our prime
necessities, provide us with bread to feed us, with a roof to shelter
us, clothing to cover us, and arms with which to defend ourselves.--In
the way of existence that only is healthy which enables us to live in
the country, artlessly, without display, in family union, devoted to
cultivation, living on the products of the soil and among neighbors that
are equals and with servants that one trusts as friends.[3336]--As for
the classes, but one is respectable, that of laboring men, especially
that of men working with their own hands, artisans and mechanics,
only these being really of service, the only ones who, through their
situation, are in close proximity to the natural state, and who
preserve, under a rough exterior, the warmth, the goodness and the
integrity of primitive instincts.--Accordingly, let us call by its true
name this elegance, this luxury, this urbanity, this literary delicacy,
this philosophical eccentricity, admired by the prejudiced as the flower
of the life of humanity; it is only mold and mildew. In like manner
esteem at its just value the swarm that live upon it, namely, the
indolent aristocracy, the fashionable world, the privileged who direct
and make a display, the idlers of the drawing room who talk, divert
themselves and regard themselves as the elect of humanity, but who are
simply so many parasites. Whether parasitic or excretory, one attracts
the other, and the tree can only be well if we get rid of both.

If civilization is bad, society is worse. [3337] For this could not have
been established except by destroying primitive equality, while its two
principal institutions, property and government, are encroachments.

"He who first enclosed a plot of ground, and who took it into his to
say this belongs to me, and who found people simple enough to believe
him,[3338] was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, what
wars, what murders, what misery and what horrors would have been spared
the human race if he who, pulling up the landmark and filling up the
ditch, had cried out to his fellows: Be wary of that impostor; you are
lost if you forget that no one has a right to the land and that its
fruits are the property of all!"--The first ownership was a robbery
by which an individual abstracted from the community a portion of the
public domain. Nothing could justify the outrage, nothing added by him
to the soil, neither his industry, nor his trouble, nor his valor. "In
vain may he assert that he built this wall, and acquired this land by
his labor. Who marked it out for him, one might ask, and how do you come
to be paid for labor which was never imposed on you? Are you not aware
that a multitude of your brethren are suffering and perishing with want
because you have too much, and that the express and unanimous consent
of the whole human species is requisite before appropriating to yourself
more than your share of the common subsistence?"--

Underneath this theory we recognize the personal attitude, the grudge of
the poor embittered commoner, who, on entering society, finds the places
all taken, and who is incapable of creating one for himself; who, in his
confessions, marks the day when he ceased to feel hungry; who, for
lack of something better, lives in concubinage with a serving-woman and
places his five children in an orphanage; who is in turn servant, clerk,
vagabond, teacher and copyist, always on the look-out, using his wits to
maintain his independence, disgusted with the contrast between what he
is outwardly and what he feels himself inwardly, avoiding envy only by
disparagement, and preserving in the folds of his heart an old grudge
"against the rich and the fortunate in this world as if they were so at
his expense, as if their assumed happiness had been an infringement on
his happiness." [3339]--Not only is there injustice in the origin of
property but again there is injustice in the power it secures to itself,
the wrong increasing like a canker under the partiality of law.

"Are not all the advantages of society for the rich and for the
powerful?[3340] Do they not absorb to themselves all lucrative
positions? Is not the public authority wholly in their interest? If a
man of position robs his creditors or commits other offenses is he not
certain of impunity? Are not the blows he bestows, his violent assaults,
the murders and the assassinations he is guilty of, matters that are
hushed up and forgotten in a few months?--Let this same man be robbed
and the entire police set to work, and woe to the poor innocents
they suspect!--Has he to pass a dangerous place, escorts overrun the
country.-If the axle of his coach breaks down everybody runs to
help him.--Is a noise made at his gate, a word from him and all
is silent.--Does the crowd annoy him, he makes a sign and order
reigns.--Does a carter chance to cross his path, his attendants are
ready to knock him down, while fifty honest pedestrians might be crushed
rather than delaying a rascal in his carriage.--All these considerations
do not cost him a penny.; they are a rich man's entitlements and not the
price for being rich.--What a different picture of the poor! The more
humanity owes them the more it refuses them. All doors are closed to
them even when they have the right to have them opened, and if they
sometimes obtain justice they have more trouble than others in obtaining
favors. If there is statute labor to be carried out, a militia to raise,
the poor are the most eligible. It always bears burdens from which
its wealthier neighbor with influence secures exemption. At the least
accident to a poor man everybody abandons him. Let his cart topple over
and I regard him as fortunate if he escapes the insults of the smart
companions of a young duke passing by. In a word all assistance free of
charge is withheld from him in time of need, precisely because he cannot
pay for it. I regard him as a lost man if he is so unfortunate as to be
honest and have a pretty daughter and a powerful neighbor.--Let us sum
up in a few words the social pact of the two estates:

You need me because I am rich and you are poor: let us then make
an agreement together. I will allow you the honor of serving me on
condition that you give me the little that remains to you for the
trouble I have in governing you."

This shows the spirit, the aim and the effect of political society.--At
the start, according to Rousseau, it consisted of an unfair bargain,
made by an adroit rich man with a poor dupe, "providing new fetters
for the weak and fresh power for the rich," and, under the title of
legitimate property, consecrating the usurpation of the soil.--To day
the contract is still more unjust "by means of which a child may govern
an old man, a fool lead the wise, and a handful of people live in
abundance whilst a famished multitude lack the necessities for life."
It is the nature of inequality to grow; hence the authority of some
increases along with the dependence of the rest, so that the two
conditions, having at last reached their extremes, the hereditary and
perpetual objection of the people seems to be a divine right equally
with the hereditary and perpetual despotism of the king.--This is the
present situation and, any change, will be for the worse. "For,[3341]
the occupation of all kings, or of those charged with their functions,
consists wholly of two objects, to extend their sway abroad and to
render it more absolute at home." When they plead some other cause it is
only a pretext. "The terms public good, happiness of subjects, the glory
of the nation, so heavily employed in government announcements, never
denote other than disastrous commands, and the people shudder beforehand
when its masters allude to their paternal solicitude."--However,
this fatal point once reached, "the contract with the government is
dissolved; the despot is master only while remaining the most powerful,
and, as soon as he can be expelled, it is useless for him to cry out
against violence." Because right can only exist through consent, and no
consent nor right can exist between master and slave.

Whether between one man and another man, or between one man and a
people, the following is an absurd address: 'I make an agreement with
you wholly at your expense and to my advantage which I shall respect
as long as I please and which you shall respect as long as it pleases

Only madmen may sign such a treaty, but, as madmen, they are not in
a condition to negotiate and their signature is not binding. Only the
vanquished on the ground, with swords pointed at their throats, may
accept such conditions but, being under constraint, their promise is
null and void. Madmen and the conquered may for a thousand years have
bound over all subsequent generations, but a contract for a minor is not
a contract for an adult, and on the child arriving at the age of Reason
he belongs to himself. We at last have become adults, and we have only
to make use of our rights to reduce the pretensions of this self-styled
authority to their just value. It has power on its side and nothing
more. But "a pistol in the hand of a brigand is also power," but do you
think that I should be morally obliged to give him my purse?--I obey
only compelled by force and I will have my purse back as soon as I can
take his pistol away from him.

VII: The Lost Children.

     The lost children of the philosophic party.--Naigeon,
     Sylvain Maréchal, Mably, Morelly.--The entire discredit of
     traditions and institutions derived from it.

We stop here. It is pointless to follow the lost children of the party,
Naigeon and Sylvain Maréchal, Mably and Morelly, the fanatics that set
atheism up as an obligatory dogma and a superior duty; the socialists
who, to suppress egoism, propose a community of property, and who found
a republic in which any man that proposes to re-establish "detestable
ownership" shall be declared an enemy of humanity, treated as a "raging
maniac" and shut up in a dungeon for life. It is sufficient to have
studied the operations of large armies and of great campaigns.--With
different gadgets and opposite tactics, the various attacks have all had
the same results, all the institutions have been undermined from below.
The governing ideology has withdrawn all authority from custom, from
religion, from the State. Not only is it assumed that tradition in
itself is false, but again that it is harmful through its works, that it
builds up injustice on error, and that by rendering man blind it leads
him to oppress. Henceforth it is outlawed. Let this "loathsome thing"
with its supporters be crushed out. It is the great evil of the human
species, and, when suppressed, only goodness will remain.

"The time will then come[3342] when the sun will shine only on free men
recognizing no other master than Reason; when tyrants and slaves, and
priests with their senseless or hypocritical instruments will exist only
in history and on the stage; when attention will no longer be bestowed
on them except to pity their victims and their dupes, keeping oneself
vigilant and useful through horror of their excesses, and able to
recognize and extinguish by the force of Reason the first germs of
superstition and of tyranny, should they ever venture to reappear."

The millennium is dawning and it is once more Reason, which should set
it up. In this way we shall owe everything to its salutary authority,
the foundation of the new order of things as well as the destruction of
the old one.



[Footnote 3301: "Discours de la Methode."]

[Footnote 3302: This is evident with Descartes in the second step he
takes. (The theory of pure spirit, the idea of God, the proof of his
existence, the veracity of our intelligence demonstrated the veracity of
God, etc.)]

[Footnote 3303: See Pascal, "Pensées" (on the origin of property and
rank). The "Provinciales" (on homicide and the right to kill).--Nicole,
"Deuxième traité de la charité, et de l'amour-propre" (on the natural
man and the object of society). Bossuet, "Politique tirée de l'Ecriture
sainte." La Bruyère, "Des Esprits forts."]

[Footnote 3304: Cf. Sir. John Lubbock, "Origine de la
Civilisation."--Gerand-Teulon, "Les Origines de la famille."]

[Footnote 3305: The principle of caste in India; we see this in the
contrast between the Aryans and the aborigines, the Soudras and the

[Footnote 3306: In accordance with this principle the inhabitants of
the Sandwich Islands passed a law forbidding the sale of liquor to the
natives and allowing it to Europeans. (De Varigny, "Quatorze ans aux
iles Sandwich.")]

[Footnote 3307: Cf. Le Play, "De l'Organization de la famille," (the
history of a domain in the Pyrenees.)]

[Footnote 3308: See, especially, in Brahmin literature the great
metaphysical poems and the Puranas.]

[Footnote 3309: Montaigne (1533-92) apparently also had 'sympathetic
imagination' when he wrote: "I am most tenderly symphathetic towards the
afflictions of others," ("On Cruelty"). (SR.)]

[Footnote 3310: Voltaire, "Dic. Phil." the article on Punishments.]

[Footnote 3311: "Resumé des cahiers," by Prud'homme, preface, 1789.]

[Footnote 3312: Voltaire, Dialogues, Entretiens entre A. B. C.]

[Footnote 3313: Voltaire, "Dict.Phil.," the article on Religion. "If
there is a hamlet to be governed it must have a religion."]

[Footnote 3314: "Le rêve de d'Alembert," by Diderot, passim.]

[Footnote 3315: "If a misanthrope (a hater of mankind) had proposed to
himself to injure humanity what could he have invented better than faith
in an incomprehensible being, about which men never could come to any
agreement, and to which they would attach more importance than to their
own existence?" Diderot, "Entretien d'un philosophe avec la Maréchale
de....." (And that is just what our Marxist sociologist, psychologists
etc have done in inventing a human being bereft of those emotions which
in other animals force them to give in to their maternal, paternal and
leadership instincts thereby making them happy in the process.. SR.)]

[Footnote 3316: Cf. "Catéchisme Universel," by Saint-Lambert, and the
"Loi naturelle ou Catéchisme du citoyen français," by Volney.]

[Footnote 3317: "Supplément au voyage de Bougainville."]

[Footnote 3318: Cf. "Mémoires de Mm. D'Epinay," a conversation with
Duclos and Saint-Lambert at the house of Mlle. Quinault.--Rousseau's
"Confessions," part I, book V. These are the same principles taught by
M. de la Tavel to Mme. De Warens.]

[Footnote 3319: "Suite du rêve de d'Alembert." "Entretien entre Mlls. de
Lespinasse et Bordeu."--"Mémoires de Diderot," a letter to Mlle. Volant,
III. 66.]

[Footnote 3320: Cf. his admirable tales, "Entretiens d'un père avec ses
enfants," and "Le neveu de Rameau."]

[Footnote 3321: Volney, ibid. "The natural law. . . consists wholly of
events whose repetition may be observed through the senses and which
create a science as precise and accurate as geometry and mathematics."]

[Footnote 3322: Helvétius, "De l'Esprit." passim.]

[Footnote 3323: Volney, ibid. Chap. III. Saint-Lambert, ibid. The first

[Footnote 3324: D'Holbach, "Systeme de la Nature," II. 408 493.]

[Footnote 3325: D'Holbach, "Système de la nature," I. 347.]

[Footnote 3326: Diderot, "Supplément au voyage de Bougainville."]

[Footnote 3327: Diderot, "Les Eleuthéromanes."

     Et ses mains, ourdissant les entrailles du prêtre,
     En feraient un cordon pour le dernier des rois.

Brissot: "Necessity being the sole title to property the result is that
when a want is satisfied man is no longer a property owner. . . . Two
prime necessities are due to the animal constitution, food and waste
. . . . May men nourish themselves on their fallen creatures? (Yes for)
all beings may justly nourish themselves on any material calculated to
supply their wants. . . Man of nature, fulfill your desire, give heed to
your cravings, your sole masters and your only guide. Do you feel your
veins throbbing with inward fires at the sight of a charming creature?
She is yours, your caresses are innocent and your kisses pure. Love
alone entitles to enjoyment as hunger is the warrant for property." (An
essay published in 1780, and reprinted in 1782 in the "Bibliothèque du
Législateur," quoted by Roux and Buchez "Histoire parlementaire," XIII,

[Footnote 3328: The words of Rousseau himself ("Rousseau juge de
Jan-Jacques," third dialogue, p 193): From whence may the painter and
apologist of nature, now so disfigured and so calumniated, derive his
model if not from his own heart?]

[Footnote 3329: "Confessions," Book I. p.1, and the end of the fifth
book.--First letter to M. de Malesherbes: "I know my great faults,
and am profoundly sensible of my vices. Even so I shall die with the
conviction that of all the men I have encountered no one was better than
myself".--To Madame B--, March 16, 1770, he writes: "You have awarded me
esteem for my writings; your esteem would be yet greater for my life
if it were open to you inspection, and still greater for my heart if it
were exposed to your view. Never was there a better one, a heart more
tender or more just.... My misfortunes are all due to my virtues."--To
Madame de la Tour, "Whoever is not enthusiastic in my behalf in unworthy
of me."]

[Footnote 3330: Letter to M. de Beaumont. p.24.--Rousseau juge de
Jean-Jacques, troisième entretien, 193.]

[Footnote 3331: "Emile," book I, and the letter to M. de Beaumont,

[Footnote 3332: Article I. "All Frenchmen shall be virtuous." Article
II. "All Frenchmen shall be happy." Draft of a constitution found among
the papers of Sismondi, at that time in school. (My French dictionary
writes: "SISMONDI, (Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de) Genève, 1773--id.
1842, Swiss historian and economist of Italian origin. He was a
forerunner of dirigisme and had influenced Marx with his book: "Nouveaux
principes d'économie politique.1819. SR.)]

[Footnote 3333: "Confessions," part 2, book IX. 368. "I cannot
comprehend how any one can converse in a circle. . . . I stammer out a
few words, with no meaning in them, as quickly as I can, very glad if
they convey no sense. . . . I should be as fond of society as anybody
if I were not certain of appearing not merely to disadvantage but wholly
different from what I really am."--Cf. in the "Nouvelle Héloise," 2nd
part, the letter of Saint-Preux on Paris. Also in "Emilie," the end of
book IV.]

[Footnote 3334: "Confessions," part 2, IX. 361. "I was so weary of
drawing-rooms, of jets of water, of bowers, of flower-beds and of
those that showed them to me; I was so overwhelmed with pamphlets,
harpsichords, games, knots, stupid witticisms, simpering looks, petty
story-tellers and heavy suppers, that when I spied out a corner in a
hedge, a bush, a barn, a meadow, or when, on passing through a hamlet, I
caught the smell of a good parsley omelet. . I sent to the devil all the
rouge, frills, flounces and perfumery, and, regretting a plain dinner
and common wine, I would gladly have closed the mouth of both the head
cook and the butler who forced me to dine when I generally sup, and to
sup when a generally go to bed, but, especially the lackeys that envied
me every morsel I ate and who, at the risk of my dying with thirst, sold
me the drugged wine of their master at ten times the price I would have
to pay for a better wine at a tavern."]

[Footnote 3335: "Discours sur l'influence des sciences et des arts"--The
letter to d'Alembert on theatrical performances.]

[Footnote 3336: Does it not read like a declaration of intent for
forming a Kibbutz? (SR.)]

[Footnote 3337: "The high society (La societé) is as natural to the
human species as decrepitude to the individual. The people require arts,
laws, and governments, as old men require crutches." See the letter M.
Philopolis, p. 248.]

[Footnote 3338: See the discourse on the "Origine de l'Inégalite,"

[Footnote 3339: "Emile," book IV. Rousseau's narrative. P. 13.]

[Footnote 3340: "Discours sur l'économie politique," 326.]

[Footnote 3341: "Discours sur l'Origine de l'Inégalité," 178, "Contrat
Social," I. ch. IV.]

[Footnote 3342: Condorcet, "Tableau des progrès de l'esprit humain," the
tenth epoch.]


I. Liberty, Equality And Sovereignty Of The People.

     The mathematical method.--Definition of man in the
     abstract.--The social contract.--Independence and equality
     of the contractors.--All equal before the law and each
     sharing in the sovereignty.

Consider future society as it appears at this moment to our legislators
in their study, and bear in mind that it will soon appear under the same
aspect to the legislators of the Assembly.--In their eyes the decisive
moment has come. Henceforth two histories are to exist;[3401] one, that
of the past, the other, that of the future, formerly a history of Man
still deprived of his reason, and at present the history of the rational
human being. The rule of right is at last to begin. Of all that the
past generations have founded and transmitted nothing is legitimate.
Overlaying the natural Man they created an artificial Man, either
ecclesiastic or laic, noble or commoner, sovereign or subject,
proprietor or proletary, ignorant or cultivated, peasant or citizen,
slave or master, all being phony qualities which we are not to heed,
as their origin is tainted with violence and robbery. Strip off these
superfluous garments; let us take Man in himself, the same under all
conditions, in all situations, in all countries, in all ages, and strive
to ascertain what sort of association is the best adapted to him. The
problem thus stated, the rest follows.--In accordance with the customs
of the classic mentality, and with the precepts of the prevailing
ideology, a political system is now constructed after a mathematical
model.[3402] A simple statement is selected, and set apart, very
general, familiar, readily apparent, and easily understood by the most
ignorant and inattentive schoolboy. Reject every difference, which
separates one man from other men; retain of him only the portion common
to him and to others. The remainder constitutes Man in general, or in
other words, "a sensitive and rational being who, thus endowed, avoids
pain and seeks pleasure," and therefore aspiring to happiness, namely, a
stable condition in which one enjoys greater pleasure than pain,"[3403]
or, again, "a sensitive being capable of forming rational opinions and
of acquiring moral ideas."[3404]

Anyone (they say) may by himself experience this elementary idea, and can
verify it at the first glance. Such is the social unit; let several of
these be combined, a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million, twenty-six
millions, and you have the French people. Men born at twenty-one years
of age, without relations, without a past, without traditions, without
a country, are supposed to be assembled for the first time and, for the
first time, to treat with each other. In this position, at the moment of
contracting together, all are equal: for, as the definition states, the
extrinsic and spurious qualities through which alone all differ have
been rejected. All are free; for, according to the definition, the
unjust thralldom imposed on all by brute force and by hereditary
prejudice has been suppressed.--But if all men are equal, no reason
exists why, in this contract, any special advantage should be conceded
to one more than to another. Accordingly all shall be equal before the
law; no person, or family, or class, shall be allowed any privilege; no
one shall claim a right of which another might be deprived; no one shall
be subject to any duty from another is exempt.--On the other hand, all
being free, each enters with a free will along with the group of
wills constitute the new community; it is necessary that in the common
resolutions he should fully concur. Only on these conditions does he
bind himself; he is bound to respect laws only because he has assisted
in making them, and to obey magistrates only because he has aided in
electing them. Underneath all legitimate authority his consent or his
vote must be apparent, while, in the humblest citizen, the most exalted
of public powers must recognize a member of their own sovereignty.
No one may alienate or lose this portion of his sovereignty; it is
inseparable from his person, and, on delegating it to another, he
reserves to himself full possession of it.--The liberty, equality and
sovereignty of the people constitute the first articles of the social
contract. These are rigorously deduced from a primary definition; other
rights of the citizen are to be no less rigorously deduced from it,
the main features of the constitution, the most important civil and
political laws, in short, the order, the form and the spirit of the new

II. Naive Convictions

     The first result.--The theory easily applied.--Confidence in
     it due to belief in man's inherent goodness and

Hence, two consequences.--In the first place, a society thus organized
is the only just one; for, the reverse of all others, it is not the
result of a blind subjection to traditions, but of a contract concluded
among equals, examined in open daylight, and assented to in full
freedom.[3405] The social contract, composed of demonstrated theorems,
has the authority of geometry; hence an equal value at all times,
in every place, and for every people; it is accordingly rightfully
established. Those who put an obstacle in its way are enemies of the
human race; whether a government, an aristocracy or a clergy, they must
be overthrown. Revolt is simply just defense; in withdrawing ourselves
from their hands we only recover what is wrongfully held and which
legitimately belongs to us.--In the second place, this social code, as
just set forth, once promulgated, is applicable without misconception
or resistance; for it is a species of moral geometry, simpler than any
other, reduced to first principles, founded on the clearest and most
popular notions, and, in four steps, leading to capital truths. The
comprehension and application of these truths demand no preparatory
study or profound reflection; Reason is enough, and even common sense.
Prejudice and selfishness alone might impair the testimony; but never
will testimony be wanting in a sound brain and in an upright heart.
Explain the rights of man to a laborer or to a peasant and at once he
becomes an able politician; teach children the citizen's catechism and,
on leaving school, they comprehend duties and rights as well as the four
fundamental principles.--Thereupon hope spreads her wings to the fullest
extent, all obstacles seem removed. It is admitted that, of itself, and
through its own force, the theory engenders its own application, and
that it suffices for men to decree or accept the social compact to
acquire suddenly by this act the capacity for comprehending it and the
disposition to carry it out.

What a wonderful confidence, at first inexplicable, which assume with
regard to man an idea which we no longer hold. Man, indeed, was regarded
as essentially good and reasonable.--Rational, that is to say, capable
of assenting to a plain obvious principle, of following an ulterior
chain of argument, of understanding and accepting the final conclusion,
of extracting for himself, on the occasion calling for it, the varied
consequences to which it leads: such is the ordinary man in the eyes of
the writers of the day; they judged him by themselves. To them the human
intellect is their own, the classic intellect. For a hundred and fifty
years it ruled in literature, in philosophy, in science, in education,
in conversation, by virtue of tradition, of usage and of good taste.
No other was tolerated and no other was imagined; and if, within this
closed circle, a stranger succeeds in introducing himself, it is on
condition of adopting the oratorical idiom which the raison raisonnante
imposes on all its guests, on Greeks, Englishmen, barbarians, peasants
and savages, however different from each other and however different
they may be amongst themselves. In Buffon, the first man, on narrating
the first hours of his being, analyses his sensations, emotions and
impulses, with as much subtlety as Condillac himself. With Diderot, Otou
the Tahitian, with Bernardin de St. Pierre, a semi-savage Hindu and
an old colonist of the Ile-de-France, with Rousseau a country vicar,
a gardener and a juggler, are all accomplished conversationalists
and moralists. In Marmontel and in Florian, in all the literature of
inferior rank preceding or accompanying the Revolution, also in the
tragic or comic drama, the chief talent of the personage, whoever he may
be, whether an uncultivated rustic, tattooed barbarian or naked savage,
consists in being able to explain himself, in arguing and in following
an abstract discourse with intelligence and attention, in tracing for
himself, or in the footsteps of a guide, the rectilinear pathway of
general ideas. Thus, to the spectators of the eighteenth century, Reason
is everywhere and she stands alone in the world. A form of intellect so
universal necessarily strikes them as natural, they resemble people
who, speaking but one language, and one they have always spoken with
facility, cannot imagine another language being spoken, or that they may
be surrounded by the deaf and the dumb. And so much the more in as much
as their theory authorizes this prejudice. According to the new ideology
all minds are within reach of all truths. If the mind does not
grasp them the fault is ours in not being properly prepared; it will
comprehend if we take the trouble to guide it properly. For it has
senses the same as our own; and sensations, revived, combined and noted
by signs, suffice to form "not only all our conceptions but again
all our faculties."[3406] An exact and constant relationship of ideas
attaches our simplest perceptions to the most complex sciences, and,
from the lowest to the highest degree, a scale is practicable; if the
scholar stops on the way it is owing to our having left too great an
interval between two degrees of the scale; let no intermediary degrees
be omitted and he will mount to the top of it. To this exalted idea
of the faculties of man is added a no less exalted idea of his heart.
Rousseau having declared this to be naturally good, the refined class
plunge into the belief with all the exaggerations of fashion and all the
sentimentality of the drawing-room. The conviction is widespread that
man, and especially the man of the people, is sensitive and affectionate
by nature; that he is immediately impressed by benefactions and disposed
to be grateful for them, that he softens at the slightest sign of
interest in him, and that he is capable of every refinement. A series of
engravings represents two children in a dilapidated cottage,[3407]
one five and the other three years old, by the side of an infirm
grandmother, one supporting her head and the other giving her drink; the
father and mother enter and, on seeing this touching incident, "these
good people find themselves so happy in possessing such children they
forget they are poor." "Oh, my father," cries a shepherd youth of the
Pyrénées,[3408] "accept this faithful dog, so true to me for seven
years; in future let him follow and defend you, thus serving me better
than in any other manner." It would require too much space to follow in
the literature of the end of the century, from Marmontel to Bernardin de
Saint-Pierre, and from Florian to Berquin and Bitaubé, the interminable
repetition of these sweet insipidities. The illusion even reaches
statesmen. "Sire," says Turgot, on presenting the king with a plan of
political education,[3409] "I venture to assert that in ten years your
nation will no longer be recognizable, and through enlightenment and
good morals, in intelligent zeal for your service and for the country,
it will rise above all other nations. Children who are now ten years
of age will then be men prepared for the state, loving their country,
submissive to authority, not through fear but through Reason, aiding
their fellow-citizens, and accustomed to recognizing and respecting
justice."--In the months of January, 1789,[3410] Necker, to whom M.
de Bouillé pointed out the imminent danger arising from the unswerving
efforts of the Third-Estate, "coldly replied, turning his eyes upward,
'reliance must be placed on the moral virtues of man.'"--In the main, on
the imagination forming any conception of human society, this consists
of a vague, semi-bucolic, semi-theatrical scene, somewhat resembling
those displayed on the frontispieces of illustrated works on morals and
politics. Half-naked men with others clothed in skins, assemble together
under a large oak tree; in the center of the group a venerable old man
arises and makes an address, using "the language of nature and Reason,"
proposing that all should be united, and explaining how men are bound
together by mutual obligations; he shows them the harmony of private and
of public interests, and ends by making them appreciate of the beauty of
virtue.[3411] All utter shouts of joy, embrace each other, gather round
the speaker and elect him chief magistrate; dancing is going on under
the branches in the background, and henceforth happiness on earth is
fully established.--This is no exaggeration. The National Assembly
addresses the nation in harangues of this style. For many years
the government speaks to the people as it would to one of Gessner's
shepherds. The peasants are entreated not to burn castles because it is
painful for their good king to see such sights. They are exhorted "to
surprise him with their virtues in order that he may be the sooner
rewarded for his own."[3412] At the height of the Jacquerie tumults the
sages of the day seem to think they are living in a state of pastoral
simplicity, and that with an air on the flute they may restore to its
fold the howling pack of bestial animosities and unchained appetites.

III. Our True Human Nature.

     The inadequacy and fragility of reason in man.--The rarity
     and inadequacy of reason in humanity.--Subordination of
     reason in human conduct.--Brutal and dangerous forces.--The
     nature and utility of government. Government impossible
     under the new theory.

It is a sad thing to fall asleep in a sheep-shed and, on awakening,
to find the sheep transformed into wolves; and yet, in the event of a
revolution that is what we may expect. What we call reason in Man is not
an innate endowment, basic and enduring, but a tardy acquisition and a
fragile composition. The slightest physiological knowledge will tell us
that it is a precarious act of balance, dependent on the no less greater
instability of the brain, nerves, circulation and digestion. Take women
that are hungry and men that have been drinking; place a thousand of
these together, and let them excite each other with their cries, their
anxieties, and the contagious reaction of their ever-deepening emotions;
it will not be long before you find them a crowd of dangerous maniacs.
This becomes evident, and abundantly so, after 1789.--Now, consult
psychology. The simplest mental operation, a sensuous perception, is an
act of memory, the appliance of a name, an ordinary act of judgment is
the play of complicated mechanism, the joint and final result of several
millions of wheels which, like those of a clock,[3413] turn and propel
blindly, each for itself, each through its own force, and each kept
in place and in functional activity by a system of balance and
compensation.[3414] If the hands mark the hour with any degree of
accuracy it is due to a wonderful if not miraculous conjunction, while
hallucination, delirium and monomania, ever at the door, are always
ready to enter it. Properly speaking Man is mad, as the body is sick, by
nature; the health of our mind, like the health of our organs, is simply
a repeated achievement and a happy accident. If such happens to be the
case with the coarse woof and canvas, with the large and approximately
strong threads of our intellect, what are the chances for the ulterior
and superadded embroidery, the subtle and complicated netting forming
reason properly so called, and which is composed of general ideas?
Formed by a slow and delicate process of weaving, through a long system
of signs, amidst the agitation of pride, of enthusiasm and of dogmatic
obstinacy, what risk, even in the most perfect brain, for these ideas
only inadequately to correspond with outward reality! All that we
require in this connection is to witness the operation of the idyll in
vogue with the philosophers and politicians.--These being the superior
minds, what can be said of the masses of the people, of the uncultivated
or semi-cultivated brains? According as reason is crippled in man so is
it rare in humanity. General ideas and accurate reasoning are found only
in a select few. The comprehension of abstract terms and the habit of
making accurate deductions requires previous and special preparation, a
prolonged mental exercise and steady practice, and besides this, where
political matters are concerned, a degree of composure which, affording
every facility for reflection, enables a man to detach himself for
a moment from himself for the consideration of his interests as a
disinterested observer. If one of these conditions is wanting, reason,
especially in relation to politics, is absent.--In a peasant or a
villager, in any man brought up from infancy to manual labor, not only
is the network of superior conceptions defective, but again the internal
machinery by which they are woven is not perfected. Accustomed to the
open air, to the exercise of his limbs, his attention flags if he stands
inactive for a quarter of an hour; generalized expressions find their
way into his mind only as sound; the mental combination they ought to
excite cannot be produced. He becomes drowsy unless a powerful vibrating
voice contagiously arouses in him the instincts of flesh and blood,
the personal cravings, the secret enmities which, restrained by outward
discipline, are always ready to be set free.--In the half-cultivated
mind, even with the man who thinks himself cultivated and who reads the
newspapers, principles are generally disproportionate guests; they are
above his comprehension; he does not measure their bearings, he does not
appreciate their limitations, he is insensible to their restrictions and
he falsifies their application. They are like those preparations of the
laboratory which, harmless in the chemist's hands, become destructive
in the street under the feet of passing people.--Too soon will this be
apparent when, in the name of popular sovereignty, each commune, each
mob, shall regard itself as the nation and act accordingly; when Reason,
in the hands of its new interpreters, shall inaugurate riots in the
streets and peasant insurrections in the fields.[3415]

This is owing to the philosophers of the age having been mistaken in two
ways. Not only is reason not natural to Man nor universal in humanity,
but again, in the conduct of Man and of humanity, its influence is
small. Except with a few cool and clear intellects, a Fontenelle,
a Hume, a Gibbon, with whom it may prevail because it encounters no
rivals, it is very far from playing a leading part; it belongs to other
forces born within us, and which, by virtue of being the first comers,
remain in possession of the field. The place obtained by reason is
always restricted; the office it fulfills is generally secondary. Openly
or secretly, it is only a convenient subaltern, a domestic advocate
constantly suborned, employed by the proprietors to plead in their
behalf; if they yield precedence in public it is only through decorum.
Vainly do they proclaim it the recognized sovereign; they grant it only
a passing authority, and, under its nominal control, they remain the
inward masters. These masters of Man consists of physical temperament,
bodily needs, animal instinct, hereditary prejudice, imagination,
generally the dominant passion, and more particularly personal or family
interest, also that of caste or party. We are making a big mistake were
we assume men to be naturally good, generous, pleasant, or at any rate
gentle, pliable, and ready to sacrifice themselves to social interests
or to those of others. There are several, and among them the strongest,
who, left to themselves, would only wreak havoc.--In the first place, if
there is no certainty of Man being a remote blood cousin of the monkey,
it is at least certain that, in his structure, he is an animal closely
related to the monkey, provided with canine teeth, carnivorous, formerly
cannibal and, therefore, a hunter and bellicose. Hence there is in him
a steady substratum of brutality and ferocity, and of violent and
destructive instincts, to which must be added, if he is French, gaiety,
laughter, and a strange propensity to gambol and act insanely in the
havoc he makes; we shall see him at work.--In the second place, at the
outset, his condition casts him naked and destitute on an ungrateful
soil, on which subsistence is difficult, where, at the risk of death, he
is obliged to save and to economize. Hence a constant preoccupation and
the rooted idea of acquiring, accumulating, and possessing, rapacity and
avarice, more particularly in the class which, tied to the globe, fasts
for sixty generations in order to support other classes, and whose
crooked fingers are always outstretched to clutch the soil whose fruits
they cause to grow;-we shall see this class at work.--Finally, his more
delicate mental organization makes of him from the earliest days an
imaginative being in which swarming fancies develop themselves into
monstrous chimeras to expand his hopes, fears and desires beyond all
bounds. Hence an excess of sensibility, sudden outbursts of emotion,
contagious agitation, irresistible currents of passion, epidemics of
credulity and suspicion, in short, enthusiasm and panic, especially if
he is French, that is to say, excitable and communicative, easily thrown
off his balance and prompt to accept foreign impulsion, deprived of
the natural ballast which a phlegmatic temperament and concentration
of lonely meditations secure to his German and Latin neighbors; and all
this we shall see at work.--These constitute some of the brute forces
that control human life. In ordinary times we pay no attention to them;
being subordinated they do not seem to us formidable. We take it for
granted that they are allayed and pacified; we flatter ourselves that
the discipline imposed on them has made them natural, and that by dint
of flowing between dikes they are settled down into their accustomed
beds. The truth is that, like all brute forces, like a stream or a
torrent, they only remain in these under constraint; it is the dike
which, through its resistance, produces this moderation. Another force
equal to their force had to be installed against their outbreaks and
devastation, graduated according to their scale, all the firmer as they
are more menacing, despotic if need be against their despotism, in any
event constraining and repressive, at the outset a tribal chief, later
an army general, all modes consisting in an elective or hereditary
man-at-arms, possessing vigilant eyes and vigorous arms, and who,
with blows, excites fear and, through fear, maintains order. In the
regulation and limitation of his blows divers instrumentalities are
employed, a pre-established constitution, a division of powers, a code
of laws, tribunals, and legal formalities. At the bottom of all these
wheels ever appears the principal lever, the efficacious instrument,
namely, the policeman armed against the savage, brigand and madman each
of us harbors, in repose or manacled, but always living, in the recesses
of his own breast.[3416]

On the contrary, in the new theory, every principle promulgated, every
precaution taken, every suspicion awaked is aimed against the policeman.
In the name of the sovereignty of the people all authority is
withdrawn from the government, every prerogative, every initiative, its
continuance and its force. The people, being sovereign the government is
simply its clerk, and less than its clerk, merely its domestic.--Between
them "no contract" indefinite or at least enduring, "and which may be
canceled only by mutual consent or the unfaithfulness of one of the two
parties. It is against the nature of a political body for the sovereign
to impose a law on himself which he cannot set aside."--There is no
sacred and inviolable charter "binding a people to the forms of an
established constitution. The right to change these is the first
guarantee of all rights. There is not, and never can be, any
fundamental, obligatory law for the entire body of a people, not even
the social contract."--It is through usurpation and deception that
a prince, an assembly, and a body of magistrates declare themselves
representatives of the people. "Sovereignty is not to be represented for
the same reason that it is not to be ceded. . . . The moment a people
gives itself representatives it is no longer free, it exists no more. . .
The English people think themselves free but they deceive themselves;
they are free only during an election of members of parliament; on the
election of these they become slaves and are null. . . the deputies
of the people are not, nor can they be, its representatives; they are
simply its commissioners and can sign no binding final agreement.
Every law not ratified by the people themselves is null and is no
law."[3417]--"A body of laws sanctioned by an assembly of the people
through a fixed constitution of the State does not suffice; other fixed
and periodical assemblies are necessary which cannot be abolished or
extended, so arranged that on a given day the people may be legitimately
convoked by the law, no other formal conviction being requisite. . . The
moment the people are thus assembled the jurisdiction of the government
is to cease, and the executive power is to be suspended," society
commencing anew, while citizens, restored to their primitive
independence, may reconstitute at will, for any period they determine,
the provisional contract to which they have assented only for a
determined time. "The opening of these assemblies, whose sole object
is to maintain the social compact, should always take place with two
propositions, never suppressed, and which are to be voted on separately;
the first one, whether the sovereign( people) is willing to maintain
the actual form of the government; the second, whether the people are
willing to leave its administration in the hands of those actually
performing its duties."--Thus, "the act by which a people is subject
to its chiefs is absolutely only a commission, a service in which, as
simple officers of their sovereign, they exercise in his name the power
of which he has made them depositories, and which he may modify, limit
and resume at pleasure."[3418] Not only does it always reserve to itself
"the legislative power which belongs to it and which can belong only to
it," but again, it delegates and withdraws the executive power according
to its fancy. Those who exercise it are its employees. "It may establish
and depose them when it pleases." In relation to it they have no rights.
"It is not a matter of contract with them but one of obedience;"
they have "no conditions" to prescribe; they cannot demand of it the
fulfillment of any engagement.--It is useless to raise the objection
that, according to this, every man of spirit or of culture will decline
our offices, and that our chiefs will bear the character of lackeys.
We will not leave them the freedom of accepting or declining office;
we impose it on them authoritatively. "In every true democracy the
magistrature is not an advantage but an onerous burden, not to
be assigned to one more than to another." We can lay hands on our
magistrates, take them by the collar and set them on their benches in
spite of themselves. By fair means or foul they are the working subjects
(corvéables) of the State, in a lower condition than a valet or a
mechanic, since the mechanic does his work according to acceptable
conditions, and the discharged valet can claim his eight days' notice
to quit. As soon as the government throws off this humble attitude it
usurps, while constitutions are to proclaim that, in such an event,
insurrection is not only the most sacred right but the most imperative
duty.--The new theory is now put into practice, and the dogma of the
sovereignty of the people, interpreted by the crowd, is to result in a
complete anarchy, up to the moment when, interpreted by its leaders, it
produces perfect despotism.

IV. Birth Of Socialist Theory, Its Two Sides.

     The second result.--The new theory leads to despotism.--
     Precedents for this theory.--Administrative centralization.--
     The Utopia of the Economists.--Invalidity of preceding
     rights.--Collateral associations not tolerated.--Complete
     alienation of the individual from the community.--Rights of
     the State in relation to property, education and religion.--
     The State a Spartan convent.

For this theory has two aspects; whereas one side leads towards the
perpetual demolition of government, the other results in the unlimited
dictatorship of the State. The new social contract is not a historic
pact, like the English Declaration of Rights in 1688, or the Dutch
federation in 1579, entered into by actual and living individuals,
admitting acquired situations, groups already formed, established
positions, and drawn up to recognize, define, guarantee and complete
anterior rights. Antecedent to the social contract no veritable right
exist; for veritable rights are born solely out of the social contract,
the only valid one, since it is the only one agreed upon between beings
perfectly equal and perfectly free, so many abstract creatures, so many
species of mathematical units, all of the same value, all playing the
same part and whose inequality or constraint never disturbs the common
understanding. Hence at the moment of its completion, all other facts
are nullified. Property, family, church, no ancient institution may
invoke any right against the new State. The area on which it is built
up must be considered vacant; if old structures are partly allowed to
remain it is only in its name and for its benefit, to be enclosed within
its barriers and appropriated to its use; the entire soil of humanity
is its property. On the other hand it is not, according to the American
doctrine, an association for mutual protection, a society like other
societies, circumscribed in its purpose, restricted to its office,
limited in its powers, and by which individuals reserving to themselves
the better portion of their property and persons, assess each other for
the maintenance of an army, a police, tribunals, highways, schools, in
short, the major instruments of public safety and utility, at the same
time withholding the remainder of local, general, spiritual and material
services in favor of private initiative and of spontaneous associations
that may arise as occasion or necessity calls for them. Our State is not
to be a simple utilitarian machine, a convenient, handy implement, of
which the workman avails himself without abandoning the free use of his
hand, or the simultaneous use of other implements. Being elder born, the
only son and sole representative of Reason it must, to ensure its sway,
leave nothing beyond its grasp.--In this respect the old régime paves
the way for the new one, while the established system inclines minds
beforehand to the budding theory. Through administrative centralization
the State already, for a long time, has its hands everywhere.[3419]

"You must know," says Law to the Marquis d'Argenson, "that the
kingdom of France is governed by thirty intendants. You have neither
parliaments, assemblies or governors, simply thirty masters of requests,
provincial clerks, on whom depends the happiness or misery, the
fruitfulness or sterility of these provinces."

The king, in fact, sovereign, father, and universal guardian, manages
local affairs through his delegates, and intervenes in private affairs
through his favors or lettres-de-cachet (royal orders of imprisonment).
Such an example and such a course followed for fifty years excites
the imagination. No other instrument is more useful for carrying large
reforms out at one time. Hence, far from restricting the central power
the economists are desirous of extending its action. Instead of setting
up new dikes against it they interest themselves only in destroying
what is left of the old dikes still interfering with it. "The system of
counter-forces in a government," says Quesnay and his disciples, "is a
fatal idea. . . The speculations on which the system of counter-balance
is founded are chimerical. . . . Let the government have a full
comprehension of its duties and be left free. . . The State must govern
according to the essential laws of order, and in this case unlimited
power is requisite." On the approach of the Revolution the same doctrine
reappears, except in the substitution of one term for another term.
In the place of the sovereignty of the king the "Contrat social"
substitutes the sovereignty of the people. The latter, however, is much
more absolute than the former, and, in the democratic convent which
Rousseau constructs, on Spartan and Roman model, the individual is
nothing and the State everything.

In effect, "the clauses of the social contract reduce themselves to one,
namely, the total transfer of each associate with all his rights to the
community."[3420] Every one surrenders himself entirely, "just as he
stands, he and all his forces, of which his property forms a portion."
There is no exception nor reservation; whatever he may have been
previously and whatever may have belonged to him is no longer his own.
Henceforth whatever he becomes or whatever he may possess devolves
on him only through the delegation of the social body, the universal
proprietor and absolute master. All rights must be vested in the State
and none in the individual; otherwise there would be litigation between
them, and, "as there is no common superior to decide between them"
their litigation would never end. One the contrary, through the complete
donation which each one makes of himself, "the unity is as perfect as
possible;" having renounced himself "he has no further claim to make."

This being admitted let us trace the consequences.--

In the first place, I enjoy my property only through tolerance and at
second-hand; for, according to the social contract, I have surrendered
it;[3421] "it now forms a portion of the national estate;" If I retain
the use of its for the time being it is through a concession of the
State which makes me a "depositary" of it. And this favor must not
be considered as restitution. "Far from accepting the property
of individuals society despoils them of it, simply converting
the usurpation into a veritable right, the enjoyment of it into
proprietorship." Previous to the social contract I was possessor not
by right but in fact and even unjustly if I had large possessions;
for, "every man has naturally a right to whatever he needs," and I have
robbed other men of all that I possessed beyond my subsistence.
Hence, so far from the State being under obligation to me, I am under
obligation to it, the property which it returns to me not being mine but
that with which the State favors me. It follows, accordingly, that the
State may impose conditions on its gift, limit the use I may make of it,
according to its fancy, restrict and regulate my disposition of it, my
right to bequeath it. "According to nature,[3422] the right of property
does not extend beyond the life of its owner; the moment he dies his
possessions are no longer his own. Thus, to prescribe the conditions
on which he may dispose of it is really less to change his right in
appearance than to extend it in effect." In any event as my title is an
effect of the social contract it is precarious like the contract
itself; a new stipulation suffices to limit it or to destroy it. "The
sovereign[3423] may legitimately appropriate to himself all property, as
was done in Sparta in the time of Lycurgus." In our lay convent whatever
each monk possesses is only a revocable gift by the convent.

In the second place, this convent is a seminary. I have no right to
bring up my children in my own house and in my own way.

"As the reason of each man[3424] must not be the sole arbiter of his
rights, so much less should the education of children, which is of more
consequence to the State than to fathers, be left to the intelligence
and prejudice of their fathers." "If public authority, by taking the
place of fathers, by assuming this important function, then acquires
their rights through fulfilling their duties, they have so much the less
reason to complain inasmuch as they merely undergo a change of name,
and, under the title of citizens, exercise in common the same authority
over their children that they have separately exercised under the title
of fathers."

In other words you cease to be a father, but, in exchange, become a
school inspector; one is as good as the other, and what complaint have
you to make? Such was the case in that perpetual army called Sparta;
there, the children, genuine regimental children, equally obeyed all
properly formed men.

"Thus public education, within laws prescribed by the government and
under magistrates appointed by sovereign will, is one of the fundamental
maxims of popular or legitimate government."

Through this the citizen is formed in Advance.

"The government gives the national form to souls.[3425] Nations, in the
long run, are what the government makes them--soldiers, citizens, men
when so disposed, a populace, canaille if it pleases," being fashioned
by their education. "Would you obtain an idea of public education? Read
Plato's 'Republic.'[3426].... The best social institutions are those the
best qualified to change man's nature, to destroy his absolute being, to
give him a relative being, and to convert self into the common unity,
so that each individual may not regard himself as one by himself, but
a part of the unity, and no longer sensitive but through the whole. An
infant, on opening its eyes, must behold the common patrimony and, to
the day of its death, behold that only.... He should be disciplined so
as never to contemplate the individual except in his relations with the
body of the State."

Such was the practice of Sparta, and the sole aim of the "great
Lycurgus." "All being equal through the law, they must be brought up
together and in the same manner." "The law must regulate the subjects,
the order and the form of their studies." They must, at the very least,
take part in public exercises, in horse-races, in the games of
strength and of agility instituted "to accustom them to law, equality,
fraternity, and competition;" to teach them how "to live under the eyes
of their fellow-citizens and to crave public applause."

Through these games they become democrats from their early youth, since,
the prizes being awarded, not through the arbitrariness of masters,
but through the cheers of spectators, they accustom themselves to
recognizing as sovereign the legitimate sovereignty, consisting of the
verdict of the assembled people. The foremost interest of the State is,
always, to form the wills of those by which it lasts, to prepare the
votes that are to maintain it, to uproot passions in the soul that might
be opposed to it, to implant passions that will prove favorable to it,
to fix firmly with the breasts of its future citizens the sentiments and
prejudices it will at some time need.[3427] If it does not secure the
children it will not possess the adults, Novices in a convent must be as
monks, otherwise, when they grow up, the convent will no longer exist.

Finally, our lay convent has its own religion, a lay religion. If
I possess any other it is through its condescension and under
restrictions. It is, by nature, hostile to other associations than its
own; they are rivals, they annoy it, they absorb the will and pervert
the votes of its members.

"To ensure a full declaration of the general will it is an important
matter not to allow any special society in the State, and that each
citizen should pronounce according to it alone."[3428] "Whatever breaks
up social unity is worthless," and it would be better for the State if
there were no Church.--

Not only is every church suspicious but, if I am a Christian, my belief
is regarded unfavorably. According to this new legislator "nothing is
more opposed to the social spirits than Christianity. . . . A society
of true Christians would no longer form a society of men." For, "the
Christian patrimony is not of this world." It cannot zealously serve
the State, being bound by its conscience to support tyrants. Its law
"preaches only servitude and dependence. . . it is made for a slave,"
and never will a citizen be made out of a slave. "Christian Republic,
each of these two words excludes the other." Therefore, if the future
Republic assents to my profession of Christianity, it is on the
understood condition that my doctrine shall be shut up in my mind,
without even affecting my heart. If I am a Catholic, (and twenty-five
out of twenty-six million Frenchmen are like me), my condition is worse.
For the social pact does not tolerate an intolerant religion; any sect
that condemns other sects is a public enemy; "whoever presumes to say
that there is no salvation outside the church, must be driven out of the

Should I be, finally, a free-thinker, a positivist or skeptic, my
situation is little better.

"There is a civil religion," a catechism, "a profession of faith, of
which the sovereign has the right to dictate the articles, not exactly
as religious dogmas but as sentiments of social import without which
we cannot be a good citizen or a loyal subject." These articles embrace
"the existence of a powerful, intelligent, beneficent, foreseeing and
provident divinity, the future life, the happiness of the righteous, the
punishment of the wicked, the sacredness of the social contract and of
the laws.[3429] Without forcing anyone to believe in this creed, whoever
does not believe in it must be expelled from the State; it is necessary
to banish such persons not on account of impiety, but as unsociable
beings, incapable of sincerely loving law and justice and, if need be,
of giving up life for duty."

Take heed that this profession of faith be not a vain one, for a new
inquisition is to test its sincerity.

"Should any person, after having publicly recognized these dogmas, act
as an unbeliever, let him be punished with death. He has committed the
greatest of crimes: he has lied before the law."

Truly, as I said above, we are in a convent

V. Social Contract, Summary.

     Complete triumph and last excesses of classic reason.--How
     it becomes monomania.--Why its work is not enduring.

These articles are all inevitable consequences of the social contract.
The moment I enter the corporation I abandon my own personality; I
abandon, by this act, my possessions, my children, my church, and my
opinions. I cease to be proprietor, father, Christian and philosopher.
The state is my substitute in all these functions. In place of my will,
there is henceforth the public will, that is to say, in theory, the
mutable absolutism of a majority counted by heads, while in fact, it is
the rigid absolutism of the assembly, the faction, the individual who
is custodian of the public authority.--On this principle an outburst of
boundless conceit takes place. The very first year Grégoire states in
the tribune of the Constituent Assembly, "we might change religion if we
pleased, but we have no such desire." A little later the desire comes,
and it is to be carried out; that of Holbach is proposed, then that of
Rousseau, and they dare go much farther. In the name of Reason, of which
the State alone is the representative and interpreter, they undertake
to unmake and make over, in conformity with Reason and with Reason only,
all customs, festivals, ceremonies, and costumes, the era, the calendar,
weights and measures, the names of the seasons, months, weeks and days,
of places and monuments, family and baptismal names, complimentary
titles, the tone of discourse, the mode of salutation, of greeting,
of speaking and of writing, in such a fashion, that the Frenchman, as
formerly with the puritan or the Quaker, remodeled even in his inward
substance, exposes, through the smallest details of his conduct and
exterior, the dominance of the all-powerful principle which refashions
his being and the inflexible logic which controls his thoughts. This
constitutes the final result and complete triumph of the classic spirit.
Installed in narrow brains, incapable of entertaining two related ideas,
it is to become a cold or furious monomania, fiercely and unrelentingly
destroying a past it curses, and attempting to establish a millennium,
and all in the name of an illusory contract, at once anarchical and
despotic, which unfetters insurrection and justifies dictatorship; all
to end in a conflicting social order resembling sometimes a drunken orgy
of demons, and sometimes a Spartan convent; all aimed at replacing the
real human being, slowly formed by his past with an improvised robot,
who, through its own debility, will collapse when the external and
mechanical force that keeps it up will no longer sustain it.



[Footnote 3401: Barrère, "Point du jour," No. 1, (June 15, 1789). "You
are summoned to give history a fresh start."]

[Footnote 3402: Condorcet, ibid., "Tableau des progrès de l'esprit
humain," the tenth epoch. "The methods of the mathematical sciences,
applied to new objects, have opened new roads to the moral and political
sciences."--Cf. Rousseau, in the "Contrat Social," the mathematical
calculation of the fraction of sovereignty to which each individual is

[Footnote 3403: Saint-Lambert, "Catéchisme universel," the first
dialogue, p. 17.]

[Footnote 3404: Condorcet, ibid., ninth epoch. "From this single truth
the publicists have been able to derive the rights of man."]

[Footnote 3405: Rousseau still entertained admiration for Montesquieu
but, at the same time, with some reservation; afterwards, however, the
theory developed itself, every historical right being rejected. "Then,"
says Condorcet, (ibid., ninth epoch), "they found themselves obliged
abandon a false and crafty policy which, forgetful of men deriving equal
rights through their nature, attempted at one time to estimate those
allowed to them according to extent of territory, the temperature of
the climate, the national character, the wealth of the population, the
degree of perfection of their commerce and industries, and again to
apportion the same rights unequally among diverse classes of men,
bestowing them on birth, riches and professions, and thus creating
opposing interests and opposing powers, for the purpose of subsequently
establishing an equilibrium alone rendered necessary by these
institutions themselves and which the danger of their tendencies by no
means corrects."]

[Footnote 3406: Condillac, "Logique."]

[Footnote 3407: "Histoire de France par Estampes," 1789. (In the
collection of engravings, Bibliotheque Nationale de Paris.)]

[Footnote 3408: Mme. de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Félicie," 371-391.]

[Footnote 3409: De Tocqueville, "L'Ancien régime," 237.--Cf. "L'an
2440," by Mercier, III. vols. One of these lovely daydreams in all its
detail may be found here. The work was first published in 1770. "The
Revolution," says one of the characters, "was brought about without an
effort, through the heroism of a great man, a royal philosopher worthy
of power, because he despised it," etc. (Tome II. 109.)]

[Footnote 3410: "Mémoires de M. Bouillé," p.70.--Cf. Barante, "Tableau
de la litt. française au dixhuitième siècle," p. 318. "Civilization and
enlightenment were supposed to have allayed all passions and softened
all characters. It seemed as if morality had become easy of practice and
that the balance of social order was so well adjusted that nothing could
disturb it."]

[Footnote 3411: See in Rousseau, in the "Lettre à M. de Beaumont," a
scene of this description, the establishment of deism and toleration,
associated with a similar discourse.]

[Footnote 3412: Roux et Buchez, "Histoire parlementaire," IV. 322, the
address made on the 11th Feb., 1790. "What an affecting and sublime
address," says a deputy. It was greeted by the Assembly, with
"unparalleled applause." The whole address ought to have been quoted

[Footnote 3413: The number of cerebral cells is estimated (the cortical
layer) at twelve hundred millions (in 1880)and the fibers binding them
together at four thousand millions. (Today in 1990 it is thought that
the brain contains one million million neurons and many times more
fibers. SR.)]

[Footnote 3414: In his best-selling book "The Blind
Watchmaker",(Published 1986) the biologist Richard Dawkins writes: "All
appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the
blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way. A true
watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans
their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural
selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin
discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence
and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It
has no mind and no mind's eye. it does not plan for the future. It has
no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the
role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker." (SR.)]

[Footnote 3415: Already Michel Montaigne (1533-1592) had noted man's
tendency to over-estimate his own powers of judgment: 'So, to return to
myself, the sole feature for which I hold myself in some esteem is that
in which no man has ever thought himself defective. My self-approbation
is common, and shared by all. For who has ever considered himself
lacking in common sense? This would be a self-contradictory proposition.
Lack of sense is a disease that never exists when it is seen; it is most
tenacious and strong, yet the first glance from the patient's eye
pierces it through and disperses it, as a dense mist is dispersed by the
sun's beams. To accuse oneself would amount to self-absolution. There
never was a street-porter or a silly woman who was not sure of having as
much sense as was necessary. We readily recognize in others a
superiority in courage, physical strength, experience, agility, or
beauty. But a superior judgment we concede to nobody. And we think that
we could ourselves have discovered the reasons which occur naturally to
others, if only we had looked in the same direction.') (SR.)]

[Footnote 3416: My father's cousin, a black-smith issue from a long
line of country black-smiths, born in 1896, used to say that the basic
principle elevating children was to ensure "that the child never should
be able to exclude the possibility of good thrashing." (SR).]

[Footnote 3417: Rousseau, "Contrat social," I, ch. 7; III. ch. 13, 14,
15, 18; IV. ch. 1.--Cf. Condorcet, ninth epoch.]

[Footnote 3418: Rousseau, "Contrat social," III, 1, 18; IV, 3.]

[Footnote 3419: De Tocqueville, "L'Ancien régime," book II. entire, and
book III. ch. 3.]

[Footnote 3420: Rousseau, "Contrat social." I.6.]

[Footnote 3421: Ibidem I. 9. "The State in relation to its members is
master of all their possessions according to the social compact. . .
possessors are considered as depositaries of the public wealth."]

[Footnote 3422: Rousseau, "Discours sur l'Economie politique," 308.]

[Footnote 3423: Ibid. "Emile," book V. 175.]

[Footnote 3424: Rousseau, "Discours sur l'Economie politique," 302]

[Footnote 3425: Rousseau, on the "Government de Pologne," 277, 283,

[Footnote 3426: Ibid. "Emile," book I.]

[Footnote 3427: Morelly, "Code de la nature." "At the age of five all
children should be removed their families and brought up in common,
at the charge of the State, in a uniform manner." A similar project,
perfectly Spartan, was found among the papers of St.-Just.]

[Footnote 3428: Rousseau, "Contrat social," II. 3; IV.8.]

[Footnote 3429: Cf. Mercier, "L'an 2240," I. ch. 17 and 18. From 1770
on, he traces the programme of a system of worship similar to that of
the Théophilanthropists, the chapter being entitled: "Pas si éloigné
qu'on pense."]



Several similar theories have in the past traversed the imagination of
men, and similar theories are likely do so again. In all ages and in all
countries, it sufficed that man's concept of his own nature changed for,
as an indirect consequence, new utopias and discoveries would sprout in
the fields of politics and religion.[4101]--But this does not suffice
for the propagation of the new doctrine nor, more important, for theory
to be put into practice. Although born in England, the philosophy of the
eighteenth century could not develop itself in England; the fever for
demolition and reconstruction remained but briefly and superficial
there. Deism, atheism, materialism, skepticism, ideology, the theory of
the return to nature, the proclamations of the rights of man, all the
temerities of Bolingbroke, Collins, Toland, Tindal and Mandeville,
the bold ideas of Hume, Hartley, James Mill and Bentham, all the
revolutionary doctrines, were so many hotbed plants produced here and
there, in the isolated studies of a few thinkers: out in the open, after
blooming for a while, subject to a vigorous competition with the old
vegetation to which the soil belonged, they failed[4102].--On the
contrary, in France, the seed imported from England, takes root and
spreads with extraordinary vigor. After the Regency it is in full
bloom[4103]. Like any species favored by soil and climate, it invades
all the fields, appropriating light and air to itself, scarcely allowing
in its shade a few puny specimens of a hostile species, a survivor of
an antique flora like Rollin, or a specimen of an eccentric flora like
Saint-Martin. With large trees and dense thickets, through masses of
brushwood and low plants, such as Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau,
Diderot, d'Alembert and Buffon, or Duclos, Mably, Condillac, Turgot,
Beaumarchais, Bernadin de Saint-Pierre, Barthélemy and Thomas, such as a
crowd of journalists, compilers and conversationalists, or the elite of
the philosophical, scientific and literary multitude, it occupies the
Academy, the stage, the drawing room and the debate. All the important
persons of the century are its offshoots, and among these are some of
the grandest ever produced by humanity.--This was possible because the
seed had fallen on suitable ground, that is to say, on the soil in
the homeland of the classic spirit. In this land of the raison
raisonnante[4104] it no longer encounters the antagonists who impeded
its growth on the other side of the Channel, and it not only immediately
acquires vigor of sap but the propagating organ which it required as

I. The Propagating Organ, Eloquence.

     Causes of this difference.--This art of writing in France.--
     Its superiority at this epoch.--It serves as the vehicle of
     new ideas.--Books are written for people of the world.--
     This accounts for philosophy descending to the drawing room.

This organ is the "talent of speech, eloquence applied to the gravest
subjects, the talent for making things clear." [4105]"The great writers
of this nation," says their adversary, "express themselves better than
those of any other nation. Their books give but little information to
true savants," but "through the art of expression they influence men"
and "the mass of men, constantly repelled from the sanctuary of the
sciences by the dry style and bad taste of (other) scientific writers,
cannot resist the seductions of the French style and method." Thus the
classic spirit that furnishes the ideas likewise furnishes the means of
conveying them, the theories of the eighteenth century being like those
seeds provided with wings which float and distribute themselves on all
soils. There is no book of that day not written for people of the high
society, and even for women of this class. In Fontenelle's dialogues
on the Plurality of worlds the principal person age is a marchioness.
Voltaire composes his "Métaphysique" and his "Essai sur les Moeurs"
for Madame du Chatelet, and Rousseau his "Emile" for Madame d'Epinay.
Condillac wrote the "Traité des Sensations" from suggestions of
Mademoiselle Ferrand, and he sets forth instructions to young ladies
how to read his "Logique." Baudeau dedicates and explains to a lady his
"Tableau Economique." Diderot's most profound work is a conversation
between Mademoiselle de l'Espinasse and d'Alembert and Bordeu[4106].
Montesquieu had placed an invocation to the muses in the middle of the
"Esprit des Lois." Almost every work is a product of the drawing-room,
and it is always one that, before the public, has been presented with
its beginnings. In this respect the habit is so strong as to last up to
the end of 1789; the harangues about to be made in the National Assembly
are also passages of bravura previously rehearsed before ladies at
an evening entertainment. The American Ambassador, a practical man,
explains to Washington with sober irony the fine academic and literary
parade preceding the political tournament in public[4107].

"The speeches are made beforehand in a small society of young men and
women, among them generally the fair friend of the speaker is one, or
else the fair whom he means to make his friend,; and the society very
politely give their approbation, unless the lady who gives the tone to
that circle chances to reprehend something, which is of course altered,
if not amended."

It is not surprising, with customs of this kind, that professional
philosophers should become men of society. At no time or in any place
have they been so to the same extent, nor so habitually. The great
delight of a man of genius or of learning here, says an English
traveler, is to reign over a brilliant assembly of people of
fashion[4108]. Whilst in England they bury themselves morosely in
their books, living amongst themselves and appearing in society only
on condition of "doing some political drudgery," that of journalist or
pamphleteer in the service of a party, in France they dine out every
evening, and constitute the ornaments and amusement of the drawing-rooms
to which they resort to converse[4109]. There is not a house in which
dinners are given that has not its titular philosopher, and, later on,
its economist and man of science. In the various memoirs, and in the
collections of correspondence, we track them from one drawing room to
another, from one chateau to another, Voltaire to Cirey at Madame
du Chatelet's, and then home, at Ferney where he has a theater and
entertains all Europe; Rousseau to Madame d'Epinay's, and M. de
Luxembourg's; the Abbé Barthelemy to the Duchesse de Choiseul's;
Thomas, Marmontel and Gibbon to Madame Necker's; the encyclopedists to
d'Holbach's ample dinners, to the plain and discreet table of Madame
Geoffrin, and to the little drawing room of Mademoiselle de L'Espinasse,
all belonging to the great central state drawing-room, that is to say,
to the French Academy, where each newly elected member appears to parade
his style and obtain from a polished body his commission of master in
the art of discourse. Such a public imposes on an author the obligation
of being more a writer than a philosopher. The thinker is expected to
concern himself with his sentences as much as with his ideas. He is not
allowed to be a mere scholar in his closet, a simple erudite, diving
into folios in German fashion, a metaphysician absorbed with his own
meditations, having an audience of pupils who take notes, and, as
readers, men devoted to study and willing to give themselves trouble, a
Kant, who forms for himself a special language, who waits for a public
to comprehend him and who leaves the room in which he labors only
for the lecture-room in which he delivers his lectures. Here, on
the contrary, in the matter of expression, all are experts and even
professional. The mathematician d'Alembert publishes a small treatise on
elocution; Buffon, the naturalist pronounces a discourse on Style;
the legist Montesquieu composes an essay on Taste; the psychologist
Condillac writes a volume on the art of writing. In this consists their
greatest glory; philosophy owes its entry into society to them. They
withdrew it from the study, the closed-society and the school, to
introduce it into company and into conversation.

II. Its Method.

Owing to this method it becomes popular.

"Madame la Maréchale," says one of Diderot's personages,[4110]. "I must
consider things from a somewhat higher point of view."--"As high as you
please so long as I understand you."--"If you do not understand me it
will be my fault."--"You are very polite, but you must know that I have
studied nothing but my prayer book."--That makes no difference; the
pretty woman, ably led on, begins to philosophize without knowing
it, arriving without effort at the distinction between good and evil,
comprehending and deciding on the highest doctrines of morality and
religion.--Such is the art of the eighteenth century, and the art of
writing. People are addressed who are perfectly familiar with life,
but who are commonly ignorant of orthography, who are curious in all
directions, but ill prepared for any; the object is to bring truth down
to their level[4111]. Scientific or too abstract terms are inadmissible;
they tolerate only those used to ordinary conversation. And this is no
obstacle; it is easier to talk philosophy in this language than to
use it for discussing precedence and clothes. For, in every abstract
question there is some leading and simple conception on which the rest
depends, those of unity, proportion, mass and motion in mathematics;
those of organ, function and being in physiology; those of sensation,
pain, pleasure and desire in psychology; those of utility, contract
and law in politics and morality; those of capital, production, value,
exchange in political economy, and the same in the other sciences, all
of these being conceptions derived from passing experience; from which
it follows that, in appealing to common experience by means of a few
familiar circumstances, such as short stories, anecdotes, agreeable
tales, and the like, these conceptions are fashioned anew and rendered
precise. This being accomplished, almost everything is accomplished; for
nothing then remains but to lead the listener along step by step, flight
by flight, to the remotest consequences.

"Will Madame la Maréchale have the kindness to recall
my definition?"--"I remember it well-do you call that a
definition?"--"Yes."--"That, then, is philosophy!"--"Admirable!"--"And
I have been philosophical?"--"As you read prose, without being aware of

The rest is simply a matter of reasoning, that is to say, of leading
on, of putting questions in the right order, and of analysis. With
the conception thus renewed and rectified the truth nearest at hand is
brought out, then out of this, a second truth related to the first one,
and so on to the end, no other obligation being involved in this
method but that of carefully advancing step by step, and of omitting no
intermediary step.--With this method one is able to explain all, to make
everything understood, even by women, and even by women of society. In
the eighteenth century it forms the substance of all talents, the
warp of all masterpieces, the lucidity, popularity and authority of
philosophy. The "Eloges" of Fontenelle, the "Philosophe ignorant et le
principe d'action" by Voltaire, the "Lettre à M. de Beaumont," and the
"Vicaire Savoyard" by Rousseau, the "Traité de l'homme" and the "Époques
de la Nature" by Buffon, the "Dialogues sur les blés" by Galiani, the
"Considérations" by d'Alembert, on mathematics, the "Langue des Calculs"
and the "Logique" by Condillac, and, a little later, the "Exposition
du système du Monde" by Laplace, and "Discours généraux" by Bichat and
Cuvier; all are based on this method[4112]. Finally, this is the method
which Condillac erects into a theory under the name of ideology, soon
acquiring the ascendancy of a dogma, and which then seems to sum up
all methods. At the very least it sums up the process by which the
philosophers of the century obtained their audience, propagated their
doctrine and achieved their success.

III. Its Popularity.

     Owing to style it becomes pleasing.--Two stimulants peculiar
     to the 18th century, coarse humor and irony.

Thanks to this method one can be understood; but, to be read, something
more is necessary. I compare the eighteenth century to a company of
people around a table; it is not sufficient that the food before them be
well prepared, well served, within reach and easy to digest, but it
is important that it should be some choice dish or, better still,
some dainty. The intellect is Epicurean; let us supply it with savory,
delicate viands adapted to its taste; it will eat so much the more owing
to its appetite being sharpened by sensuality. Two special condiments
enter into the cuisine of this century, and, according to the hand that
makes use of them, they furnish all literary dishes with a coarse or
delicate seasoning. In an Epicurean society, to which a return to nature
and the rights of instinct are preached, voluptuous images and ideas
present themselves involuntarily; this is the appetizing, exciting
spice-box. Each guest at the table uses or abuses it; many empty its
entire contents on their plate. And I do not allude merely to the
literature read in secret, to the extraordinary books Madame d'Audlan,
governess to the French royal children, peruses, and which stray off
into the hands of the daughters of Louis XV,[4113] nor to other books,
still more extraordinary,[4114] in which philosophical arguments appear
as an interlude between filth and the illustrations, and which are kept
by the ladies of the court on their toilet-tables, under the title of
"Heures de Paris." I refer here to the great men, to the masters of the
public intellect. With the exception of Buffon, all put pimento into
their sauces, that is to say, loose talk or coarseness of expression. We
find this even in the" Esprit des Lois;" there is an enormous amount of
it, open and covered up, in the "Lettres Persanes." Diderot, in his two
great novels, puts it in by handfuls, as if during an orgy. The teeth
crunch on it like so many grains of pepper, on every page of Voltaire.
We find it, not only piquant, but strong and of burning intensity,
in the "Nouvelle Héloïse," scores of times in "Emile," and, in the
"Confessions," from one end to the other. It was the taste of the day.
M. de Malesherbes, so upright and so grave, committed "La Pucelle" to
memory and recited it. We have from the pen of Saint-Just, the gloomiest
of the "Mountain," a poem as lascivious as that of Voltaire, while
Madame Roland, the noblest of the Girondins, has left us confessions as
venturesome and specific as those of Rousseau[4115].--On the other hand
there is a second box, that containing the old Gallic salt, that is
to say, humor and raillery. Its mouth is wide open in the hands of a
philosophy proclaiming the sovereignty of reason. Whatever is contrary
to Reason is to it absurd and therefore open to ridicule. The moment the
solemn hereditary mask covering up an abuse is brusquely and adroitly
torn aside, we feel a curious spasm, the corners of our mouth stretching
apart and our breast heaving violently, as at a kind of sudden relief,
an unexpected deliverance, experiencing a sense of our recovered
superiority, of our revenge being gratified and of an act of justice
having been performed. But it depends on the mode in which the mask is
struck off whether the laugh shall be in turn light or loud, suppressed
or unbridled, now amiable and cheerful, or now bitter and sardonic.
Humor (la plaisanterie) comports with all aspects, from buffoonery to
indignation; no literary seasoning affords such a variety, or so
many mixtures, nor one that so well enters into combination with that
above-mentioned. The two together, from the middle ages down, form the
principal ingredients employed by the French cuisine in the composition
of its most agreeable dainties,--fables, tales, witticisms, jovial songs
and waggeries, the eternal heritage of a good-humored, mocking
people, preserved by La Fontaine athwart the pomp and sobriety of the
seventeenth century, and, in the eighteenth, reappearing everywhere at
the philosophic banquet. Its charm is great to the brilliant company at
this table, so amply provided, whose principal occupation is pleasure
and amusement. It is all the greater because, on this occasion, the
passing disposition is in harmony with hereditary instinct, and because
the taste of the epoch is fortified by the national taste. Add to all
this the exquisite art of the cooks, their talent in commingling, in
apportioning and in concealing the condiments, in varying and arranging
the dishes, the certainty of their hand, the finesse of their palate,
their experience in processes, in the traditions and practices which,
already for a hundred years, form of French prose the most delicate
nourishment of the intellect. It is not strange to find them skilled in
regulating human speech, in extracting from it its quintessence and in
distilling its full delight.

IV. The Masters.

     The art and processes of the masters.--Montesquieu.--
     Voltaire.--Diderot.--Rousseau.--"The Marriage of Figaro."

In this respect four among them are superior, Montesquieu, Voltaire,
Diderot and Rousseau. It seems sufficient to mention their names. Modern
Europe has no greater writers. And yet their talent must be closely
examined to properly comprehend their power.--In tone and style
Montesquieu is the first. No writer is more master of himself, more
outwardly calm, more sure of his meaning. His voice is never boisterous;
he expresses the most powerful thoughts with moderation. There is no
gesticulation; exclamations, the abandonment of impulse, all that is
irreconcilable with decorum is repugnant to his tact, his reserve, his
dignity. He seems to be always addressing a select circle of people
with acute minds, and in such a way as to render them at every moment
conscious of their acuteness. No flattery could be more delicate; we
feel grateful to him for making us satisfied with our intelligence.
We must possess some intelligence to be able to read him, for he
deliberately curtails developments and omits transitions; we are
required to supply these and to comprehend his hidden meanings. He is
rigorously systematic but the system is concealed, his concise completed
sentences succeeding each other separately, like so many precious
coffers or caskets, now simple and plain in aspect, now superbly chased
and decorated, but always full. Open them and each contains a treasure;
here is placed in narrow compass a rich store of reflections, of
emotions, of discoveries, our enjoyment being the more intense because
we can easily retain all this for a moment in the palm of our hand.
"That which usually forms a grand conception," he himself says, "is
a thought so expressed as to reveal a number of other thoughts, and
suddenly disclosing what we could not anticipate without patient study."
This, indeed, is his manner; he thinks with summaries; he concentrates
the essence of despotism in a chapter of three lines. The summary itself
often bears the air of an enigma, of which the charm is twofold; we have
the pleasure of comprehension accompanying the satisfaction of divining.
In all subjects he maintains this supreme discretion, this art of
indicating without enforcing, these reticences, the smile that never
becomes a laugh.

"In my defense of the 'Esprit des Lois,"' he says, "that which gratifies
me is not to see venerable theologians crushed to the ground but to see
them glide down gently."

He excels in tranquil irony, in polished disdain,[4116] in disguised
sarcasm. His Persians judge France as Persians, and we smile at
their errors; unfortunately the laugh is not against them but against
ourselves, for their error is found to be a verity[4117]. This or
that letter, in a sober vein, seems a comedy at their expense
without reflecting upon us, full of Muslim prejudices and of oriental
conceit;[4118] reflect a moment, and our conceit, in this relation,
appears no less. Blows of extraordinary force and reach are given in
passing, as if thoughtlessly, against existing institutions, against the
transformed Catholicism which "in the present state of Europe, cannot
last five hundred years," against the degenerate monarchy which causes
useful citizens to starve to fatten parasite courtiers[4119]. The entire
new philosophy blooms out in his hands with an air of innocence, in a
pastoral romance, in a simple prayer, in an artless letter[4120]. None
of the gifts which serve to arrest and fix the attention are wanting
in this style, neither grandeur of imagination nor profound sentiment,
vivid characterization, delicate gradations, vigorous precision, a
sportive grace, unlooked-for burlesque, nor variety of representation.
But, amidst so many ingenious tricks, apologues, tales, portraits and
dialogues, in earnest as well as when masquerading, his deportment
throughout is irreproachable and his tone is perfect. If; as an author,
he develops a paradox it is with almost English gravity. If he
fully exposes indecency it is with decent terms. In the full tide of
buffoonery, as well as in the full blast of license, he is ever the
well-bred man, born and brought up in the aristocratic circle in which
full liberty is allowed but where good-breeding is supreme, where
every idea is permitted but where words are weighed, where one has the
privilege of saying what he pleases, but on condition that he never
forgets himself.

A circle of this kind is a small one, comprising only a select few;
to be understood by the multitude requires another tone of voice.
Philosophy demands a writer whose principal occupation is a diffusion of
it, who is unable to keep it to himself; who pours it out like a gushing
fountain, who offers it to everybody, daily and in every form, in broad
streams and in small drops, without exhaustion or weariness, through
every crevice and by every channel, in prose, in verse, in imposing and
in trifling poems, in the drama, in history, in novels, in pamphlets, in
pleadings, in treatises, in essays, in dictionaries, in correspondence,
openly and in secret, in order that it may penetrate to all depths and
in every soil; such was Voltaire.--"I have accomplished more in my
day," he says somewhere, "than either Luther or Calvin," in which he is
mistaken. The truth is, however, he has something of their spirit. Like
them he is desirous of changing the prevailing religion, he takes
the attitude of the founder of a sect, he recruits and binds together
proselytes, he writes letters of exhortation, of direction and of
predication, he puts watchwords in circulation, he furnishes "the
brethren" with a device; his passion resembles the zeal of an apostle or
of a prophet. Such a spirit is incapable of reserve; it is militant and
fiery by nature; it apostrophizes, reviles and improvises; it writes
under the dictation of impressions; it allows itself every species of
utterance and, if need be, the coarsest. It thinks by explosions; its
emotions are sudden starts, and its images so many sparks; it lets the
rein go entirely; it gives itself up to the reader and hence it takes
possession of him. Resistance is impossible; the contagion is too
overpowering. A creature of air and flame, the most excitable that ever
lived, composed of more ethereal and more throbbing atoms than those of
other men; none is there whose mental machinery is more delicate, nor
whose equilibrium is at the same time more shifting and more exact. He
may be compared to those accurate scales that are affected by a breath,
but alongside of which every other measuring apparatus is incorrect and
clumsy.--But, in this delicate balance only the lightest weights, the
finest specimen must be placed; on this condition only it rigorously
weighs all substances; such is Voltaire, involuntarily, through the
demands of his intellect, and in his own behalf as much as in that of
his readers. An entire philosophy, ten volumes of theology, an abstract
science, a special library, an important branch of erudition, of human
experience and invention, is thus reduced in his hands to a phrase or to
a stanza. From the enormous mass of riven or compact scorioe he extracts
whatever is essential, a grain of gold or of copper as a specimen of the
rest, presenting this to us in its most convenient and most manageable
form, in a simile, in a metaphor, in an epigram that becomes a proverb.
In this no ancient or modern writer approaches him; in simplification
and in popularization he has not his equal in the world. Without
departing from the usual conversational tone, and as if in sport,
he puts into little portable phrases the greatest discoveries and
hypotheses of the human mind, the theories of Descartes, Malebranche,
Leibnitz, Locke and Newton, the diverse religions of antiquity and
of modern times, every known system of physics, physiology, geology,
morality, natural law, and political economy,[4121] in short, all the
generalized conceptions in every order of knowledge to which humanity
had attained in the eighteenth century.--Voltaire's inclination is
so strong that it carries him too far; he belittles great things by
rendering them accessible. Religion, legend, ancient popular poesy, the
spontaneous creations of instinct, the vague visions of primitive tunes
are not thus to be converted into small current coin; they are not
subjects of amusing and lively conversation. A piquant witticism is not
an expression of all this, but simply a travesty. But how charming to
Frenchmen, and to people of the world! And what reader can abstain from
a book containing all human knowledge summed up in piquant witticisms?
For it is really a summary of human knowledge, no important idea, as
far as I can see, being wanting to a man whose breviary consisted of the
"Dialogues," the "Dictionary," and the "Novels." Read them over and over
five or six times, and we then form some idea of their vast contents.
Not only do views of the world and of man abound in them, but again
they swarm with positive and even technical details, thousands of little
facts scattered throughout, multiplied and precise details on astronomy,
physics, geography, physiology, statistics, and on the history of all
nations, the innumerable and personal experiences of a man who has
himself read the texts, handled the instruments, visited the countries,
taken part in the industries, and associated with the persons, and
who, in the precision of his marvelous memory, in the liveliness of
his ever-blazing imagination, revives or sees, as with the eye itself,
everything that he states and as he states it. It is a unique talent,
the rarest in a classic era, the most precious of all, since it
consists in the display of actual beings, not through the gray veil of
abstractions, but in themselves, as they are in nature and in history,
with their visible color and forms, with their accessories and
surroundings in time and space, a peasant at his cart, a Quaker in
his meeting-house, a German baron in his castle, Dutchmen, Englishmen,
Spaniards, Italians, Frenchmen, in their homes,[4122] a great lady, a
designing woman, provincials, soldiers, prostitutes,[4123] and the
rest of the human medley, on every step of the social ladder, each an
abridgment of his kind and in the passing light of a sudden flash.

For, the most striking feature of this style is the prodigious rapidity,
the dazzling and bewildering stream of novelties, ideas, images, events,
landscapes, narratives, dialogues, brief little pictures, following
each other rapidly as if in a magic-lantern, withdrawn almost as soon
as presented by the impatient magician who, in the twinkling of an eye,
girdles the world and, constantly accumulating one on top of the other,
history, fable, truth and fancy, the present time and times past, frames
his work now with a parade as absurd as that of a country fair, and
now with a fairy scene more magnificent than all those of the opera. To
amuse and be amused, "to diffuse his spirit in every imaginable mode,
like a glowing furnace into which all substances are thrown by turns to
evolve every species of flame, sparkle and odor," is his first instinct.
"Life," he says again, "is an infant to be rocked until it goes
to sleep." Never was a mortal more excited and more exciting, more
incapable of silence and more hostile to ennui,[4124] better endowed for
conversation, more evidently destined to become the king of a sociable
century in which, with six pretty stories, thirty witticisms and some
confidence in himself, a man could obtain a social passport and
the certainty of being everywhere welcome. Never was there a writer
possessing to so high a degree and in such abundance every qualification
of the conversationalist, the art of animating and of enlivening
discourse, the talent for giving pleasure to people of society.
Perfectly refined when he chose to be, confining himself without
inconvenience to strict decorum, of finished politeness, of exquisite
gallantry, deferential without being servile, fond without being
mawkish,[4125] and always at his ease, it suffices that he should be
before the public, to fall naturally into the proper tone, the discreet
ways, the winning half-smile of the well-bred man who, introducing his
readers into his mind, does them the honors of the place. Are you on
familiar terms with him, and of the small private circle in which he
freely unbends himself, with closed doors? You never tire of laughing.
With a sure hand and without seeming to touch it, he abruptly tears
aside the veil hiding a wrong, a prejudice, a folly, in short, any human
idolatry. The real figure, misshapen, odious or dull, suddenly appears
in this instantaneous flash; we shrug our shoulders. This is the
risibility of an agile, triumphant reason. We have another in that
of the gay temperament, of the droll improvisator, of the man keeping
youthful, a child, a boy even to the day of his death, and who "gambols
on his own tombstone." He is fond of caricature, exaggerating the
features of faces, bringing grotesques on the stage,[4126] walking them
about in all lights like marionettes, never weary of taking them up
and of making them dance in new costumes; in the very midst of his
philosophy, of his propaganda and polemics, he sets up his portable
theater in full blast, exhibiting oddities, the scholar, the monk, the
inquisitor, Maupertuis, Pompignan, Nonotte, Fréron, King David, and
countless others who appear before us, capering and gesticulating in
their harlequin attire.--When a farcical talent is thus moved to tell
the truth, humor becomes all-powerful; for it gratifies the profound and
universal instincts of human nature: to the malicious curiosity, to the
desire to mock and belitte, to the aversion to being in need or under
constraint, those sources of bad moods which task convention, etiquette
and social obligation with wearing the burdensome cloak of respect and
of decency; moments occur in life when the wisest is not sorry to throw
this half aside and even cast it off entirely.--On each page, now with
the bold stroke of a hardy naturalist, now with the quick turn of a
mischievous monkey, Voltaire lets the solemn or serious drapery fall,
disclosing man, the poor biped, and in which attitudes![4127] Swift
alone dared to present similar pictures. What physiological crudities
relating to the origin and end of our most exalted sentiments! What
disproportion between such feeble reason and such powerful instincts!
What recesses in the wardrobes of politics and religion concealing their
foul linen! We laugh at all this so as not to weep, and yet behind this
laughter there are tears; he ends sneeringly, subsiding into a tone
of profound sadness, of mournful pity. In this degree, and with such
subjects, it is only an effect of habit, or as an expedient, a mania of
inspiration, a fixed condition of the nervous machinery rushing headlong
over everything, without a break and in full speed. Gaiety, let it not
be forgotten, is still a incentive of action, the last that keeps man
erect in France, the best in maintaining the tone of his spirit, his
strength and his powers of resistance, the most intact in an age when
men, and women too, believed it incumbent on them to die people of good
society, with a smile and a jest on their lips[4128].

When the talent of a writer thus accords with public inclinations it
is a matter of little import whether he deviates or fails since he is
following the universal tendency. He may wander off or besmirch himself
in vain, for his audience is only the more pleased, his defects serving
him as advantageously as his good qualities. After the first generation
of healthy minds the second one comes on, the intellectual balance here
being equally inexact. "Diderot," says Voltaire, "is too hot an oven,
everything that is baked in it getting burnt." Or rather, he is an
eruptive volcano which, for forty years, discharges ideas of every order
and species, boiling and fused together, precious metals, coarse scorioe
and fetid mud; the steady stream overflows at will according to the
roughness of the ground, but always displaying the ruddy light and acrid
fumes of glowing lava. He is not master of his ideas, but his ideas
master him; he is under submission to them; he has not that firm
foundation of common practical sense which controls their impetuosity
and ravages, that inner dyke of social caution which, with Montesquieu
and Voltaire, bars the way to outbursts. Everything with him rushes
out of the surcharged crater, never picking its way, through the first
fissure or crevice it finds, according to his haphazard reading, a
letter, a conversation, an improvisation, and not in frequent small jets
as with Voltaire, but in broad currents tumbling blindly down the most
precipitous declivities of the century. Not only does he descend thus
to the very depths of anti-religious and anti-social doctrines,
with logical and paradoxical rigidity, more impetuously and more
obstreperously than d'Holbach himself; but again he falls into and
sports himself in the slime of the age, consisting of obscenity, and
into the beaten track of declamation. In his leading novels he dwells a
long time on salacious equivocation, or on a scene of lewdness. Crudity
with him is not extenuated by malice or glossed over by elegance. He
is neither refined nor pungent; is quite incapable, like the younger
Crébillon, of depicting the scapegrace of ability. He is a new-comer,
a parvenu in standard society; you see in him a commoner, a powerful
reasoner, an indefatigable workman and great artist, introduced, through
the customs of the day, at a supper of fashionable livers. He engrosses
the conversation, directs the orgy, or in the contagion or on a wager,
says more filthy things, more "gueulées," than all the guests put
together[4129]. In like manner, in his dramas, in his "Essays on
Claudius and Nero," in his "Commentary on Seneca," in his additions to
the "Philosophical History" of Raynal, he forces the tone of things.
This tone, which then prevails by virtue of the classic spirit and of
the new fashion, is that of sentimental rhetoric. Diderot carries it to
extremes in the exaggeration of tears or of rage, in exclamations, in
apostrophes, in tenderness of feeling, in violences, indignation, in
enthusiasms, in full-orchestra tirades, in which the fire of his brains
finds employment and an outlet.--On the other hand, among so many
superior writers, he is the only genuine artist, the creator of souls,
within his mind objects, events and personages are born and become
organized of themselves, through their own forces, by virtue of natural
affinities, involuntarily, without foreign intervention, in such a way
as to live for and in themselves, safe from the author's intentions, and
outside of his combinations. The composer of the "Salons," the "Petits
Romans," the "Entretien," the "Paradoxe du Comédien," and especially
the "Rêve de d'Alembert" and the "Neveu de Rameau "is a man of an unique
species in his time. However alert and brilliant Voltaire's personages
may be, they are always puppets; their action is derivative; always
behind them you catch a glimpse of the author pulling the strings. With
Diderot, the strings are severed; he is not speaking through the lips of
his characters; they are not his comical loud-speakers or puppets,
but independent and detached persons, with an action of their own,
a personal accent, with their own temperament, passions, ideas,
philosophy, style and spirit, and occasionally, as in the "Neveu de
Rameau," a spirit so original, complex and complete, so alive and so
deformed that, in the natural history of man, it becomes an incomparable
monster and an immortal document. He has expressed everything concerning
nature,[4130] art morality and life[4131] in two small treatises of
which twenty successive readings exhaust neither the charm nor the
sense. Find elsewhere, if you can, a similar stroke of power
and a greater masterpiece, "anything more absurd and more
profound!"[4132]--Such is the advantage of men of genius possessing
no control over themselves. They lack discernment but they have
inspiration. Among twenty works, either soiled, rough or nasty, they
produce a creation, and still better, an animated being, able to live by
itself, before which others, fabricated by merely intellectual people,
resemble simply well-dressed puppets.--Hence it is that Diderot is so
great a narrator, a master of dialogue, the equal in this respect of
Voltaire, and, through a quite opposite talent, believing all he says at
the moment of saying it; forgetful of his very self, carried away by his
own recital, listening to inward voices, surprised with the responses
which come to him unexpectedly, borne along, as if on an unknown
river, by the current of action, by the sinuosities of the conversation
inwardly and unconsciously developed, aroused by the flow of ideas
and the leap of the moment to the most unexpected imagery, extreme in
burlesque or extreme in magnificence, now lyrical even to providing
Musset with an entire stanza,[4133] now comic and droll with outbursts
unheard of since the days of Rabelais, always in good faith, always at
the mercy of his subject, of his inventions, of his emotions; the most
natural of writers in an age of artificial literature, resembling a
foreign tree which, transplanted to a parterre of the epoch, swells out
and decays on one side of its stem, but of which five or six branches,
thrust out into full light, surpass the neighboring underwood in the
freshness of their sap and in the vigor of their growth.

Rousseau also is an artisan, a man of the people, ill-adapted to elegant
and refined society, out of his element in a drawing room and, moreover,
of low birth, badly brought up, sullied by a vile and precocious
experience, highly and offensively sensual, morbid in mind and in body,
fretted by superior and discordant faculties, possessing no tact, and
carrying the contamination of his imagination, temperament and past life
into his austere morality and into his purest idylls;[4134] besides this
he has no fervor, and in this he is the opposite of Diderot, avowing
himself" that his ideas arrange themselves in his head with the utmost
difficulty, that certain sentences are turned over and over again in his
brain for five or six nights before putting them on paper, and that a
letter on the most trifling subject costs him hours of fatigue," that he
cannot fall into an easy and agreeable tone, nor succeed otherwise than
"in works which demand application."[4135] As an offset to this,
style, in this ardent brain, under the influence of intense, prolonged
meditation, incessantly hammered and rehammered, becomes more concise
and of higher temper than is elsewhere found. Since La Bruyère we
have seen no more ample, virile phrases, in which anger, admiration,
indignation, studied and concentrated passion, appear with more rigorous
precision and more powerful relief. He is almost the equal of La Bruyère
in the arrangement of skillful effects, in the aptness and ingenuity
of developments, in the terseness of impressive summaries, in the
overpowering directness of unexpected arguments, in the multiplicity of
literary achievements, in the execution of those passages of bravura,
portraits, descriptions, comparisons, creations, wherein, as in a
musical crescendo, the same idea, varied by a series of yet more
animated expressions, attains to or surpasses, at the last note, all
that is possible of energy and of brilliancy. Finally, he has that which
is wanting in La Bruyère; his passages are linked together; he is not
a writer of pages but of books; no logician is more condensed. His
demonstration is knitted together, mesh by mesh, for one, two and three
volumes like a great net without an opening in which, willingly or not,
we remain caught. He is a systematizer who, absorbed with himself; and
with his eyes stubbornly fixed on his own reverie or his own principle,
buries himself deeper in it every day, weaving its consequences off one
by one, and always holding fast to the various ends. Do not go near him.
Like a solitary, enraged spider he weaves this out of his own substance,
out of the most cherished convictions of his brain and the deepest
emotions of his heart. He trembles at the slightest touch; ever on the
defensive, he is terrible,[4136] beside himself;[4137] even venomous
through suppressed exasperation and wounded sensibility, furious against
an adversary, whom he stifles with the multiplied and tenacious threads
of his web, but still more redoubtable to himself than to his enemies,
soon caught in his own meshes,[4138] believing that France and the
universe conspire against him, deducing with wonderful subtlety the
proofs of this chimerical conspiracy, made desperate, at last, by his
over-plausible romance, and strangling in the cunning toils which, by
dint of his own logic and imagination, he has fashioned for himself.

With such weapons one might accidentally kill oneself, but one is
strongly armed. Rousseau was well equipped, at least as powerful as
Voltaire; it may be said that the last half of the eighteenth century
belongs to him. A foreigner, a Protestant, original in temperament, in
education, in heart, in mind and in habits, at once misanthropic and
philanthropic, living in an ideal world constructed by himself, entirely
opposed to the world as it is, he finds himself standing in a new
position. No one is so sensitive to the evils and vices of actual
society. No one is so affected by the virtues and happiness of the
society of the future. This accounts for his having two holds on the
public mind, one through satire and the other through the idyll.--These
two holds are undoubtedly slighter at the present day; the substance
of their grasp has disappeared; we are not the auditors to which it
appealed. The famous discourse on the influence of literature and on the
origin of inequality seems to us a collegiate exaggeration; an effort
of the will is required to read the "Nouvelle Héloïse." The author is
repulsive in the persistency of his spitefulness or in the exaggeration
of his enthusiasm. He is always in extremes, now moody and with knit
brows, and now streaming with tears and with arms outstretched to
Heaven. Hyperbole, prosopopaeia, and other literary machinery are too
often and too deliberately used by him. We are tempted to regard him
now as a sophist making the best use of his arts, now as a rhetorician
cudgeling his brains for a purpose, now as a preacher becoming excited,
that is to say, an actor ever maintaining a thesis, striking an attitude
and aiming at effects. Finally, with the exception of the "Confessions"
his style soon wearies us; it is too studied, and too constantly
overstrained. The author is always the author, and he communicates
the defect to his personages. His Julie argues and descants for
twenty successive pages on dueling, on love, on duty, with a logical
completeness, a talent and phrases that would do honor to an academical
moralist. Commonplace exists everywhere, general themes, a raking fire
of abstractions and arguments, that is to say, truths more or less
empty and paradoxes more or less hollow. The smallest detail of fact, an
anecdote, a trait of habit, would suit us much better, and hence we of
to day prefer the precise eloquence of objects to the lax eloquence of
words. In the eighteenth century it was otherwise; to every writer this
oratorical style was the prescribed ceremonial costume, the dress-coat
he had to put on for admission into the company of select people. That
which seems to us affectation was then only proper; in a classic epoch
the perfect period and the sustained development constitute decorum,
and are therefore to be observed.--It must be noted, moreover, that this
literary drapery which, with us of the present day, conceals truth
did not conceal it to his contemporaries; they saw under it the exact
feature, the perceptible detail no longer detected by us. Every abuse,
every vice, every excess of refinement and of culture, all that social
and moral disease which Rousseau scourged with an author's emphasis,
existed before them under their own eyes, in their own breasts, visible
and daily manifested in thousands of domestic incidents. In applying
satire they had only to observe or to remember. Their experience
completed the book, and, through the co-operation of his readers, the
author possessed power which he is now deprived of. If we were to
put ourselves in their place we should recover their impressions. His
denunciations and sarcasms, the harsh things of all sorts he says of the
great, of fashionable people and of women, his rude and cutting tone,
provoke and irritate, but are not displeasing. On the contrary, after so
many compliments, insipidities and petty versification all this quickens
the blunted taste; it is the sensation of strong common wine after
long indulgence in orgeat and preserved citron. Accordingly, his first
discourse against art and literature "lifts one at once above the
clouds." But his idyllic writings touch the heart more powerfully than
his satires. If men listen to the moralist that scolds them they throng
in the footsteps of the magician that charms them; especially do women
and the young adhere to one who shows them the promised land. All
accumulated dissatisfactions, weariness of the world, ennui, vague
disgust, a multitude of suppressed desires gush forth, like subterranean
waters, under the sounding line that for the first time brings them to
light. Rousseau with his soundings struck deep and true through his own
trials and through genius. In a wholly artificial society where people
are drawing room puppets, and where life consists in a graceful parade
according to a recognized model, he preaches a return to nature,
independence, earnestness, passion, and effusion, a manly, active,
ardent and happy existence in the open air and in sunshine. What an
opening for restrained faculties, for the broad and luxurious fountain
ever bubbling in man's breast, and for which their nice society provides
no issue!--woman of the court is familiar with love as then practiced,
simply a preference, often only a pastime, mere gallantry of which
the exquisite polish poorly conceals the shallowness, coldness
and, occasionally, wickedness; in short, adventures, amusements and
personages as described by Crébillion jr. One evening, about to go out
to the opera ball, she finds the "Nouvelle Heloïse" on her toilet-table;
it is not surprising that she keeps her horses and footmen waiting from
hour to hour, and that at four o'clock in the morning she orders the
horses to be unharnessed, and then passes the rest of the night in
reading, and that she is stifled with her tears; for the first time in
her life she finds a man that loves[4139]. In like manner if you would
comprehend the success of "Emile," call to mind the children we
have described, the embroidered, gilded, dressed-up, powdered little
gentlemen, decked with sword and sash, carrying the chapeau under the
arm, bowing, presenting the hand, rehearsing fine attitudes before a
mirror, repeating prepared compliments, pretty little puppets in which
everything is the work of the tailor, the hairdresser, the preceptor
and the dancing-master; alongside of these, little ladies of six years,
still more artificial, bound up in whalebone, harnessed in a heavy skirt
composed of hair and a girdle of iron, supporting a head-dress two feet
in height, so many veritable dolls to which rouge is applied, and with
which a mother amuses herself each morning for an hour and then consigns
them to her maids for the rest of the day[4140]. This mother reads
"Emile." It is not surprising that she immediately strips the poor
little thing, and determines to nurse her next child herself.--It is
through these contrasts that Rousseau is strong. He revealed the dawn to
people who never got up until noon, the landscape to eyes that had thus
far rested only on palaces and drawing-rooms, a natural garden to men
who had never promenaded outside of clipped shrubs and rectilinear
borders, the country, the family, the people, simple and endearing
pleasures, to townsmen made weary by social avidity, by the excesses and
complications of luxury, by the uniform comedy which, in the glare of
hundreds of lighted candles, they played night after night in their own
and in the homes of others[4141]. An audience thus disposed makes no
clear distinction between pomp and sincerity, between sentiment and
sentimentality. They follow their author as one who makes a revelation,
as a prophet, even to the end of his ideal world, much more through his
exaggerations than through his discoveries, as far on the road to error
as on the pathway of truth.

These are the great literary powers of the century. With inferior
successes, and through various combinations, the elements which
contributed to the formation of the leading talents also form the
secondary talents, like those below Rousseau,--Bernardin de St. Pierre,
Raynal, Thomas, Marmontel, Mably, Florian, Dupaty, Mercier, Madame de
Staël; and below Voltaire,--the lively and piquant intellects of Duclos,
Piron, Galiani, President Des Brosses, Rivarol, Champfort, and to speak
with precision, all other talents. Whenever a vein of talent, however
meager, peers forth above the ground it is for the propagation and
carrying forward of the new doctrine; scarcely can we find two or three
little streams that run in a contrary direction, like the journal of
Freron, a comedy by Palissot, or a satire by Gilbert. Philosophy winds
through and overflows all channels public and private, through manuals
of impiety, like the "Théologies portatives," and in the lascivious
novels circulated secretly, through epigrams and songs, through daily
novelties, through the amusements of fairs,[4142] and the harangues of
the Academy, through tragedy and the opera, from the beginning to the
end of the century, from the "OEdipe" of Voltaire, to the "Tarare" of
Beaumarchais. It seems as if there was nothing else in the world. At
least it is found everywhere and it floods all literary efforts;
nobody cares whether it deforms them, content in making them serve as
a conduit. In 1763, in the tragedy of Manco-Capac[4143] the "principal
part," writes a contemporary, "is that of a savage who utters in verse
all that we have read, scattered through 'Emile' and the 'Contrat
Social,' concerning kings, liberty, the rights of man and the inequality
of conditions." This virtuous savage saves a king's son over whom a
high-priest raises a poniard, and then, designating the high-priest and
himself by turns, he cries,

"Behold the civilized man; here is the savage man!"

At this line the applause breaks forth, and the success of the piece is
such that it is demanded at Versailles and played before the court.

The same ideas have to be expressed with skill, brilliancy, gaiety,
energy and scandal, and this is accomplished in "The Marriage of
Figaro." Never were the ideals of the age displayed under a more
transparent disguise, nor in an attire that rendered them more
attractive. Its title is the "Folle journee," and indeed it is
an evening of folly, an after-supper like those occurring in the
fashionable world, a masquerade of Frenchmen in Spanish costumes, with
a parade of dresses, changing scenes, couplets, a ballet, a singing
and dancing village, a medley of odd characters, gentlemen, servants,
duennas, judges, notaries, lawyers, music-masters, gardeners,
pastoureaux; in short, a spectacle for the eyes and the ears, for all
the senses, the very opposite of the prevailing drama in which three
pasteboard characters, seated on classic chairs, exchange didactic
arguments in an abstract saloon. And still better, it is an imbroglio
displaying a superabundance of action, amidst intrigues that cross,
interrupt and renew each other, through a pêle-mêle of travesties,
exposures, surprises, mistakes, leaps from windows, quarrels and slaps,
and all in sparkling style, each phrase flashing on all sides, where
responses seem to be cut out by a lapidary, where the eyes would forget
themselves in contemplating the multiplied brilliants of the dialogue
if the mind were not carried along by its rapidity and the excitement
of the action. But here is another charm, the most welcome of all in a
society passionately fond of Parny; according to an expression of the
Comte d'Artois, which I dare not quote, this appeals to the senses, the
arousing of which constitutes the spiciness and savor of the piece.
The fruit that hangs ripening and savory on the branch never falls but
always seems on the point of falling; all hands are extended to catch
it, its voluptuousness somewhat veiled but so much the more provoking,
declaring itself from scene to scene, in the Count's gallantry, in the
Countess's agitation, in the simplicity of Fanchette, in the jestings
of Figaro, in the liberties of Susanne, and reaching its climax in the
precocity of Cherubino. Add to this a continual double sense, the author
hidden behind his characters, truth put into the mouth of a clown,
malice enveloped in simple utterances, the master duped but saved from
being ridiculous by his deportment, the valet rebellious but preserved
from acrimony by his gaiety, and you can comprehend how Beaumarchais
could have the ancient regime played before its head, put political and
social satire on the stage, publicly attach an expression to each wrong
so as to become a by-word, and ever making a loud report,[4144] gather
up into a few traits the entire polemics of the philosophers against the
prisons of the State, against the censorship of literature, against
the venality of office, against the privileges of birth, against the
arbitrary power of ministers, against the incapacity of people in
office, and still better, to sum up in one character every public
demand, give the leading part to a commoner, bastard, bohemian and
valet, who, by dint of dexterity, courage and good-humor, keeps himself
up, swims with the tide, and shoots ahead in his little skiff, avoiding
contact with larger craft and even supplanting his master, accompanying
each pull on the oar with a shower of wit cast broadside at all his

After all, in France at least, the chief power is intellect. Literature
in the service of philosophy is all-sufficient. The public opposes but
a feeble resistance to their complicity, the mistress finding no trouble
in convincing those who have already been won over by the servant



[Footnote 4101: How right Taine was. The 20th century should see a rebirth of
violent Jacobinism in Russia, China, Cambodia, Korea, Cuba, Germany,
Italy, Yugoslavia and Albania and of soft and creeping Jacobinism in the
entire Western world. (SR.)]

[Footnote 4102: "Who, born within the last forty years, ever read a word of
Collins, and Toland, and Tindal, or of that whole race who called
themselves freethinkers?" (Burke, "Reflexions on the French
Revolutions," 1790).]

[Footnote 4103: The "Oedipe," by Voltaire, belongs to the year 1718, and his
"Lettres sur les Anglais," to the year 1728. The "Lettres Persanes,"
by Montesquieu, published in 1721, contain the germs of all the leading
ideas of the century.]

[Footnote 4104: "Raison" (cult of). Cult proposed by the Hébertists and aimed at
replacing Christianity under the French Revolution. The Cult of Reason
was celebrated in the church of Notre Dame de Paris on the 10th of
November 1793. The cult disappeared with the Hébertists (March 1794) and
Robespierre replaced it with the cult of the Superior Being. (SR.)]

[Footnote 4105: Joseph de Maistre, Oeuvres inédites," pp. 8, 11.]

[Footnote 4106: Diderot's letters on the Blind and on the Deaf and Dumb are
addressed in whole or in part to women.]

[Footnote 4107: "Correspondence of Gouverneur Morris," (in English), II, 89.
(Letter of January 24, 1790)]

[Footnote 4108: John Andrews in "A comparative view," etc. (1785).--Arthur
Young, I. 123. "I should pity the man who expected, without other
advantages of a very different nature, to be well received in a
brilliant circle in London, because he was a fellow of the Royal
Society. But this would not be the case with a member of the Academy of
Sciences at Paris, he is sure of a good reception everywhere."]

[Footnote 4109: "I met in Paris the d'Alemberts, the Marmontels, the Baillys
at the houses of duchesses, which was an immense advantage to all
concerned. . . . When a man with us devotes himself to writing books he
is considered as renouncing the society equally of those who govern as
of those who laugh. . . Taking literary vanity into account the lives
of your d'Alemberts and Baillys are as pleasant as those of your
seigniors." (Stendhal, "Rome, Naples et Florence," 377, in a narrative
by Col. Forsyth).]

[Footnote 4110: "Entretien d'un philosophe avec la Maréchale--."]

[Footnote 4111: The television audience today cannot threaten never
again to invite the boring "philosopher" to dinner, but will zap away,
a move that the system accurately senses. The rules that Taine describes
are, alas, therefore once more valid. (SR.)]

[Footnote 4112: The same process is observable in our day in the
"Sophismes économiques" of Bastiat, the "Eloges historiques" of
Flourens, and in "Le Progrès," by Edmond About.]

[Footnote 4113: The "Portier de Chartreux." (An infamous pornographic
book. (SR.))]

[Footnote 4114: "Thérese Philosophe." There is a complete literature of
this species.]

[Footnote 4115: See the edition of M. Dauban in which the suppressed
passages are restored.]

[Footnote 4116: "Esprit des Lois," ch. XV. book V. (Reasons in favor of
slavery). The "Defence of the Esprit des Lois," I. Reply to the second
objection. II. Reply to the fourth objection.]

[Footnote 4117: Letter 24 (on Louis XIV.)]

[Footnote 4118: Letter 18 (on the purity and impurity of things). Letter
39 (proofs of the mission of Mohammed).]

[Footnote 4119: Letters 75 and 118.]

[Footnote 4120: Letters 98 (on the modern sciences), 46 (on a true
system of worship), 11 and 14 (on the nature of justice).]

[Footnote 4121: Cf "Micromégas," "L'homme aux quarantes écus,"
"Dialogues entre A, B, C," Dic. Philosophique," passim.--In verse, "Les
systèmes," "La loi naturelle," "Le pour et le countre,", "Discours sur
l'homme," etc.]

[Footnote 4122: "Traité de métaphysique," chap. I. p.1 (on the
peasantry).--"Lettres sur les Anglais," passim.--"Candide," passim.--"La
Princesse de Babylone," ch. VII. VIII. IX. and XI.]

[Footnote 4123: "Dict. Phil." articles, "Maladie," (Replies to the
princess).--"Candide," at Madame de Parolignac. The sailor in the wreck.
Narrative of Paquette.--The "Ingénu," the first chapters.]

[Footnote 4124: "Candide," the last chapter. When there was no dispute
going on, it was so wearisome that the old woman one day boldly said
to him: "I should like to know which is worse to be ravished a hundred
times by Negro pirates, to have one's rump gashed, or be switched by
the Bulgarians, to be scourged or hung in an auto-da-fé, to be cut to
pieces, to row in the galleys, to suffer any misery through which
we have passed, or sit still and do nothing?"--"That is the great
question," said Candide.]

[Footnote 4125: For example, in the lines addressed to the Princess
Ulrique in the preface to "Alzire," dedicated to Madame du Chatelet:

     "Souvent un peu de verité," etc.]

[Footnote 4126: The scholar in the dialogue of "Le Mais," (Jenny).--The
canonization of Saint Cucufin.--Advice to brother Pediculuso.--The
diatribe of Doctor Akakia.--Conversation of the emperor of China with
brother Rigolo, etc.]

[Footnote 4127: "Dict. Philosophique," the article "Ignorance."--"Les
Oreilles du Comte de Chesterfied."--"L'homme au quarante écus," chap.
VII. and XI.]

[Footnote 4128: Bachaumont, III, 194. (The death of the Comte de

[Footnote 4129: "The novels of the younger Crébillon were in fashion. My
father spoke with Madame de Puisieux on the ease with which licentious
works were composed; he contended that it was only necessary to find
an arousing idea as a peg to hang others on in which intellectual
libertinism should be a substitute for taste. She challenged him to
produce on of this kind. At the end of a fortnight he brought her
'Les bijoux indiscrets' and fifty louis." (Mémoires of Diderot, by his
daughter).--"La Religieuse," has a similar origin, its object being to
mystify M. de Croismart.]

[Footnote 4130: "Le Rêve de d'Alembert."]

[Footnote 4131: "Le neveau de Rameau."]

[Footnote 4132: The words of Diderot himself in relation to the "Rêve de

[Footnote 4133: One of the finest stanzas in "Souvenir" is almost
literally transcribed (involuntarily, I suppose), from the dialogue on
Otaheite (Tahiti).]

[Footnote 4134: "Nouvelle Héloise," passim., and notably Julie's
extraordinary letter, second part, number 15.--"Émile," the preceptor's
discourse to Émile and Sophie the morning after their marriage.--Letter
of the comtesse de Boufflers to Gustavus III., published by Geffroy,
("Gustave III. et la cour de France"). "I entrust to Baron de Lederheim,
though with reluctance, a book for you which has just been published,
the infamous memoirs of Rousseau entitled 'Confessions.' They seem to
me those of a common scullion and even lower than that, being dull
throughout, whimsical and vicious in the most offensive manner. I do
not recur to my worship of him (for such it was) I shall never console
myself for its having caused the death of that eminent man David
Hume, who, to gratify me, undertook to entertain that filthy animal in

[Footnote 4135: "Confessions," part I, book III.]

[Footnote 4136: Letter to M, de Beaumont.]

[Footnote 4137: "Émile," letter IV. 193. "People of the world must
necessarily put on disguise; let them show themselves as they are and
they would horrify us," etc.]

[Footnote 4138: See, especially, his book entitled "Rousseau juge
de Jean-Jacques," his connection with Hume and the last books of the

[Footnote 4139: "Confessions," part 2. book XI. "The women were
intoxicated with the book and with the author to such an extent that
there were few of them, even of high rank, whose conquest I could not
have made if I had undertaken it. I possess evidence of this which I do
not care, to publish, and which, without having been obliged to prove
it by experience, warrant, my statement." Cf. G. Sand, "Histoire de ma
vie," I.73.]

[Footnote 4140: See an engraving by Moreau called "Les Petits
Parrains."--Berquin, passim., and among others "L'épée."--Remark the
ready-made phrases, the style of an author common to children, in
Berquin and Madame de Genlis.]

[Footnote 4141: See the description of sunrise in "Émile," of the Élysée
(a natural garden), in "Héloise." And especially in "Emile," at the end
of the fourth book, the pleasures which Rousseau would enjoy if he were

[Footnote 4142: See in Marivaux, ("La double inconstance,") a satire on
the court, courtiers and the corruptions of high life, opposed to the
common people in the country.]

[Footnote 4143: Bachmaumont, I. 254.]

[Footnote 4144: "A calculator was required for the place but a dancer
got it."--"The sale of offices is a great abuse."--"Yes, it would
he better to give them for nothing."--"Only small men fear small
literature."--"Chance makes the interval, the mind only can alter
that!"--"A courtier?--they say it is a very difficult profession."--"To
receive, to take, and to ask, is the secret in three words," etc,--Also
the entire monologue by Figaro, and all the scenes with Bridoisin.]


I. The Nobility.

     The Aristocracy.--Novelty commonly repugnant to it.--
     Conditions of this repugnance.--Example in England.

This public has yet to be made willing to be convinced and to be won
over; belief occurs only when there is a disposition to believe, and,
in the success of books, its share is often greater than that of their
authors. On addressing men about politics or religion their opinions
are, in general already formed; their prejudices, their interests, their
situation have confirmed them beforehand; they listen to you only after
you have uttered aloud what they inwardly think. Propose to them to
demolish the great social edifice and to rebuild it anew on a quite an
opposite plan: ordinarily you auditors will consist only of those who
are poorly lodged or shelterless, who live in garrets or cellars, or who
sleep under the stars, on the bare ground in the vicinity of houses.
The common run of people, whose lodgings are small but tolerable, dread
moving and adhere to their accustomed ways. The difficulty becomes
much greater on appealing to the upper classes who occupy superior
habitations; their acceptance of your proposal depends either on their
great delusions or on their great disinterestedness. In England they
quickly foresee the danger.

In vain is philosophy there indigenous and precocious; it does not
become acclimatized. In 1729, Montesquieu writes in his memorandum-book:
"No religion in England; four or five members of the House of Commons
attend mass or preaching in the House. . . . When religion is mentioned
everybody begins to laugh. A man having said: I believe that as an
article of faith, everybody laughed. A committee is appointed to
consider the state of religion, but it is regarded as absurd." Fifty
years later the public mind undergoes a reaction; all with a good
roof over their heads and a good coat on their backs[4201] see the
consequence of the new doctrines. In any event they feel that closet
speculations are not to become street preaching. Impiety seems to them
an indiscretion; they consider religion as the cement of public order.
This is owing to the fact that they are themselves public men, engaged
in active life, taking a part in the government, and instructed through
their daily and personal experience. Practical life fortifies them
against the chimeras of theorists; they have proved to themselves how
difficult it is to lead and to control men. Having had their hand on the
machine they know how it works, its value, its cost, and they are not
tempted to cast it aside as rubbish to try another, said to be superior,
but which, as yet, exists only on paper. The baronet, or squire, a
justice on his own domain, has no trouble in discerning in the clergyman
of his parish an indispensable co-worker and a natural ally. The duke
or marquis, sitting in the upper house by the side of bishops, requires
their votes to pass bills, and their assistance to rally to his party
the fifteen hundred curates who influence the rural conscience. Thus
all have a hand on some social wheel, large or small, principal or
accessory, and this endows them with earnestness, foresight and good
sense. On coming in contact with realities there is no temptation to
soar away into the imaginary world; the fact of one being at work on
solid ground of itself makes one dislike aerial excursions in empty
space. The more occupied one is the less one dreams, and, to men of
business, the geometry of the 'Contrat Social' is merely intellectual

II. Conditions In France.

     The opposite conditions found in France.--Indolence of the
     upper class.--Philosophy seems an intellectual drill.--
     Besides this, a subject for conversation.--Philosophic
     conversation in the 18th century.--Its superiority and its
     charm.--The influence it exercises.

It is quite the reverse in France. "I arrived there in 1774,"[4202]
says an English gentleman, "having just left the house of my father, who
never came home from Parliament until three o'clock in the morning, and
who was busy the whole morning correcting the proofs of his speech for
the newspapers, and who, after hastily kissing us, with an absorbed
air, went out to a political dinner. . . . In France I found men of
the highest rank enjoying perfect leisure. They had interviews with the
ministers but only to exchange compliments; in other respects they knew
as little about the public affairs of France as they did about those
of Japan; and less of local affairs than of general affairs, having no
knowledge of their peasantry other than that derived from the accounts
of their stewards. If one of them, bearing the title of governor,
visited a province, it was, as we have seen, for outward parade; whilst
the intendant carried on the administration, he exhibited himself with
grace and magnificence by giving receptions and dinners. To receive, to
give dinners, to entertain guests agreeably is the sole occupation of a
grand seignior; hence it is that religion and government only serve him
as subjects of conversation. The conversation, moreover, occurs between
him and his equals, and a man may say what he pleases in good company.
Moreover the social system turns on its own axis, like the sun, from
time immemorial, through its own energy, and shall it be deranged by
what is said in the drawing-room? In any event he does not control
its motion and he is not responsible. Accordingly there is no uneasy
undercurrent, no morose preoccupation in his mind. Carelessly and boldly
he follows in the track of his philosophers; detached from affairs he
can give himself up to ideas, just as a young man of family, on leaving
college, lays hold of some principle, deduces its consequences,
and forms a system for himself without concerning himself about its

Nothing is more enjoyable than this speculative inspiration. The mind
soars among the summits as if it had wings; it embraces vast horizons
in a glance, taking in all of human life, the economy of the world,
the origin of the universe, of religions and of societies. Where,
accordingly, would conversation be if people abstained from philosophy?
What circle is that in which serious political problems and profound
criticism are not admitted? And what motive brings intellectual
people together if not the desire to debate questions of the highest
importance?--For two centuries in France the conversation has been
related to all that, and hence its great charm. Strangers find it
irresistible; nothing like it is found at home; Lord Chesterfield sets
it forth as an example:

"It always turns, he says, on some point in history, on criticism or
even philosophy which is much better suited to rational beings than our
English discussions about the weather and whist."

Rousseau, so querulous, admits "that a moral subject could not be better
discussed in a society of philosophers than in that of a pretty woman in
Paris." Undoubtedly there is a good deal of idle talk, but with all the
chattering "let a man of any authority make a serious remark or start a
grave subject and the attention is immediately fixed on this point;
men and women, the old and the young, all give themselves up to its
consideration on all its sides, and it is surprising what an amount of
reason and good sense issues, as if in emulation, from these frolicsome
brains." The truth is that, in this constant holiday which this
brilliant society gives itself philosophy is the principal amusement.
Without philosophy the ordinary ironical chit-chat would be vapid. It
is a sort of superior opera in which every grand conception that can
interest a reflecting mind passes before it, now in comic and now in
sober attire, and each in conflict with the other. The tragedy of the
day scarcely differs from it except in this respect, that it always
bears a solemn aspect and is performed only in the theaters; the other
assumes all sorts of physiognomies and is found everywhere because
conversation is everywhere carried on. Not a dinner nor a supper is
given at which it does not find place. One sits at a table amidst
refined luxury, among agreeable and well-dressed women and pleasant and
well-informed men, a select company, in which comprehension is prompt
and the company trustworthy. After the second course the inspiration
breaks out in the liveliest sallies, all minds flashing and
scintillating. When the dessert comes on what is to prevent the gravest
of subjects from being put into witticisms? On the appearance of the
coffee questions on the immortality of the soul and on the existence of
God come up.

To form any idea of this attractive and bold conversation we must
consult the correspondence of the day, the short treatises and dialogues
of Diderot and Voltaire, whatever is most animated, most delicate, most
piquant and most profound in the literature of the century; and yet
this is only a residuum, a lifeless fragment. The whole of this written
philosophy was uttered in words, with the accent, the impetuosity, the
inimitable naturalness of improvisation, with the versatility of malice
and of enthusiasm. Even to day, chilled and on paper, it still excites
and seduces us. What must it have been then when it gushed forth alive
and vibrant from the lips of Voltaire and Diderot? Daily, in Paris,
suppers took place like those described by Voltaire,[4204].at which "two
philosophers, three clever intellectual ladies, M. Pinto the famous Jew,
the chaplain of the Batavian ambassador of the reformed church, the
secretary of the Prince de Galitzin of the Greek church, and a Swiss
Calvinist captain," seated around the same table, for four hours
interchanged their anecdotes, their flashes of wit, their remarks and
their decisions "on all subjects of interest relating to science and
taste." The most learned and distinguished foreigners daily visited, in
turn, the house of the Baron d'Holbach,--Hume, Wilkes, Sterne, Beccaria,
Veri, the Abbé Galiani, Garrick, Franklin, Priestley, Lord Shelburne,
the Comte de Creutz, the Prince of Brunswick and the future Elector
of Mayence. With respect to society in general the Baron entertained
Diderot, Rousseau, Helvétius, Duclos, Saurin, Raynal, Suard, Marmontel,
Boulanger, the Chevalier de Chastellux, the traveler La Condamine, the
physician Barthèz, and Rouelle, the chemist. Twice a week, on Sundays
and Thursdays, "without prejudice to other days," they dine at his
house, according to custom, at two o'clock; a significant custom which
thus leaves to conversation and gaiety a man's best powers and the best
hours of the day. Conversation, in those days, was not relegated to
night and late hours; a man was not forced, as at the present day, to
subordinate it to the exigencies of work and money, of the Assembly and
the Exchange. Talking is the main business. "Entering at two o'clock,"
says Morellet,[4205] "we almost all remained until seven or eight
o'clock in the evening. . . . Here could be heard the most liberal, the
most animated, the most instructive conversation that ever took place.
. . . There was no political or religious temerity which was not brought
forward and discussed pro and con. . . . Frequently some one of the
company would begin to speak and state his theory in full, without
interruption. At other times it would be a combat of one against one, of
which the rest remained silent spectators. Here I heard Roux and Darcet
expose their theory of the earth, Marmontel the admirable principles he
collected together in his 'Elements de La Littérature,' Raynal, telling
us in livres, sous and deniers, the commerce of the Spaniards with
Vera-Crux and of the English with their colonies." Diderot improvises on
the arts and on moral and metaphysical subjects, with that incomparable
fervor and wealth of expression, that flood of logic and of
illustration, those happy hits of style and that mimetic power which
belonged to him alone, and of which but two or three of his works
preserve even the feeblest image. In their midst Galiani, secretary of
the Neapolitan Embassy, a clever dwarf; a genius, "a sort of Plato or
Machiavelli with the spirit and action of a harlequin," inexhaustible in
stories, an admirable buffoon, and an accomplished skeptic, "having no
faith in anything, on anything or about anything,"[4206] not even in
the new philosophy, braves the atheists of the drawing-room, beats down
their dithyrambs with puns, and, with his perruque in his hand, sitting
cross-legged on the chair on which he is perched, proves to them in a
comic apologia that they raisonnent (reason) or résonnent (resound or
echo) if not as cruches (blockheads) at least as cloches (bells);" in
any event almost as poorly as theologians. One of those present says,
"It was the most diverting thing possible and worth the best of plays."

How can the nobles, who pass their lives in talking, refrain from the
society of people who talk so well? They might as well expect their
wives, who frequent the theater every night, and who perform at home,
not to attract famous actors and singers to their receptions,
Jelyotte, Sainval, Préville, and young Molé who, quite ill and needing
restoratives, "receives in one day more than 2,000 bottles of wine
of different sorts from the ladies of the court," Mlle. Clairon, who,
consigned to prison in Fort l'Eveque, attracts to it "an immense crowd
of carriages," presiding over the most select company in the best
apartment of the prison[4207]. With life thus regarded, a philosopher
with his ideas is as necessary in a drawing room as a chandelier with
its lights. He forms a part of the new system of luxury. He is an
article of export. Sovereigns, amidst their splendor, and at the height
of their success, invite them to their courts to enjoy for once in their
life the pleasure of perfect and free discourse. When Voltaire arrives
in Prussia Frederic II. is willing to kiss his hand, fawning on him as
on a mistress, and, at a later period, after such mutual fondling,
he cannot dispense with carrying on conversations with him by letter.
Catherine II. sends for Diderot, and, for two or three hours every day,
she plays with him the great game of the intellect. Gustavus III., in
France, is intimate with Marmontel, and considers a visit from Rousseau
as the highest honor[4208]. It is said with truth of Voltaire that "he
holds the four kings in his hand," those of Prussia, Sweden, Denmark and
Russia, without mentioning lower cards, the princes, princesses, grand
dukes and markgraves. The principal rôle in this society evidently
belongs to authors; their ways and doings form the subject of gossip;
people never weary of paying them homage. Here, writes Hume to
Robertson,[4209] "I feed on ambrosia, drink nothing but nectar, breathe
incense only and walk on flowers. Every man I meet, and especially every
woman, would consider themselves as failing in the most indispensable
duty if they did not favor me with a lengthy and ingenious discourse on
my celebrity." Presented at court, the future Louis XVI, aged ten years,
the future Louis XVIII, aged eight years, and the future Charles X, aged
four years, each recites a compliment to him on his works. I need not
narrate the return of Voltaire, his triumphant entry, [4210] the Academy
in a body coming to welcome him, his carriage stopped by the crowd, the
thronged streets, the windows, steps and balconies filled with admirers,
an intoxicated audience in the theater incessantly applauding, outside
an entire population carrying him off with huzzahs, in the drawing-rooms
a continual concourse equal to that of the king, grand seigniors pressed
against the door with outstretched ears to catch a word, and great
ladies standing on tiptoe to observe the slightest gesture. "To form
any conception of what I experienced," says one of those present, "one
should breathe the atmosphere of enthusiasm I lived in. I spoke with
him." This expression at that time converted any new-comer into
an important character. He had, in fact, seen the wonderful
orchestra-leader who, for more than fifty years, conducted the
tumultuous concert of serious or court-vêtues ideas, and who, always
on the stage, always chief, the recognized leader of universal
conversation, supplied the motives, gave the pitch, marked the measure,
stamped the inspiration, and drew the first note on the violin.

III. French Indolence.

     Further effects of indolence.--The skeptical, licentious and
     seditious spirit.--Previous resentment and fresh discontent
     at the established order of things.--Sympathy for the
     theories against it.--How far accepted.

Listen to the shouts that greet him: Hurrah for the author of the
Henriade! the defender of Calas, the author of La Pucelle! Nobody of the
present day would utter the first, nor especially the last hurrah. This
indicates the tendency of the century; not only were writers called upon
for ideas, but again for antagonistic ideas. To render an aristocracy
inactive is to render it rebellious; people are more willing to submit
to rules they have themselves helped to enforce. Would you rally them
to the support of the government? Then let them take part in it. If
not they stand by as an onlooker and see nothing but the mistakes it
commits, feeling only its irritations, and disposed only to criticize
and to hoot at it. In fact, in this case, they are as if in the theater,
where they go to be amused, and, especially, not to be put to any
inconvenience. What inconveniences in the established order of things,
and indeed in any established order!--In the first place, religion.
To the amiable "idlers" whom Voltaire describes,[4211] to "the 100,000
persons with nothing to do but to play and to amuse themselves,"
religion is the most disagreeable of pedagogues, always scolding,
hostile to sensible amusement and free discussion, burning books
which one wants to read, and imposing dogmas that are no longer
comprehensible. In plain terms religion is an eyesore, and whoever
wishes to throw stones at her is welcome.--There is another bond, the
moral law of the sexes. It seems onerous to men of pleasure, to the
companions of Richelieu, Lauzun and Tilly, to the heroes of Crebillon
the younger, and all others belonging to that libertine and gallant
society for whom license has become the rule. Our fine gentlemen are
quite ready to adopt a theory which justifies their practices.[4212]
They are very glad to be told that marriage is conventional and a thing
of prejudice. Saint--Lambert obtains their applause at supper when,
raising a glass of champagne, he proposes as a toast a return to
nature and the customs of Tahiti[4213]. The last fetter of all is the
government, the most galling, for it enforces the rest and keeps man
down with its weight, along with the added weight of the others. It is
absolute, it is centralized, it works through favorites, it is backward,
it makes mistakes, it has reverses: how many causes of discontent
embraced in a few words! It is opposed by the vague and suppressed
resentment of the former powers which it has dispossessed, the
provincial assemblies, the parliaments, the grandees of the provinces,
the old stock of nobles, who, like the Mirabeau, retain the old
feudal spirit, and like Châteaubriand's father, call the Abbé Raynal
a "master-man." Against it is the spite of all those who imagine
themselves frustrated in the distribution of offices and of favors, not
only the provincial nobility who remain outside[4214] while the court
nobility are feasting at the royal banquet, but again the majority
of the courtiers who are obliged to be content with crumbs, while the
little circle of intimate favorites swallow down the large morsels. It
has against it the ill-humor of those under its direction who, seeing
it play the part of Providence and providing for all, accuses it
of everything, the high price of bread as well as of the decay of a
highway. It has against it the new humanity which, in the most elegant
drawing-rooms, lays to its charge the maintenance of the antiquated
remains of a barbarous epoch, ill-imposed, ill-apportioned and
ill-collected taxes, sanguinary laws, blind prosecutions, atrocious
punishments, the persecution of the Protestants, lettres-de-cachet, and
prisons of State. And I do not include its excesses, its scandals, its
disasters and its disgraces,--Rosbach, the treaty of Paris, Madame du
Barry, and bankruptcy.--Disgust intervenes, for everything is decidedly
bad. The spectators of the play say to each other that not only is
the piece itself poor, but the theater is badly built, uncomfortable,
stifling and contracted, to such a degree that, to be at one's ease, the
whole thing must be torn down and rebuilt from cellar to garret.

Just at this moment the new architects appear, with their specious
arguments and their ready-made plans, proving that every great public
structure, religious and moral, and all communities, cannot be otherwise
than barbarous and unhealthy, since, thus far, they are built up out of
bits and pieces, by degrees, and generally by fools and savages, in
any event by common masons, who built aimlessly, feeling their way and
devoid of principles. As far as they are concerned, they are genuine
architects, and they have principles, that is to say, Reason, Nature,
and the Rights of Man, straightforward and fruitful principles which
everybody can understand, all that has to be done is to draw their
consequences making it possible to replace the imperfect tenements
of the past with the admirable edifice of the future.--To irreverent,
Epicurean and philanthropic malcontents the temptation is a great one.
They readily adopt maxims which seem in conformity with their secret
wishes; at least they adopt them in theory and in words. The imposing
terms of liberty, justice, public good, man's dignity, are so admirable,
and besides so vague! What heart can refuse to cherish them, and what
intelligence can foretell their innumerable applications? And all the
more because, up to the last, the theory does not descend from the
heights, being confined to abstractions, resembling an academic oration,
constantly dealing with Natural Man (homme en soi) of the social
contract, with an imaginary and perfect society. Is there a courtier
at Versailles who would refuse to proclaim equality in the lands of the
Franks!--Between the two stories of the human intellect, the upper where
abstract reasoning is spun and the lower where an active faith reposes,
communication is neither complete nor immediate. A number of principles
never leave the upper stories; they remain there as curiosities, so many
fragile, clever mechanisms, freely to be seen but rarely employed. If
the proprietor sometimes transfers them to the lower story he makes but
a partial use of them; established customs, anterior and more powerful
interests and instincts restrict their employment. In this respect he
is not acting in bad faith, but as a man; each of us professing truths
which he does not put in practice. One evening Target, a dull lawyer,
having taken a pinch from the snuff-box of the Maréchale de Beauvau, the
latter, whose drawing room is a small democratic club, is amazed at such
monstrous familiarity. Later, Mirabeau, on returning home just after
having voted for the abolition of the titles of nobility, takes his
servant by the ear, laughingly proclaiming in his thunderous voice,
"Look here, you rascal, I trust that to you I shall always be Monsieur
le Comte!"--This shows to what extent new theories are admitted into an
aristocratic brain. They occupy the whole of the upper story, and there,
with a pleasing murmur, they weave the web of interminable conversation;
their buzzing lasts throughout the century; never have the drawing-rooms
seen such an outpouring of fine sentences and of fine words. Something
of all this drops from the upper to the lower story, if only as dust,
I mean to say, hope, faith in the future, belief in Reason, a love of
truth, the generous and youthful good intentions, the enthusiasm that
quickly passes but which may, for a while, become self-abnegation and

IV. Unbelief.

     The diffusion among the upper class.--Progress of
     incredulity in religion.--Its causes.--It breaks out under
     the Regency.--Increasing irritation against the clergy.--
     Materialism in the drawing-room.--Estimate of the sciences.--
     Final opinion on religion.--Skepticism of the higher clergy.

Let us follow the progress of philosophy in the upper class. Religion is
the first to receive the severest attacks. The small group of skeptics,
which is hardly perceptible under Louis XIV, has obtained its recruits
in the dark; in 1698 the Palatine, the mother of the Regent, writes
that "we scarcely meet a young man now who is not ambitious of being
an atheist."[4215] Under the Regency, unbelief comes out into open
daylight. "I doubt," says this lady again, in 1722, "if; in all Paris,
a hundred individuals can be found, either ecclesiastics or laymen, who
have any true faith, or even believe in our Lord. It makes one tremble.
. . ." The position of an ecclesiastic in society is already difficult.
He is looked upon, apparently, as either a puppet or a dickey (a false
shirt front)[4216]. "The moment we appear," says one of them, "we are
forced into discussion; we are called upon to prove, for example, the
utility of prayer to an unbeliever in God, and the necessity of fasting
to a man who has all his life denied the immortality of the soul; the
effort is very irksome, while those who laugh are not on our side." It
is not long before the continued scandal of confession tickets and the
stubbornness of the bishops in not allowing ecclesiastical property
to be taxed, excites opinion against the clergy, and, as a matter of
course, against religion itself. "There is danger," says Barbier in
1751, "that this may end seriously; we may some day see a revolution in
this country in favor of Protestantism."[4217] "The hatred against
the priests," writes d'Argenson in 1753, "is carried to extremes. They
scarcely show themselves in the streets without being hooted at. . . .As
our nation and our century are quite otherwise enlightened (than in
the time of Luther), it will be carried far enough; they will expel the
priests, abolish the priesthood and get rid of all revelation and all
mystery. . . . One dare not speak in behalf of the clergy in
social circles; one is scoffed at and regarded as a familiar of the
inquisition. The priests remark that, this year, there is a diminution
of more than one-third in the number of communicants. The College of
the Jesuits is being deserted; one hundred and twenty boarders have been
withdrawn from these so greatly defamed monks. It has been observed also
that, during the carnival in Paris, the number of masks counterfeiting
ecclesiastical dress, bishops, abbés, monks and nuns, was never so
great."--So deep is this antipathy, the most mediocre books become the
rage so long as they are anti-Christian and condemned as such. In 1748
a work by Toussaint called "Les Moeurs," in favor of natural religion,
suddenly becomes so famous, "that there is no one among a certain
class of people," writes Barbier, "man or woman, pretending to be
intellectual, who is not eager to read it." People accost each other on
their promenades, Have you read "Les Moeurs"?--Ten years later they
are beyond deism. "Materialism," Barbier further said, "is the great
grievance. . . . " "Almost all people of erudition and taste, writes
d'Argenson, "inveigh against our holy religion. . . . It is attacked on
all sides, and what animates unbelievers still more is the efforts made
by the devout to compel belief. They publish books which are but little
read; debates no longer take place, everything being laughed at, while
people persist in materialism." Horace Walpole, who returns to France in
1765,[4218] and whose good sense anticipates the danger, is astonished
at such imprudence: "I dined to day with a dozen scholars and
scientists, and although all the servants were around us and listening,
the conversation was much more unrestrained, even on the Old Testament,
than I would allow at my own table in England even if a single footman
was present." People dogmatize everywhere. "Joking is as much out of
fashion as jumping jacks and tumblers. Our good folks have no time to
laugh! There is God and the king to be hauled down first; and men and
women, one and all, are devoutly employed in the demolition. They think
me quite profane for having any belief left. . . . Do you know who the
philosophers are, or what the term means here? In the first place it
comprehends almost everybody; and in the next, means men, who, avowing
war against popery, take aim, many of them, at a subversion of
all religion. . . . These savants,--I beg their pardons, these
philosophers--are insupportable, superficial, overbearing and fanatic:
they preach incessantly, and their avowed doctrine is atheism; you would
not believe how openly. Voltaire himself does not satisfy them. One of
their lady devotees said of him, 'He is a bigot, a deist!'"

This is very strong, and yet we have not come to the end of it; for,
thus far, impiety is less a conviction than the fashion. Walpole, a
careful observer, is not deluded by it. "By what I have said of their
religious or rather irreligious opinions, you must not conclude their
people of quality atheists--at least not the men. Happily for them, poor
souls! they are not capable of going so far into thinking. They assent
to a great deal because it is the fashion, and because they don't know
how to contradict." Now that "dandies are outmoded" and everybody is "a
philosopher," "they are philosophers." It is essential to be like all
the rest of the world. But that which they best appreciate in the
new materialism is the pungency of paradox and the freedom given to
pleasure. They are like the boys of good families, fond of playing
tricks on their ecclesiastical preceptor. They take out of learned
theories just what is wanted to make a dunce-cap, and derive the more
amusement from the fun if it is seasoned with impiety. A seignior of
the court having seen Doyen's picture of "St. Genevieve and the
plague-stricken," sends to a painter the following day to come to him at
his mistress's domicile: "I would like," he says to him, "to have Madame
painted in a swing put in motion by a bishop; you may place me in such a
way that I may see the ankles of that handsome woman, and even more, if
you want to enliven your picture."[4219] The licentious song "Marotte"
"spreads like wildfire;" "a fortnight after its publication," says
Collé, "I met no one without a copy; and it is the vaudeville, or
rather, the clerical assembly, which gives it its popularity." The more
irreligious a licentious book is the more it is prized; when it cannot
be printed it is copied in manuscript. Collé counts "perhaps two
thousand manuscript copies of' La Pucelle 'by Voltaire, scattered about
Paris in one month." The magistrates themselves burn it only for form's
sake. "It must not be supposed that the hangman is allowed to burn the
books whose titles figure in the decree of the Court. Messieurs would be
loath to deprive their libraries of the copy of those works which fall
to them by right, and make the registrar supply its place with a few
poor records of chicanery of which there is no scanty provision."[4220]

But, as the century advances, unbelief, less noisy, becomes more solid.
It invigorates itself at the fountain-head; the women themselves begin
to be infatuated with the sciences. In 1782,[4221] one of Mme. de
Genlis's characters writes,

Five years ago I left them thinking only of their attire and the
preparation of their suppers; I now find them all scientific and witty."
We find in the study of a fashionable woman, alongside of a small altar
dedicated to Benevolence or Friendship, a dictionary of natural history
and treatises on physics and chemistry. A woman no longer has herself
painted as a goddess on a cloud but in a laboratory, seated amidst
squares and telescopes[4222]. The Marquise de Nesle, the Comtesse
de Brancas, the Comtesse de Pons, the Marquise de Polignac, are
with Rouelle when he undertakes to melt and volatilize the diamond.
Associations of twenty or twenty-five persons are formed in the
drawing-rooms to attend lectures either on physics, applied chemistry,
mineralogy or on botany. Fashionable women at the public meetings of
the Academy of Inscriptions applaud dissertations on the bull Apis, and
reports on the Egyptian, Phoenician and Greek languages. Finally,
in 1786, they succeed in opening the doors of the College de France.
Nothing deters them. Many of them use the lancet and even the scalpel;
the Marquise de Voyer attends at dissections, and the young Comtesse de
Coigny dissects with her own hands. The current infidelity finds fresh
support on this foundation, which is that of the prevailing philosophy.
Towards the end of the century[4223] "we see young persons who have
been in society six or seven years openly pluming themselves on their
irreligion, thinking that impiety makes up for wit, and that to be an
atheist is to be a philosopher." There are, undoubtedly, a good many
deists, especially after Rousseau appeared, but I question whether, out
of a hundred persons, there were in Paris at this time ten Christian men
or women. "The fashionable world for ten years past," says Mercier[4224]
in 1783, "has not attended mass. People go only on Sundays so as not
to scandalize their lackeys, while the lackeys well know that it is
on their account." The Duc de Coigny,[4225] on his estate near Amiens,
refuses to be prayed for and threatens his curate if he takes that
liberty to have him cast out of his pulpit; his son becomes ill and
he prohibits the administering of the sacraments; the son dies and he
opposes the usual obsequies, burying the body in his garden; becoming
ill himself he closes his door against the bishop of Amiens, who comes
to see him twelve times, and dies as he had lived. A scandal of this
kind is doubtless notorious and, therefore, rare. Almost everybody,
male and female, "ally with freedom of ideas a proper observance of
forms."[4226] When a maid appears and says to her mistress, "Madame
la Duchesse, the Host (le bon Dieu) is outside, will you allow him
to enter? He desires to have the honor of administering to you,"
appearances are kept up. The troublesome individual is admitted and he
is politely received. If they slip away from him it is under a decent
pretext; but if he is humored it is only out of a sense of decorum. "At
Sura when a man dies, he holds a cow's tail in his hand." Society was
never more detached from Christianity. In its eyes a positive religion
is only a popular superstition, good enough for children and innocents
but not for "sensible people" and the great. It is your duty to raise
your hat to the Host as it passes, but your duty is only to raise your

The last and gravest sign of all! If the curates who work and who are of
the people hold the people's ideas, the prelates who talk, and who are
of society hold the opinions of society. And I do not allude merely to
the abbés of the drawing-room, the domestic courtiers, bearers of news,
and writers of light verse, those who fawn in boudoirs, and who, when
in company, answer like an echo, and who, between one drawing room
and another, serve as megaphone; an echo, a megaphone only repeats the
phrase, whether skeptical or not, with which it is charged. I refer to
the dignitaries, and, on this point, the witnesses all concur. In the
month of August, 1767, the Abbé Bassinet, grand vicar of Cahors, on
pronouncing the panegyric of St. Louis in the Louvre chapel,[4227]
"suppressed the sign of the cross, making no quotation from Scripture
and never uttering a word about Christ and the Saints. He considered
Louis IX merely on the side of his political, moral and military
virtues. He animadverted on the Crusades, setting forth their absurdity,
cruelty and even injustice. He struck openly and without caution at the
see of Rome." Others "avoid the name of Christ in the pulpit and merely
allude to him as a Christian legislator."[4228] In the code which the
prevailing opinions and social decency impose on the clergy a delicate
observer[4229] thus specifies distinctions in rank with their proper
shades of behavior: "A plain priest, a curate, must have a little faith,
otherwise he would be found a hypocrite; at the same time, he must
not be too well satisfied, for he would be found intolerant. On the
contrary, the grand vicar may smile at an expression against religion,
the bishop may laugh outright, and the cardinal may add something of his
own to it." "A little while ago," a chronicle narrates, "some one put
this question to one of the most respectable curates in Paris: Do you
think that the bishops who insist so strenuously on religion have
much of it themselves? The worthy pastor replied, after a moment's
hesitation: There may be four or five among them who still believe."
To one who is familiar with their birth, their social relations, their
habits and their tastes, this does not appear at all improbable.
"Dom Collignon, a representative of the abbey of Mettach, seignior
high-justiciary and curate of Valmunster," a fine-looking man, fine
talker, and an agreeable housekeeper, avoids scandal by having his two
mistresses at his table only with a select few; he is in other respects
as little devout as possible, and much less so than the Savoyard
vicar, "finding evil only in injustice and in a lack of charity," and
considering religion merely as a political institution and for moral
ends. I might cite many others, like M. de Grimaldi, the young and
gallant bishop of Le Mans, who selects young and gallant comrades of his
own station for his grand vicars, and who has a rendezvous for pretty
women at his country seat at Coulans[4230]. Judge of their faith by
their habits. In other cases we have no difficulty in determining.
Scepticism is notorious with the Cardinal de Rohan, with M. de Brienne,
archbishop of Sens, with M. de Talleyrand, bishop of Autun, and with the
Abbé Maury, defender of the clergy. Rivarol,[4231] himself a skeptic,
declares that at the approach of the Revolution, "the enlightenment of
the clergy equaled that of the philosophers." "Who would believe it, but
body with the fewest prejudices," says Mercier,[4232] "is the clergy."
And the Archbishop of Narbonne, explaining the resistance of the upper
class of the clergy in 1791 [4233] attributes it, not to faith but to
a point of honor. "We conducted ourselves at that time like true
gentlemen, for, with most of us, it could not be said that it was
through religious feeling."

V. Political Opposition.

     Progress of political opposition.--Its origin.--The
     economists and the parliamentarians.--They prepare the way
     for the philosophers.--Political fault-finding in the
     drawing-rooms.--Female liberalism.

The distance between the altar and the throne is a short one, and yet it
requires thirty years for opinion to overcome it. No political or social
attacks are yet made during the first half of the century. The irony of
the "Lettres Persanes"is as cautious as it is delicate, and the "Esprit
des Lois" is conservative. As to the Abbé de Saint-Pierre his reveries
provoke a smile, and when he undertakes to censure Louis XIV the Academy
strikes him off its list. At last, the economists on one side and the
parliamentarians on the other, give the signal.--Voltaire says[4234]
that "about 1750 the nation, satiated with verse, tragedies, comedies,
novels, operas, romantic histories, and still more romantic moralizings,
and with disputes about grace and convulsions, began to discuss
the question of corn." What makes bread dear? Why is the laborer so
miserable? What constitutes the material and limits of taxation? Ought
not all land to pay taxes, and should one piece pay more than its net
product? These are the questions that find their way into drawing-rooms
under the king's auspices, by means of Quesnay, his physician, "his
thinker," the founder of a system which aggrandizes the sovereign to
relieve the people, and which multiplies the number of tax-payers to
lighten the burden of taxation.--At the same time, through the opposite
door, other questions enter, not less novel. "Is France[4235] a mild
and representative monarchy or a government of the Turkish stamp? Are
we subject to the will of an absolute master, or are we governed by a
limited and regulated power?. . . The exiled parliaments are studying
public rights at their sources and conferring together on these as in
the academies. Through their researches, the opinion is gaining ground
in the public mind that the nation is above the king, as the universal
church is above the pope."--The change is striking and almost immediate.
"Fifty years ago," says d'Argenson, again, "the public showed no
curiosity concerning matters of the State. Today everybody reads his
Gazette de Paris, even in the provinces. People reason at random
on political subjects, but nevertheless they occupy themselves with
them."--Conversation having once provided itself with this diet holds
fast to it, the drawing-rooms, accordingly, opening their doors to
political philosophy, and, consequently, to the Social Contract, to the
Encyclopedia, to the preachings of Rousseau, Mably, d'Holbach, Raynal,
and Diderot. In 1759, d'Argenson, who becomes excited, already
thinks the last hour has come. "We feel the breath of a philosophical
anti-monarchical, free government wind; the idea is current, and
possibly this form of government, already in some minds, is to be
carried out the first favorable opportunity. Perhaps the revolution
might take place with less opposition than one supposes, occurring by

The time is not yet come, but the seed is coming up. Bachaumont, in
1762, notices a deluge of pamphlets, tracts and political discussions,
"a rage for arguing on financial and government matters." In 1765,
Walpole states that the atheists, who then monopolize conversation,
inveigh against kings as well as against priests. A formidable word,
that of citizen, imported by Rousseau, has entered into common speech,
and the matter is settled on the women adopting it as they would a
cockade. "As a friend and a citoyenne could any news be more agreeable
to me than that of peace and the health of my dear little one?"[4237]
Another word, not less significant, that of energy, formerly ridiculous,
becomes fashionable, and is used on every occasion[4238]. Along with
language there is a change of sentiment, ladies of high rank passing
over to the opposition. In 1771, says the scoffer Bezenval, after the
exile of the Parliament "social meetings for pleasure or other purposes
had become petty States-Generals in which the women, transformed into
legislators, established the premises and confidently propounded maxims
of public right." The Comtesse d'Egmont, a correspondent of the King of
Sweden, sends him a paper on the fundamental law of France, favoring
the Parliament, the last defender of national liberty, against the
encroachments of Chancellor Maupeou. "The Chancellor," she says,[4239]
"within the last six months has brought people to know the history of
France who would have died without any knowledge of it. . . . I have
no doubt, sire," she adds, "that you never will abuse the power an
enraptured people have entrusted to you without limitation. . . .
May your reign prove the epoch of the re-establishment of a free and
independent government, but never the source of absolute authority."
Numbers of women of the first rank, Mesdames de la Marck, de Boufflers,
de Brienne, de Mesmes, de Luxembourg, de Croy, think and write in the
same style. "Absolute power," says one of these, "is a mortal malady
which, insensibly corrupting moral qualities, ends in the destruction
of states. . . . The actions of sovereigns are subject to the censure of
their subjects as to that of the universe. . . . France is undone if
the present administration lasts."[4240]--When, under Louis XVI, a new
administration proposes and withdraws feeble measures of reform, their
criticism shows the same firmness: "Childishness, weakness, constant
inconsistency," writes another,[4241] "incessant change; and always
worse off than we were before. Monsieur and M. le Comte d'Artois have
just made a journey through the provinces, but only as people of that
kind travel, with a frightful expenditure and devastation along the
whole road, coming back extraordinarily fat; Monsieur is as big as a
hogshead; as to M. le Comte d'Artois he is bringing about order by the
life he leads."--An inspiration of humanity animates these feminine
breasts along with that of liberty. They interest themselves in the
poor, in children, in the people; Madame d'Egmont recommends Gustavus
III to plant Dalecarlia with potatoes. On the appearance of the
engraving published for the benefit of Calas[4242] "all France and even
all Europe, hastens to subscribe for it, the Empress of Russia giving
5,000 livres[4243]. "Agriculture, economy, reform, philosophy," writes
Walpole, "are bon ton, even at the court."--President Dupaty having
drawn up a memorandum in behalf of three innocent persons, sentenced "to
be broken on the wheel, everybody in society is talking about it;" "idle
conversation no longer prevails in society," says a correspondent of
Gustavus III[4244] "since it is that which forms public opinion.
Words have become actions. Every sensitive heart praises with joy
a publication inspired by humanity and which appears full of talent
because it is full of feeling." When Latude is released from the prison
of Bicêtre Mme. de Luxembourg, Mme. de Boufflers, and Mme. de Staël dine
with the grocer-woman who "for three years and a half moved heaven and
earth" to set the prisoner free. It is owing to the women, to their
sensibility and zeal, to a conspiracy of their sympathies, that M. de
Lally succeeds in the rehabilitation of his father. When they take a
fancy to a person they become infatuated with him; Madame de Lauzun,
very timid, goes so far as to publicly insult a man who speaks ill of M.
Necker.--It must be borne in mind that, in this century, the women were
queens, setting the fashion, giving the tone, leading in conversation
and naturally shaping ideas and opinions[4245]. When they take the lead
on the political field we may be sure that the men will follow them:
each one carries her drawing room circle with her.

VI. Well-Meaning Government.

     Infinite, vague aspirations.--Generosity of sentiments and
     of conduct.--The mildness and good intentions of the
     government.--Its blindness and optimism.

An aristocracy imbued with humanitarian and radical maxims, courtiers
hostile to the court, privileged persons aiding in undermining
privileges, presents to us a strange spectacle in the testimony of the
time. A contemporary states that it is an accepted principle "to change
and upset everything."[4246] High and low, in assemblages, in public
places, only reformers and opposing parties are encountered among the
privileged classes.

"In 1787, almost every prominent man of the peerage in the Parliament
declared himself in favor of resistance. . . . I have seen at the
dinners we then attended almost every idea put forward, which, soon
afterwards, produced such startling effects."[4247] Already in 1774,
M. de Vaublanc, on his way to Metz, finds a diligence containing an
ecclesiastic and a count, a colonel in the hussars, talking political
economy constantly[4248]. "It was the fashion of the day. Everybody was
an economist. People conversed together only about philosophy, political
economy and especially humanity, and the means for relieving the people,
(le bon peuple), which two words were in everybody's mouth." To this
must be added equality; Thomas, in a eulogy of Marshal Saxe says, "I
cannot conceal it, he was of royal blood," and this phrase was admired.
A few of the heads of old parliamentary or seigniorial families
maintain the old patrician and monarchical standard, the new generation
succumbing to novelty. "For ourselves," says one of them belonging to
the youthful class of the nobility,[4249] "with no regret for the past
or anxiety for the future, we marched gaily along over a carpet of
flowers concealing an abyss. Mocking censors of antiquated ways, of the
feudal pride of our fathers and of their sober etiquette, everything
antique seemed to us annoying and ridiculous. The gravity of old
doctrines oppressed us. The cheerful philosophy of Voltaire amused
and took possession of us. Without fathoming that of graver writers we
admired it for its stamp of fearlessness and resistance to arbitrary
power. . . . Liberty, what-ever its language, delighted us with its
spirit, and equality on account of its convenience. It is a pleasant
thing to descend so long as one thinks one can ascend when one pleases;
we were at once enjoying, without forethought, the advantages of the
patriciate and the sweets of a commoner philosophy. Thus, although our
privileges were at stake, and the remnants of our former supremacy
were undermined under our feet, this little warfare gratified us.
Inexperienced in the attack, we simply admired the spectacle. Combats
with the pen and with words did not appear to us capable of damaging our
existing superiority, which several centuries of possession had made
us regard as impregnable. The forms of the edifice remaining intact,
we could not see how it could be mined from within. We laughed at the
serious alarm of the old court and of the clergy which thundered
against the spirit of innovation. We applauded republican scenes in
the theater,[4250] philosophic discourses in our Academies, the bold
publications of the literary class."--If inequality still subsists in
the distribution of offices and of places, "equality begins to reign in
society. On many occasions literary titles obtain precedence over titles
of nobility. Courtiers and servants of the passing fashion, paid their
court to Marmontel, d'Alembert and Raynal. We frequently saw in
company literary men of the second and third rank greeted and
receiving attentions not extended to the nobles of the provinces. . . .
Institutions remained monarchical, but manners and customs became
republican. A word of praise from d'Alembert or Diderot was more
esteemed than the most marked favor from a prince. . . It was impossible
to pass an evening with d'Alembert, or at the Hôtel de Larochefoucauld
among the friends of Turgot, to attend a breakfast at the Abbé Raynal's,
to be admitted into the society and family of M. de Malesherbes, and
lastly, to approach a most amiable queen and a most upright king,
without believing ourselves about to enter upon a kind of golden era of
which preceding centuries afforded no idea. . . . We were bewildered
by the prismatic hues of fresh ideas and doctrines, radiant with hopes,
ardently aglow for every sort of reputation, enthusiastic for all
talents and beguiled by every seductive dream of a philosophy that was
about to secure the happiness of the human species. Far from foreseeing
misfortune, excess, crime, the overthrow of thrones and of principles,
the future disclosed to us only the benefits which humanity was
to derive from the sovereignty of Reason. Freedom of the press and
circulation was given to every reformative writing, to every project
of innovation, to the most liberal ideas and to the boldest of systems.
Everybody thought himself on the road to perfection without being under
any embarrassment or fearing any kind of obstacle. We were proud of
being Frenchmen and, yet again, Frenchmen of the eighteenth century
. . . . Never was a more terrible awakening preceded by a sweeter
slumber or by more seductive dreams."

They do not content themselves with dreams, with pure desires, with
passive aspirations. They are active, and truly generous; a worthy
cause suffices to secure their devotion. On the news of the American
rebellion, the Marquis de Lafayette, leaving his young wife pregnant,
escapes, braves the orders of the court, purchases a frigate, crosses
the ocean and fights by the side of Washington. "The moment the quarrel
was made known to me," he says, "my heart was enlisted in it, and my
only thought was to rejoin my regiment." Numbers of gentlemen follow in
his footsteps. They undoubtedly love danger; "the chance of being
shot is too precious to be neglected."[4251] But the main thing is to
emancipate the oppressed; "we showed ourselves philosophers by becoming
paladins,"[4252] the chivalric sentiment enlisting in the service
of liberty. Other services besides these, more sedentary and less
brilliant, find no fewer zealots. The chief personages of the provinces
in the provincial assemblies,[4253] the bishops, archbishops, abbés,
dukes, counts, and marquises, with the wealthiest and best informed of
the notables in the Third-Estate, in all about a thousand persons, in
short the social elect, the entire upper class convoked by the
king, organize the budget, defend the tax-payer against the fiscal
authorities, arrange the land-registry, equalize the taille, provide
a substitute for the corvée, provide public roads, multiply charitable
asylums, educate agriculturists, proposing, encouraging and directing
every species of reformatory movement. I have read through the
twenty volumes of their procès-verbaux: no better citizens, no more
conscientious men, no more devoted administrators can be found, none
gratuitously taking so much trouble on themselves with no object but the
public welfare. Never was an aristocracy so deserving of power at the
moment of losing it; the privileged class, aroused from their indolence,
were again becoming public men, and, restored to their functions, were
returning to their duties. In 1778, in the first assembly of Berry,
the Abbé de Seguiran, the reporter, has the courage to state that "the
distribution of the taxes should be a fraternal partition of public
obligations."[4254] In 1780 the abbés, priors and chapters of the same
province contribute 60,000 livres of their funds, and a few gentlemen,
in less than twenty-four hours, contribute 17,000 livres. In 1787,
in the assembly of Alençon the nobility and the clergy tax themselves
30,000 livres to relieve the indigent in each parish subject to
taxation[4255]. in the month of April, 1787, the king, in an assembly
of the notables, speaks of "the eagerness with which archbishops and
bishops come forward claiming no exemption in their contributions to
the public revenue." In the month of March, 1789, on the opening of the
bailiwick assemblies, the entire clergy, nearly all the nobility, in
short, the whole body of the privileged class voluntarily renounce their
privileges in relation to taxation. The sacrifice is voted unanimously;
they themselves offer it to the Third-Estate, and it is worth while
to see their generous and sympathetic tone in the manuscript

"The nobility of the bailiwick of Tours," says the Marquis de
Lusignan,[4256] "considering that they are men and citizens before being
nobles, can make amends in no way more in conformity with the spirit of
justice and patriotism that animates the body, for the long silence to
which it has been condemned by the abuse of ministerial power, than in
declaring to their fellow-citizens that, in future, they will claim none
of the pecuniary advantages secured to them by custom, and that they
unanimously and solemnly bind themselves to bear equally, each in
proportion to his fortune, all taxes and general contributions which the
nation shall prescribe."

"I repeat," says the Comte de Buzançois at the meeting of the
Third-Estate of Berry, "that we are all brothers, and that we are
anxious to share your burdens. . . . We desire to have but one single
voice go up to the assembly and thus manifest the union and harmony
which should prevail there. I am directed to make the proposal to you to
unite with you in one memorandum."

"These qualities are essential in a deputy," says the Marquis de
Barbancon speaking for the nobles of Chateauroux, "integrity, firmness
and knowledge; the first two are equally found among the deputies of
the three orders; but knowledge will be more generally found in the
Third-Estate, which is more accustomed to public affairs."

"A new order of things is unfolding before us," says the Abbé Legrand in
the name of the clergy of Chateauroux; "the veil of prejudice is being
torn away and giving place to Reason. She is possessing herself of all
French hearts, attacking at the root whatever is based on former opinion
and deriving her power only from herself."

Not only do the privileged classes make advances but it is no effort to
them; they use the same language as the people of the Third-Estate; they
are disciples of the same philosophers and seem to start from the same
principles. The nobility of Clermont in Beauvoisis[4257] orders its
deputies "to demand, first of all, an explicit declaration of the rights
belonging to all men." The nobles of Mantes and Meulan affirm "that
political principles are as absolute as moral principles, since both
have reason for a common basis." The nobles of Rheims demand "that the
king be entreated to order the demolition of the Bastille." Frequently,
after such expressions and with such a yielding disposition, the
delegates of the nobles and clergy are greeted in the assemblies of the
'Third-Estate with the clapping of hands, "tears" and enthusiasm. On
witnessing such effusions how can one avoid believing in concord? And
how can one foresee strife at the first turn of the road on which they
have just fraternally entered hand in hand?

Wisdom of this melancholy stamp is not theirs. They set out with the
principle that man, and especially the man of the people, is good; why
conjecture that he may desire evil for those who wish him well? They
are conscientious in their benevolence and sympathy for him. Not only do
they utter these sentiments but they give them proof. "At this moment,"
says a contemporary,[4258] "the most active pity animates all breasts;
the great dread of the opulent is to appear insensible." The archbishop
of Paris, subsequently followed and stoned, is the donator of 100,000
crowns to the hospital of the Hôtel-Dieu. The intendant Berthier, who is
to be massacred, draws up the new assessment-roll of the Ile-de-France,
equalizing the taille, which act allows him to abate the rate, at first,
an eighth, and next, a quarter[4259]. The financier Beaujon constructs a
hospital. Necker refuses the salary of his place and lends the treasury
two millions to re-establish public credit. The Duc de Charost, from
1770[4260] down, abolishes seigniorial corvées on his domain and founds
a hospital in his seigniory of Meillant. The Prince de Beaufremont,
the presidents de Vezet, de Chamolles, de Chaillot, with many seigniors
beside in Franche-Comté, follow the example of the king in emancipating
their serfs[4261]. The bishop of Saint-Claude demands, in spite of his
chapter, the enfranchisement of his mainmorts. The Marquis de Mirabeau
establishes on his domain in Limousin a gratuitous bureau for the
settlement of lawsuits, while daily, at Fleury, he causes nine hundred
pounds of cheap bread to be made for the use of "the poor people, who
fight to see who shall have it."[4262] M. de Barral, bishop of Castres,
directs his curates to preach and to diffuse the cultivation of
potatoes. The Marquis de Guerchy himself mounts on the top of a pile of
hay with Arthur Young to learn how to construct a hay-stack. The
Marquis de Lasteyrie imports lithography into France. A number of grand
seigniors and prelates figure in the agricultural societies, compose or
translate useful books, familiarize themselves with the applications of
science, study political economy, inform themselves about industries,
and interest themselves, either as amateurs or promoters, in every
public amelioration. "Never," says Lacretelle again, "were the French
so combined together to combat the evils to which nature makes us
pay tribute, and those which in a thousand ways creep into all social
institutions." Can it be admitted that so many good intentions thus
operating together are to end in destruction?--All take courage,
government as well as the higher class, in the thought of the good
accomplished, or which they desire to accomplish. The king remembers
that he has restored civil rights to the Protestants, abolished
preliminary torture, suppressed the corvée in kind, established the free
circulation of grains, instituted provincial assemblies, built up the
marine, assisted the Americans, emancipated his own serfs, diminished
the expenses of his household, employed Malesherbes, Turgot and Necker,
given full play to the press, and listened to public opinion[4263]. No
government displayed greater mildness; on the 14th of July, 1789, only
seven prisoners were confined in the Bastille, of whom one was an
idiot, another kept there by his family, and four under the charge of
counterfeiting[4264]. No sovereign was more humane, more charitable,
more preoccupied with the unfortunate. In 1784, the year of inundations
and epidemics, he renders assistance to the amount of three millions.
Appeals are made to him direct, even for personal accidents. On the
8th of June, 1785, he sends two hundred livres to the wife of a Breton
laboring-man who, already having two children, brings three at once
into the world[4265]. During a severe winter he allows the poor daily to
invade his kitchen. It is quite probable that, next to Turgot, he is
the man of his day who loved the people most.--His delegates under him
conform to his views; I have read countless letters by intendants who
try to appear as little Turgots. "One builds a hospital, another admits
artisans at his table;"[4266] a certain individual undertakes the
draining of a marsh. M. de la Tour, in Provence, is so beneficent during
a period of forty years that the Tiers-Etat vote him a gold medal in
spite of himself[4267]. A governor delivers a course of lectures on
economical bread-making.--What possible danger is there for shepherds of
this kind amidst their flocks? On the king convoking the States-General
nobody had "any suspicion," nor fear of the future. "A new State
constitution is spoken of as an easy performance, and as a matter
of course."[4268]--"The best and most virtuous men see in this the
beginning of a new era of happiness for France and for the whole
civilized world. The ambitious rejoice in the broad field open to their
desires. But it would have been impossible to find the most morose, the
most timid, the most enthusiastic of men anticipating any one of the
extraordinary events towards which the assembled states were drifting."



[Footnote 4201: Macaulay.]

[Footnote 4202: Stendhal, "Rome, Naples et Florence," 371.]

[Footnote 4203: Morellet, "Mémoires," I. 139 (on the writings and
conversations of Diderot, d,Holbach and the atheists). "At that time,
in this philosophy, all seemed innocent enough, it being confined to the
limits of speculation, and never seeking, even in its boldest flights,
anything beyond a calm intellectual exercise."]

[Footnote 4204: "L'Homme aux quarante écus." Cf. Voltaire, "Mémoires,"
the suppers given by Frederick II. "Never in any place in the world was
there greater freedom of conversation concerning the superstitions of

[Footnote 4205: Morellet, "Mémoires," I. 133.]

[Footnote 4206: Galiani, "Correspondance, passim."]

[Footnote 4207: Bachaumont, III. 93 (1766), II. 202 (1765).]

[Footnote 4208: Geffroy, "Gustave III.," I. 114.]

[Footnote 4209: Villemain, "Tableau de la Litterature au dix-huitième
siècle," IV. 409.]

[Footnote 4210: Grimm, "corresp. littéraire," IV. 176. De Ségur,
"Mémoires," I. 113.]

[Footnote 4211: "Princesse de Babylone."--Cf. "le Mondain."]

[Footnote 4212: Here we may have an important motive for the socialist
attitudes towards sexual morality as it was during the activie nineteen
seventies until the unexpected appearance of AIDS put an abrupt end to
the proceedings. (SR.)]

[Footnote 4213: Mme. d'Epinay, ed. Boiteau, I. 216: at a supper given
by Mlle. Quinault, the comedian, at which are present Saint-Lambert, the
Prince de. . . . , Duclos and Mme. d'Epinay.]

[Footnote 4214: For example, the father of Marmant, a military
gentleman, who, having won the cross of St. Louis at twenty-eight,
abandons the service because he finds that promotion is only for people
of the court. In retirement on his estates he is a liberal, teaching his
son to read the reports made by Necker. (Marshal Marmont, "Mémoires," I.

[Footnote 4215: Aubertin, "L'Esprit public," in the 18th century, p. 7.]

[Footnote 4216: Montesquieu, "Lettres Persanes," (Letter 61).--Cf.
Voltaire, ("Dîner du Comte de Boulainvilliers").]

[Footnote 4217: Aubertin, pp. 281, 282, 285, 289.]

[Footnote 4218: Horace Walpole, "Letters and Correspondence," Sept.
27th, 1765, October 18th, 28th, and November 19th, 1766.]

[Footnote 4219: "Journal et Mémoires de Collé," published by H.
Bonhomme, II. 24 (October, 1755), and III.165 (October 1767).]

[Footnote 4220: "Corresp. littéraire," by Grimm (September, October,

[Footnote 4221: Mme. De Genlis, "Adèle et Théodore," I, 312.]

[Footnote 4222: De Goncourt, "La femme au dix-huitième siècle,"
371-373.--Bachaumont, I. 224 (April 13, 1763).]

[Footnote 4223: Mme. de Genlis, "Adèle et Théodore," II. 326.]

[Footnote 4224: "Tableau de Paris," III.44.]

[Footnote 4225: Métra. "Correspondance secrète," XVII. 387 (March 7,

[Footnote 4226: De Goncourt, ibid. 456.--Vicomtesse de Noailles, "Vie de
la Princesse de Poix," formerly de Beauvau.]

[Footnote 4227: The Abbé de Latteignaut, canon of Rheims, the author of
some light poetry and convivial songs, "has just composed for Nicolet's
theater a parade in which the intrigue is supported by a good many broad
jests, very much in the fashion at this time. The courtiers who give the
tone to this theater think the canon of Rheims superb." (Bachaumont, IV.
174, November, 1768).]

[Footnote 4228: Bachaumont, III. 253.--Châteaubriand, "Mémoires," I.

[Footnote 4229: Champfort, 279.]

[Footnote 4230: Merlin de Thionville, "Vie et correspondance," by
Jean Raynaud. ("La Chartreuse du Val Saint-Pierre." Read the entire
passage).--"Souvenirs Manuscrits," by M--..]

[Footnote 4231: Rivarol, "Mémoires," I. 344.]

[Footnote 4232: Mercier, IV. 142. "In Auvergne, says M. de Montlosier,
I formed for myself a society of priests, men of wit, some of whom were
deists and others open atheists, with whom I carried on a contest with
my brother." ("Mémoires," I.37).]

[Footnote 4233: Lafayette. "Mémoires," III. 58.]

[Footnote 4234: "Dict. Phil." article "Wheat."--The most important work
of Quesnay is of the year 1758, "Tableau économique."]

[Footnote 4235: D'Argenson, "Mémoires," IV. 141; VI. 320, 465; VII.
23; VIII. 153, (1752, 1753, 1754).--Rousseau's discourse on Inequality
belongs also to 1753. On this steady march of opinion consult the
excellent work of d'Aubertin, "L'Esprit public au dix-huitième siècle."]

[Footnote 4236: This seems to be prophetic of the night of August 4,

[Footnote 4237: "Corresp. de Laurette de Malboissière," published by the
Marquise de la Grange. (Sept. 4, 1762, November 8, 1762).]

[Footnote 4238: Madame du Deffant in a letter to Madame de Choiseul,
(quoted by Geffroy), "Gustave et la cour de France," I. 279.]

[Footnote 4239: Geffroy, ibid. I. 232, 241, 245.]

[Footnote 4240: Geffroy, ibid. I.267, 281. See letters by Madame de
Boufflers (October, 1772, July 1774).]

[Footnote 4241: Ibid.. I. 285. The letters of Mme. de la March (1776,
1777, 1779).]

[Footnote 4242: A victim of religious rancor against the protestants,
whose cause, taken op by Voltaire, excited great indignation.--TR.]

[Footnote 4243: Bachaumont, III. 14 (March 28, 1766. Walpole, Oct. 6,

[Footnote 4244: Geffloy, ibid. (A letter by Mme Staël, 5776).]

[Footnote 4245: Collé, "Journal," III. 437 (1770): "Women have got the
upper hand with the French to such an extent, they have so subjugated
them, that they neither feel nor think except as they do."]

[Footnote 4246: "Correspondance," by Métra, III. 200; IV. 131.]

[Footnote 4247: "Mémoires du Chancelier Pasquier," _Ed. Plon Paris_ 1893,
Vol. I. page 26.]

[Footnote 4248: De Vaublanc, "Souvenirs," I. 117, 377.]

[Footnote 4249: De Ségur, "Mémoires," I. 17.]

[Footnote 4250: Ibid. I. 151. "I saw the entire Court at the theater in
the château at Versailles enthusiastically applaud Voltaire's tragedy of
'Brutus,' and especially these lines:

Je suis fils de Brutus, et je porte en mon coeur La liberté gravée et
les rois en horreur."]

[Footnote 4251: De Lauzun, 80 (in relation to his expedition into

[Footnote 4252: De Ségur, I. 87.]

[Footnote 4253: The assemblies of Berry and Haute-Guyenne began in 1778
and 1779; those of other generalships in 1787. All functioned until
1789. (Cf. Léonce de Lavergne, "Les Assemblées provinciales").]

[Footnote 4254: Léonce de Lavergne, ibid. 26, 55, 183. The tax
department of the provincial assembly of Tours likewise makes its
demands on the privileged class in the matter of taxation.]

[Footnote 4255: Procés-verbaux of the prov. ass. of Normandy, the
generalship of Alençon, 252.--Cf. Archives nationales, II, 1149: in
1778 in the generalship of Moulins, thirty-nine persons, mostly nobles,
supply from their own funds 18,950 livres to the 60,000 livres allowed
by the king for roads and asylums.]

[Footnote 4256: Archives nationales, procès-verbaux and registers of the
States-General, vol. XLIX. p.712, 714 (the nobles and clergy of Dijon);
vol. XVI. p. 183 (the nobles of Auxerre) vol. XXIX. pp.352, 455, 458
(the clergy and nobles of Berry); vol. CL. p.266 (the clergy and nobles
of Tours); vol. XXIX; the clergy and nobles of Chateauroux, (January
29, 1789); pp. 572, 582. vol. XIII. 765 (the nobles of Autun).--See as a
summary of the whole, the "Résumé des Cahiers" by Prud'homme, 3 vols.]

[Footnote 4257: Prud'homme, ibid.. II. 39, 51, 59. De Lavergne, 384.
In 1788, two hundred gentlemen of the first families of Dauphiny sign,
conjointly with the clergy and the Third-Estate of the province, an
address to the king in which occurs the following passage: "Neither
time nor obligation legitimizes despotism; the rights of men derive from
nature alone and are independent of their engagements."]

[Footnote 4258: Lacretelle, "Hist. de France au dix-huitième siècle,"

[Footnote 4259: Procès-verbeaux of the prov. ass. of the Ile-de-France
(1787), p.127.]

[Footnote 4260: De Lavergne, ibid.. 52, 369.]

[Footnote 4261: "Le cri de la raison," by Clerget, curé d'Onans (1789),

[Footnote 4262: Lucas de Montigny, "Mémoires de Mirabeau," I. 290,
368.--Théron de Montaugé, "L'agriculture et les classes rurales dans le
pays Toulousain," p. 14.]

[Footnote 4263: "Foreigners generally could scarcely form an idea of the
power of public opinion at this time in France; they can with difficulty
comprehend the nature of that invisible power which commands even in the
king's palace." (Necker, 1784, quoted by De Tocqueville).]

[Footnote 4264: Granier de Cassagnac, II. 236.--M. de Malesherbes,
according to custom, inspected the different state prisons, at the
beginning of the reign of Louis XVI. "He told me himself that he had
only released two." (Senac de Meilhan, "Du gouvemement, des moeurs, et
des conditions en France.").]

[Footnote 4265: Archives nationales, II. 1418, 1149, F. 14, 2073.
(Assistance rendered to various suffering provinces and places.)]

[Footnote 4266: Aubertin, p.484 (according to Bachaumont).]

[Footnote 4267: De Lavergne, 472.]

[Footnote 4268: Mathieu Dumas, "Mémoires," I.426.--Sir Samuel Romilly,
"Mémoires," I. 99.--"Confidence increased even to extravagance," (Mme.
de Genlis).--On the 29th June, 1789, Necker said at the council of the
king at Marly, "What is more frivolous than the fears now entertained
concerning the organization of the assembly of the States-General? No
law can be passed without obtaining the king's assent" (De Barentin,
"Mémoires," p. 187).--Address of the National Assembly to its
constituents, October 2, 1789. "A great revolution of which the idea
should have appeared chimerical a few months since has been effected
amongst us."]


I. The Past.

     The former spirit of the Third-Estate.--Public matters
     concern the king only.--Limits of the Jansenist and
     parliamentarian opposition.

The new philosophy, confined to a select circle, had long served as a
mere luxury for refined society. Merchants, manufacturers, shopkeepers,
lawyers, attorneys, physicians, actors, professors, curates, every
description of functionary, employee and clerk, the entire middle class,
had been absorbed with its own cares. The horizon of each was limited,
being that of the profession or occupation which each exercised, that
of the corporation in which each one was comprised, of the town in which
each one was born, and, at the utmost, that of the province which each
one inhabited[4301]. A dearth of ideas coupled with conscious diffidence
restrained the bourgeois within his hereditary barriers. His eyes seldom
chanced to wander outside of them into the forbidden and dangerous
territory of state affairs; hardly was a furtive and rare glance
bestowed on any of the public acts, on the matters which "belonged to
the king." There was no critical irritability then, except with the
bar, the compulsory satellite of the Parliament, and borne along in its
orbit. In 1718, after a session of the royal court (lit de justice), the
lawyers of Paris being on a strike the Regent exclaims angrily and
with astonishment, "What! those fellows meddling too!"[4302] It must
be stated furthermore that many kept themselves in the background. "My
father and myself," afterwards writes the advocate Barbier, "took no
part in the uproars, among those caustic and turbulent spirits." and
he adds this significant article of faith: "I believe that one has to
fulfill his duties honorably, without concerning oneself with state
affairs, in which one has no mission and exercises no power." During
the first half of the eighteenth century I am able to discover but one
center of opposition in the Third-Estate, the Parliament; and around it,
feeding the flame, the ancient Gallican or Jansenist spirit. "The
good city of Paris," writes Barbier in 1733, "is Jansenist from top to
bottom," and not alone the magistrates, the lawyers, the professors, the
best among the bourgeoisie, "but again the mass of the Parisians, men,
women and children, all upholding that doctrine, without comprehending
it, or understanding any of its distinctions and interpretations, out
of hatred to Rome and the Jesuits. Women, the silliest, and even
chambermaids, would be hacked to pieces for it. . ." This party is
increased by the honest folks of the kingdom who detest persecutions
and injustice. Accordingly, when the various chambers of magistrates, in
conjunction with the lawyers, tender their resignations and file out of
the palace "amidst a countless multitude, the crowd exclaims: Behold
the true Romans, the fathers of the country! and as the two counselors
Pucelle and Menguy pass along they fling them crowns." The quarrel
between the Parliament and the Court, constantly revived, is one of the
sparks which provokes the grand final explosion, while the Jansenist
embers, smoldering in the ashes, are to be of use in 1791 when the
ecclesiastical edifice comes to be attacked. But, within this old
chimney-corner only warm embers are now found, firebrands covered
up, sometimes scattering sparks and flames, but in themselves and by
themselves, not incendiary; the flame is kept within bounds by its
nature, and its supplies limit its heat. The Jansenist is too good
a Christian not to respect powers inaugurated from above. The
parliamentarian, conservative through his profession, would be horrified
at overthrowing the established order of things. Both combat for
tradition and against innovation; hence, after having defended the past
against arbitrary power they are to defend it against revolutionary
violence, and to fall, the one into impotency and the other into


     Change in the condition of the bourgeois.--He becomes
     wealthy.--He makes loans to the State.--The danger of his
     creditorship.--He interests himself in public matters.

The uprising is, however, late to catch on among the middle class, and,
before it can take hold, the resistant material must gradually be made
inflammable.--In the eighteenth century a great change takes place
in the condition of the Third-Estate. The bourgeois has worked,
manufactured, traded, earned and saved money, and has daily become
richer and richer.[4303] This great expansion of enterprises, of trade,
of speculation and of fortunes dates from Law;[4304] arrested by war it
reappears with more vigor and more animation at each interval of peace
after the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, and that of Paris in
1763, and especially after the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI. The
exports of France which amounted to

 106 millions in 1720

 124 millions in 1735

 192 millions in 1748

 257 millions in 1755

 309 millions in 1776

 354 millions in 1788.

In 1786 Saint Domingo alone ships back to France for 131 millions of its
products, and in return receives 44 millions in merchandise. As a result
of these exchanges we see, at Nantes, and at Bordeaux, the creation of
colossal commercial houses. "I consider Bordeaux, says Arthur Young, as
richer and doing more business than any city in England except London;
. . . of late years the progress of maritime commerce has been more rapid
in France than even in England."[4305] According to an administrator of
the day, if the taxes on the consumption of products daily increase the
revenue, this is because the industry since 1774 has developed a number
of new products[4306]. And this progress is regular and constant. "We
may calculate," says Necker in 1781, "on an increase of two millions
a year on all the duties on consumption."--In this great exertion of
innovation, labor and engineering, Paris, constantly growing, is the
central workshop. It enjoys, to a much greater extent than today,
the monopoly of all works of intelligence and taste, books, pictures,
engravings, statues, jewelry, toilet details, carriages, furniture,
articles of fashion and rarity, whatever affords pleasure and
ornamentation for an elegant worldly society; all Europe is supplied by
it. In 1774 its trade in books is estimated at 45 millions, and that
of London at only one-quarter of that sum[4307]. Upon the profits many
immense and even more numerous moderate fortunes were built up, and
these now became available for investment.--In fact, we see the noblest
hands stretching out to receive them, princes of the blood, provincial
assemblies, assemblies of the clergy, and, at the head of all, the king,
who, the most needy, borrows at ten percent and is always in search of
additional lenders. Already under Fleury, the debt has augmented to 18
millions in interests, and during the Seven years' War, to 34 millions.
Under Louis XVI., M. Necker borrows a capital of 530 millions; M.
Joly de Fleury, 300 millions; M. de Calonne, 800 millions; in all 1630
millions over a period of ten years. The interest of the public debt,
only 45 millions in 1755, reaches 106 millions in 1776 and amounts to
206 millions in 1789[4308]. What creditors which these few figures
tell us about! As the Third-Estate, it must be noted, is the sole class
making and saving money, nearly all these creditors belong it. Thousands
of others must be added to these. In the first place, the financiers
who make advances to the government, advances that are indispensable,
because, from time immemorial, it has eaten its corn on the blade, so
the present year is always gnawing into the product of coming years;
there are 80 millions of advances in 1759, and 170 millions in 1783. In
the second place there are so many suppliers, large and small, who, on
all parts of the territory, keep accounts with the government for their
supplies and for public works, a veritable army and increasing
daily, since the government, impelled by centralization, takes sole
responsibility for all ventures, and, requested by public opinion, it
increases the number of undertakings useful to the public. Under Louis
XV. the State builds six thousand leagues of roads, and under Louis XVI.
in 1788, to guard against famine, it purchases grain to the amount of
forty millions.

Through this increase of activity and its demands for capital the State
becomes the universal debtor; henceforth public affairs are no longer
exclusively the king's business. His creditors become uneasy at his
expenditures; for it is their money he wastes, and, if he proves a bad
administrator, they will be ruined. They want to know something of his
budget, to examine his books: a lender always has the right to look
after his securities. We accordingly see the bourgeois raising his
head and beginning to pay close attention to the great machine whose
performances, hitherto concealed from vulgar eyes, have, up to the
present time, been kept a state secret. He becomes a politician, and, at
the same time, discontented. For it cannot be denied that these matters,
in which he is interested, are badly conducted. Any young man of good
family managing affairs in the same way would be checked. The expenses
of the administration of the State are always in excess of the
revenue[4309]. According to official admissions[4310] the annual deficit
amounted to 70 in 1770, and 80 millions in 1783; when one has attempted
to reduce this it has been through bankruptcies; one to the tune of two
milliards at the end of the reign of Louis XIV, and another almost equal
to it in the time of Law, and another on from a third to a half of all
the interests in the time of Terray, without mentioning suppressions in
detail, reductions, indefinite delays in payment, and other violent and
fraudulent means which a powerful debtor employs with impunity against
a feeble creditor. "Fifty-six violations of public faith have occurred
from Henry IV down to the ministry of M. de Loménie inclusive,"[4311]
while a last bankruptcy, more frightful than the others, loom up on the
horizon. Several persons, Bezenval and Linguet for instance, earnestly
recommend it as a necessary and salutary amputation. Not only are there
precedents for this, and in this respect the government will do no more
than follow its own example, but such is its daily practice, since it
lives only from day to day, by dint of expedients and delays, digging
one hole to stop up another, and escaping failure only through the
forced patience which it imposes on its creditors. With it, says a
contemporary, people were never sure of anything, being always obliged
to wait[4312]. "Were their capital invested in its loans, they could
never rely on a fixed date for the payment of interest. Did they build
ships, repair highways, or the soldiers clothed, they had no guarantees
for their advances, no certificates of repayment, being reduced to
calculate the chances involved in a ministerial contract as they would
the risks of a bold speculation." It pays if it can and only when it
can, even the members of the household, the purveyors of the table and
the personal attendants of the king. In 1753 the domestics of Louis XV
had received nothing for three years. We have seen how his grooms
went out to beg during the night in the streets of Versailles; how his
purveyors "hid themselves;" how, under Louis XVI in 1778, there were
792,620 francs due to the wine-merchant, and 3,467,980 francs to the
purveyor of fish and meat[4313]. In 1788, so great is the distress,
the Minister de Loménie appropriates and expends the funds of a private
subscription raised for a hospital, and, at the time of his resignation,
the treasury is empty, save 450,000 francs, half of which he puts in
his pocket. What an administration!--In the presence of this debtor,
evidently becoming insolvent, all people, far and near, interested in
his business, consult together with alarm, and debtors are innumerable,
consisting of bankers, merchants, manufacturers, employees, lenders of
every kind and degree, and, in the front rank, the capitalists, who have
put all their means for life into his hands, and who are to beg
should he not pay them annually the 44 millions he owes them; the
industrialists and traders who have entrusted their commercial integrity
to him and who would shrink with horror from failure as its issue; and
after these come their creditors, their clerks, their relations, in
short, the largest portion of the laboring and peaceable class which,
thus far, had obeyed without a murmur and never dreamed of bringing the
established order of things under its control. Henceforth this class
will exercise control attentively, distrustfully and angrily. Woe to
those who are at fault, for they well know that the ruin of the State is
their ruin.

III. Social Promotion.

     He rises on the social ladder.--The noble draws near to him.
    --He becomes cultivated.--He enters into society.--He
     regards himself as the equal of the noble.--Privileges an

Meanwhile this class has climbed up the social ladder, and, through its
élite, rejoined those in the highest position. Formerly between Dorante
and M. Jourdain, between Don Juan and M. Dimanche,[4314] between M.
Sotenville himself and Georges Dandin, the distance was vast; everything
was different--dress, house, habits, characters, points of honor,
ideas and language. On the one hand the nobles are drawn nearer to the
Third-Estate and, on the other, the Third-Estate is drawn nearer to the
nobles, actual equality having preceded equality as a right.--On the
approach of the year 1789 it was difficult to distinguish one from the
other in the street. The sword is no longer worn by gentlemen in the
city; they have abandoned embroideries and laces, and walk about in
plain frock-coats, or drive themselves in their cabriolets[4315]. "The
simplicity of English customs," and the customs of the Third-Estate seem
to them better adapted to ordinary life. Their prominence proves irksome
to them and they grow weary of being always on parade. Henceforth
they accept familiarity that they may enjoy freedom of action, and
are content "to mingle with their fellow-citizens without obstacle
or ostentation.----"It is certainly a grave sign, and the old feudal
spirits have reason to tremble. The Marquis de Mirabeau, on learning
that his son wishes to act as his own lawyer, consoles himself by seeing
others, of still higher rank, do much worse[4316].

"As it was difficult to accept the idea that the grandson of my father,
whom we just had seen pass by on the promenade, everybody, young and
old, raising their hats to him from afar, would soon be seen at the
bar of a lower tribunal, there to contest minor legal matters with
pettifoggers; but I said to myself, however, that Louis XIV would
be still more astonished had he seen the wife of his grand-successor
dressed in a peasant's frock and apron, with no attendants, not a page
or any one else, running about the palace and the terraces, requesting
the first scamp in a frock-coat she encountered to give her his hand,
which he simply does, all the way down to the foot of the steps."

But the leveling of manners and appearances of life reflected, indeed,
only an equalization of minds and tempers. The antique scenery being
torn away indicates the disappearance of the sentiments to which it
belonged. It indicated gravity, dignity, custom of self-control and of
exposed, in authority and command. It was the rigid and sumptuous
parade of a social corps of staff-officers. At this time the parade is
discontinued because the corps has been dissolved. If the nobles dress
like the bourgeoisie it is owing to their having become bourgeois, that
is to say, idlers retired from business, with nothing to do but to talk
and amuse themselves.--Undoubtedly they amuse themselves and converse
like people of refinement; but it is not very difficult to equal them in
this respect. Now that the Third-Estate has acquired its wealth a good
many commoners have become people of society. The successors of
Samuel Bernard are no longer so many Turcarets, but Paris-Duverneys,
Saint-Jameses, Labordes, refined men, people of culture and of feeling,
possessing tact, literary and philosophical attainments, benevolent,
giving parties and knowing how to entertain[4317]. With them, slightly
different, we find the same company as with a grand lord, the same ideas
and the same tone. Their sons, messieurs de Villemer, de Francueil,
d'Epinay, throw money out of the window with as much elegance as the
young dukes with whom they sup. A parvenu with money and intellect
soon learns the ropes, and his son, if not himself, is initiated: a few
years' exercises in an academy, a dancing-master, and one of the four
thousand public offices which confer nobility, supply him with the
deficient appearances. Now, in these times, as soon as one knows how to
conform to the laws of good-breeding, how to bow and how to converse,
one possesses a patent for admission everywhere. An Englishman[4318]
remarks that one of the first expressions employed in praise of a man
is, "he has a very graceful address." The Maréchale de Luxembourg,
so high-spirited, always selects Laharpe as her cavalier, because "he
offers his arm so well."--The commoner not only enters the drawing-room,
if he is fitted for it, but he stands foremost in it if he has
any talent. The first place in conversation, and even in public
consideration, is for Voltaire, the son of a notary, for Diderot, the
son of a cutler, for Rousseau, the son of a watchmaker, for d'Alembert,
a foundling brought up by a glazier; and, after the great men have
disappeared, and no writers of the second grade are left, the leading
duchesses are still content to have the seats at their tables occupied
by Champfort, another foundling, Beaumarchais, the son of another
watchmaker, Laharpe, supported and raised on charity, Marmontel, the
son of a village tailor, and may others of less note, in short, every
parvenu possessing wit.

The nobility, to perfect their own accomplishments, borrow their pens
and aspire to their successes. "We have recovered from those old Gothic
and absurd prejudices against literary culture," says the Prince de
Hénin;[4319] "as for myself I would compose a comedy to-morrow if I had
the talent, and if I happened to be made a little angry, I would perform
in it." And, in fact, "the Vicomte de Ségur, son of the minister of war,
plays the part of the lover in 'Nina' on Mlle. de Guimard's stage
with the actors of the Italian Comedy."[4320] One of Mme. de Genlis's
personages, returning to Paris after five years' absence, says that "he
left men wholly devoted to play, hunting, and their small houses, and he
finds them all turned authors."[4321] They hawk about their tragedies,
comedies, novels, eclogues, dissertations and treatises of all kinds
from one drawing room to another. They strive to get their pieces
played; they previously submit them to the judgment of actors; they
solicit a word of praise from the Mercure; they read fables at the
sittings of the Academy. They become involved in the bickering, in the
vainglory, in the pettiness of literary life, and still worse, of the
life of the stage, inasmuch as they are themselves performers and play
in company with real actors in hundreds of private theaters. Add to
this, if you please, other petty amateur talents such as sketching
in water-colors, writing songs, and playing the flute.--After this
amalgamation of classes and this transfer of parts what remains of
the superiority of the nobles? By what special merit, through what
recognized capacity are they to secure respect of a member of the
Third-Estate? Outside of fashionable elegance and a few points of
breeding, in what respect they differ from him? What superior education,
what familiarity with affairs, what experience with government, what
political instruction, what local ascendancy, what moral authority can
be alleged to sanction their pretensions to the highest places?--In the
way of practice, the Third-Estate already does the work, providing the
qualified men, the intendants, the ministerial head-clerks, the lay and
ecclesiastical administrators, the competent laborers of all kinds and
degrees. Call to mind the Marquis of whom we have just spoken, a former
captain in the French guards, a man of feeling and of loyalty, admitting
at the elections of 1789 that "the knowledge essential to a deputy
would most generally be found in the Third-Estate, the mind there being
accustomed to business."--In the way of theory: the commoner is as
well-informed as the noble, and he thinks he is still better informed,
because, having read the same books and arrived at the same principles,
he does not, like him, stop half-way on the road to their consequences,
but plunges headlong to the very depths of the doctrine, convinced that
his logic is clairvoyance and that he is more enlightened because he is
the least prejudiced.--Consider the young men who, about twenty years of
age in 1780, born in industrious families, accustomed to effort and able
to work twelve hours a day, a Barnave, a Carnot, a Roederer, a Merlin de
Thionville, a Robespierre, an energetic stock, feeling their strength,
criticizing their rivals, aware of their weakness, comparing their own
application and education to their levity and incompetence, and, at
the moment when youthful ambition stirs within them, seeing themselves
excluded in advance from any superior position, consigned for life to
subaltern employment, and subjected in every career to the precedence
of superiors who they hardly recognize as their equals. At the artillery
examinations where Chérin, the genealogist, refuses commoners, and where
the Abbé Bosen, a mathematician, rejects the ignorant, it is discovered
that capacity is wanting among the noble pupils and nobility among the
capable pupils,[4322] the two qualities of gentility and intelligence
seeming to exclude each other, as there are but four or five out of a
hundred pupils who combine the two conditions. Now, as society at
this time is mixed, such tests are frequent and easy. Whether lawyer,
physician, or man of letters, a member of the Third-Estate with whom
a duke converses familiarly, who sits in a diligence alongside of a
count-colonel of hussars,[4323] can appreciate his companion or his
interlocutor, weigh his ideas, test his merit and esteem him at his
correct value, and I am sure that he does not overrate him.--Now that
the nobles have lost their special capacities and the Third-Estate
have acquired general competence, and as they are on the same level in
education and competence, the inequality which separates them has become
offensive because it has become useless. Nobility being instituted by
custom is no longer sanctified by conscience; the Third-Estate being
justly excited against privileges that have no justification, whether in
the capacity of the noble or in the incapacity of the bourgeois.

IV. Rousseau's Philosophy Spreads And Takes HOLD.

     Philosophy in the minds thus fitted for it.--That of
     Rousseau prominent.--This philosophy in harmony with new
     necessities.--It is adopted by the Third-Estate.

Distrust and anger against a government putting all fortunes at risk,
rancor and hostility against a nobility barring all roads to popular
advancement, are, then, the sentiments developing themselves among the
middle class solely due to their advance in wealth and culture.--We
can imagine the effect of the new philosophy upon people with such
attitudes. At first, confined to the aristocratic reservoir, the
doctrine filters out through numerous cracks like so many trickling
streams, to scatter imperceptibly among the lower class. Already, in
1727, Barbier, a bourgeois of the old school and having little knowledge
of philosophy and philosophers except the name, writes in his journal:

"A hundred poor families are deprived of the annuities on which they
supported themselves, acquired with bonds for which the capital is
obliterated; 56,000 livres are given in pensions to people who have held
the best offices, where they have amassed considerable property, always
at the expense of the people, and all this merely that they may rest
themselves and do nothing."[4324]

One by one, reformative ideas penetrate to his office of consulting
advocate; conversation has sufficed to propagate them, homely common
sense needing no philosophy to secure their recognition.

"The tax on property," said he, in 1750, "should be proportioned and
equally distributed among all the king's subjects and the members of the
government, in proportion to the property each really possesses in
the kingdom; in England, the lands of the nobility, the clergy and the
Third-Estate pay alike without distinction, and nothing is more just."

In the six years which follow the flood increases. People denounce the
government in the cafés, on their promenades, while the police dare not
arrest malcontents "because they would have to arrest everybody." The
disaffection goes on increasing up to the end of the reign. In 1744,
says the bookseller Hardy, during the king's illness at Metz, private
individuals cause six thousand masses to be said for his recovery and
pay for them at the sacristy of Notre Dame; in 1757, after Damiens's
attempt on the king's life, the number of masses demanded is only six
hundred; in 1774, during the malady which carries him off, the number
falls down to three. The complete discredit of the government, the
immense success of Rousseau, these two events, occurring
simultaneously, afford a date for the conversion of the Third-Estate
to philosophy[4325]. A traveler, at the beginning of the reign of Louis
XVI, who returns home after some years' absence, on being asked what
change he noticed in the nation, replied, "Nothing, except that
what used to be talked about in the drawing-rooms is repeated in the
streets."[4326] And that which is repeated in the streets is Rousseau's
doctrine, the Discourse on Inequality, the Social Contract amplified,
popularized and repeated by adherents in every possible way and in
all their forms. What could be more fascinating for the man of the
Third-Estate? Not only is this theory in vogue, and encountered by him
at the decisive moment when, for the first time, he turns his attention
to general principles, but again it provides him with arms against
social inequality and political absolutism, and much sharper than he
needs. To people disposed to put restraints on power and to abolish
privileges, what guide is more sympathetic than the writer of genius,
the powerful logician, the impassioned orator, who establishes natural
law, who repudiates historic law, who proclaims the equality of men, who
contends for the sovereignty of the people, who denounces on every page
the usurpation, the vices, the worthlessness, the malefactions of the
great and of kings! And I omit the points by which he makes acceptable
to a rigid and laborious bourgeoisie, to the new men that are working
and advancing themselves, his steady earnestness, his harsh and bitter
tone, his eulogy of simple habits, of domestic virtues, of personal
merit, of virile energy, the commoner addressing commoners. It is
not surprising that they should accept him as a guide and welcome
his doctrines with that fervor of faith called enthusiasm, and which
invariably accompanies the newborn idea as well as the first love.

A competent judge, and an eye-witness, Mallet du Pan,[4327] writes in

"Rousseau had a hundred times more readers among the middle and lower
classes than Voltaire. He alone inoculated the French with the doctrine
of the sovereignty of the people and with its extremist consequences.
It would be difficult to cite a single revolutionary who was not
transported over these anarchical theories, and who did not burn
with ardor to realize them. That Contrat Social, the disintegrator of
societies, was the Koran of the pretentious talkers of 1789, of the
Jacobins of 1790, of the republicans of 1791, and of the most atrocious
of the madmen. . . . I heard Marat in 1788 read and comment on the
Contrat Social in the public streets to the applause of an enthusiastic

The same year, in an immense throng filling the great hall of the Palais
de Justice, Lacretelle hears that same book quoted, its dogmas put
forward by the clerks of la Bazoche, "by members of the bar,[4328]
by young lawyers, by the ordinary lettered classes swarming with
new-fledged specialist in public law." Hundreds of details show us that
it is in every hand like a catechism. In 1784[4329] certain magistrates'
sons, on taking their first lesson in jurisprudence of an assistant
professor, M. Saveste, have the "Contrat Social" placed in their hands
as a manual. Those who find this new political geometry too difficult
learn at least its axioms, and if these repel them they discover at
least their palpable consequences, so many handy comparisons, the
trifling common practice in the literature in vogue, whether drama,
history, or romance[4330]. Through the "Eloges" by Thomas, the pastorals
of Bernadin de Saint-Pierre, the compilation of Raynal, the comedies of
Beaumarchais and even the "Young Anarcharsis" and the literature of
the resuscitated Greek and Roman antiquity, the dogmas of equality and
liberty infiltrate and penetrate the class able to read[4331]. "A few
days ago," says Métra,[4332] "a dinner of forty ecclesiastics from the
country took place at the house of curate of Orangis, five leagues from
Paris. At the dessert, and in the truth which came out over their
wine, they all admitted that they came to Paris to see the 'Marriage of
Figaro.'. . Up to the present time it seems as if comic authors intended
to make sport for the great at the expense of the little, but here, on
the contrary, it is the little who laugh at the expense of the great."
Hence the success of the piece.--Hence a steward of a chateau has found
a Raynal in the library, the furious declamation of which so delights
him that he can repeat it thirty years later without stumbling, or a
sergeant in the French guards embroiders waistcoats during the night
to earn the money with which to purchase the latest books.--After the
gallant picture of the boudoir comes the austere and patriotic picture;
"Belisarious" and the "Horatii" of David reflect the new attitude both
of the public and of the studios[4333] The spirit is that of Rousseau,
"the republican spirit;"[4334] the entire middle class, artists,
employees, curates, physicians, attorneys, advocates, the lettered and
the journalists, all are won over to it; and it is fed by the worst as
well as the best passions, ambition, envy, desire for freedom, zeal for
the public welfare and the consciousness of right.

V. Revolutionary Passions.

     Its effects therein.--The formation of revolutionary
     passions.--Leveling instincts.--The craving for dominion.--
     The Third-Estate decides and constitutes the nation.--
     Chimeras, ignorance, exaltation.

All these passions intensify each other. There is nothing like a wrong
to quicken the sentiment of justice. There is nothing like the sentiment
of justice to quicken the injury proceeding from a wrong[4335]. The
Third-Estate, considering itself deprived of the place to which it
is entitled, finds itself uncomfortable in the place it occupies and,
accordingly, suffers through a thousand petty grievances it would not,
formerly, have noticed. On discovering that he is a citizen a man is
irritated at being treated as a subject, no one accepting an inferior
position alongside of one of whom he believes himself the equal. Hence,
during a period of twenty years, the ancient régime while attempting
to grow easier, appear to be still more burdensome, and its pinpricks
exasperate as if they were so many wounds. Countless instances might
be quoted instead of one.--At the theater in Grenoble, Barnave,[4336] a
child, is with his mother in a box which the Duc de Tonnerre, governor
of the province, had assigned to one of his satellites. The manager of
the theater, and next an officer of the guard, request Madame Barnave to
withdraw. She refuses, whereupon the governor orders four fusiliers to
force her out. The audience in the stalls had already taken the matter
up, and violence was feared, when M. Barnave, advised of the affront,
entered and led his wife away, exclaiming aloud, "I leave by order of
the governor." The indignant public, all the bourgeoisie, agreed among
themselves not to enter the theater again without an apology being
made; the theater, in fact, remaining empty several months, until Madame
Barnave consented to reappear there. This outrage afterwards recurred to
the future deputy, and he then swore "to elevate the caste to which he
belonged out of the humiliation to which it seemed condemned." In like
manner Lacroix, the future member of the Convention,[4337] on leaving
a theater, and jostled by a gentleman who was giving his arm to a lady,
utters a loud complaint. "Who are you?" says the person. Still
the provincial, he is simple enough to give his name, surname, and
qualifications in full. "Very well," says the other man, "good for
you--I am the Comte de Chabannes, and I am in a hurry," saying which,
"laughing heartily," he jumps into his vehicle. "Ah, sir, exclaimed
Lacroix, still much excited by his misadventure, "pride and prejudice
establish an awful gulf between man and man!" We may rest assured that,
with Marat, a veterinary surgeon in the Comte d'Artois's stables,
with Robespierre, a protégé of the bishop of Arras, with Danton, an
insignificant lawyer in Mery-sur-Seine, and with many others beside,
self-esteem, in frequent encounters, bled in the same fashion. The
concentrated bitterness with which Madame Roland's memoirs are imbued
has no other cause. "She could not forgive society[4338] for the
inferior position she had so long occupied in it."[4339] Thanks to
Rousseau, vanity, so natural to man, and especially sensitive with a
Frenchman, becomes still more sensitive. The slightest discrimination, a
tone of the voice, seems a mark of disdain. "One day,[4340] on alluding,
before the minister of war, to a general officer who had obtained his
rank through his merit, he exclaimed, 'Oh, yes, an officer of luck.'
This expression, being repeated and commented on, does much mischief."
In vain do the grandees show their condescending spirit, "welcoming with
equal kindness and gentleness all who are presented to them." In the
mansion of the Due de Penthièvre the nobles eat at the table of the
master of the house, the commoners dine with his first gentleman and
only enter the drawing room when coffee is served. There they find "in
full force and with a superior tone" the others who had the honor
of dining with His Highness, and "who do not fail to salute the new
arrivals with an obliging civility indicating patronage."[4341] No more
is required; in vain does the Duke "carry his attentions to an extreme,"
Beugnot, so pliable, has no desire to return. They bear them ill-will,
not only on account of their slight bows but again on account of their
over-politeness. Champfort acrimoniously relates that d'Alembert, at the
height of his reputation, being in Madame du Deffant's drawing room
with President Hénault and M. de Pont-de-Veyle, a physician enters named
Fournier, and he, addressing Madame du Deffant, says, "Madame, I have
the honor of presenting you with my very humble respects;'' turning to
President Hénault, "I have the honor to be your obedient servant,"
and then to M. de Pont-de-Veyle, "Sir, your most obedient," and to
d'Alembert, "Good day, sir."[4342] To a rebellious heart everything is
an object of resentment. The Third-Estate, following Rousseau's example,
cherishes ill-feeling against the nobles for what they do, and yet
again, for what they are, for their luxury, their elegance, their
insincerity, their refined and brilliant behavior. Champfort is
embittered against them on account of the polite attentions with which
they overwhelm him. Sieyès bears them a grudge on account of a promised
abbey which he did not obtain. Each individual, besides the general
grievances, has his personal grievance. Their coolness, like their
familiarity, attentions and inattentions, is an offense, and, under
these millions of needle-thrusts, real or imaginary, the mind gets to be
full of gall. In 1789, it is full to overflowing.

"The most honorable title of the French nobility," writes Champfort, "is
a direct descent from some 30,000 armed, helmeted, armletted and armored
men who, on heavy horses sheathed in armor, trod under foot 8 or 10
millions of naked men, the ancestors of the actual nation. Behold
these well-established claims to the respect and affection of their
descendants! And, to complete the respectability of this nobility, it
is recruited and regenerated by the adoption of those who have acquired
fortune by plundering the cabins of the poor who are unable to pay its

"Why should not the Third-Estate send back," says Sieyès, "into the
forests of Franconia every family that maintains its absurd pretension
of having sprung from the loins of a race of conquerors, and of having
succeeded to the rights of conquest? [4344] I can well imagine, were
there no police, every Cartouche[4345] firmly establishing himself on
the high-road--would that give him a right to levy toll? Suppose him
to sell a monopoly of this kind, once common enough, to an honest
successor, would the right become any more respectable in the hands of
the purchaser?. . . Every privilege, in its nature, is unjust, odious,
and against the social compact. The blood boils at the thought of its
ever having been possible to legally consecrate down to the eighteenth
century the abominable fruits of an abominable feudal system. . . . The
caste of nobles is really a population apart, a fraudulent population,
however, which, for lack of serviceable faculties, and unable to exist
alone, fastens itself upon a living nation, like the vegetable tumors
that support themselves on the sap of the plants to which they are a
burden, and which wither beneath the load."--They suck all, everything
being for them. "Every branch of the executive power has fallen into the
hands of this caste, which staffed (already) the church, the robe and
the sword. A sort of confraternity or joint paternity leads the nobles
each to prefer the other and all to the rest of the nation. . . . The
Court reigns, and not the monarch. The Court creates and distributes
offices. And what is the Court but the head of this vast aristocracy
that covers all parts of France, and which, through its members, attains
to and exercises everywhere whatever is requisite in all branches of the
public administration?"--Let us put an end to "this social crime, this
long parricide which one class does itself the honor to commit daily
against the others. . . . Ask no longer what place the privileged shall
occupy in the social order; it is simply asking what place in a sick
man's body must be assigned to a malignant ulcer that is undermining and
tormenting it. . . to the loathsome disease that is consuming the living
flesh."--The solution is self-evident: let us eradicate the ulcer, or at
least sweep away the vermin. The Third-Estate, in itself and by itself,
is "a complete nation," requiring no organ, needing no aid to subsist or
to govern itself, and which will recover its health on ridding itself of
the parasites infesting its skin.

"What is the Third-Estate?" says Sieyès, "everything. What, thus far, is
it in the political body?[4346] Nothing. What does it demand? To become

Not something but actually everything. Its political ambition is as
great as its social ambition, and it aspires to authority as well as to
equality. If privileges are an evil that of the king is the worst for
it is the greatest, and human dignity, wounded by the prerogative of the
noble, perishes under the absolutism of the king. Of little consequence
is it that he scarcely uses it, and that his government, deferential
to public opinion, is that of a hesitating and indulgent parent.
Emancipated from real despotism, the Third-Estate becomes excited
against possible despotism, imagining itself in slavery in consenting to
remain subject. A proud spirit has recovered itself, become erect, and,
the better to secure its rights, is going to claim all rights. To the
people who since antiquity has been subject to masters, it is so sweet,
so intoxicating to put themselves in their places, to put the former
masters in their place, to say to himself, they are my representatives,
to regard himself a member of the sovereign power, king of France in his
individual sphere, the sole legitimate author of all rights and of all
functions!--In conformity with the doctrines of Rousseau the registers
of the Third-Estate unanimously insist on a constitution for France;
none exists, or at least the one she possesses is of no value. Thus far
"the conditions of the social compact have been ignored;"[4347] now that
they have been discovered they must be written out. To say, with the
nobles according to Montesquieu, that the constitution exists, that its
great features need not be changed, that it is necessary only to reform
abuses, that the States-General exercise only limited power, that they
are incompetent to substitute another regime for the monarchy, is not
true. Tacitly or expressly, the Third-Estate refuses to restrict its
mandate and allows no barriers to be interposed against it. It requires
its deputies accordingly to vote "not by orders but each by himself and
conjointly."--"In case the deputies of the clergy or of the nobility
should refuse to deliberate in common and individually, the deputies
of the Third-Estate, representing twenty-four millions of men, able and
obliged to declare itself the National Assembly not-withstanding the
scission of the representation of 400,000 persons, will propose to the
King in concert with those among the Clergy and the Nobility disposed
to join them, their assistance in providing for the necessities of the
State, and the taxes thus assented to shall be apportioned among all the
subjects of the king without distinction."[4348]--Do not object that
a people thus mutilated becomes a mere crowd, that leaders cannot be
improvised, that it is difficult to dispense with natural guides, that,
considering all things, this Clergy and this Nobility still form a
select group, that two-fifths of the soil is in their hands, that
one-half of the intelligent and cultivated class of men are in their
ranks, that they are exceedingly well-disposed and that old historic
bodies have always afforded to liberal constitutions their best
supports. According to the principle enunciated by Rousseau we are
not to value men but to count them. In politics numbers only are
respectable; neither birth, nor property, nor function, nor capacity, is
a title to be considered; high or low, ignorant or learned, a general, a
soldier, or a hod-carrier, each individual of the social army is a unit
provided with a vote; wherever a majority is found there is the right.
Hence, the Third-Estate puts forth its right as incontestable, and, in
its turn, it proclaims with Louis XIV, "I am the State."

This principle once admitted or enforced, they thought, all will go

"It seemed," says an eye-witness,[4349] "as if we were about to be
governed by men of the golden age. This free, just and wise people,
always in harmony with itself, always clear-sighted in choosing its
ministers, moderate in the use of its strength and power, never could be
led away, never deceived, never under the dominion of; or enslaved by,
the authority which it confided. Its will would fashion the laws and the
law would constitute its happiness."

The nation is to be regenerated, a phrase found in all writings and
in every mouth. At Nangis, Arthur Young finds this the sub-stance of
political conversation[4350]. The chaplain of a regiment, a curate in
the vicinity, keeps fast hold of it; as to knowing what it means that
is another matter. It is impossible to find anything out through
explanations of it otherwise than "a theoretic perfection of government,
questionable in its origin, hazardous in its progress, and visionary in
its end." On the Englishman proposing to them the British constitution
as a model they "hold it cheap in respect of liberty" and greet it with
a smile; it is, especially, not in conformity with "the principles." And
observe that we are at the residence of a grand seignior, in a circle
of enlightened men. At Riom, at the election assemblies,[4351] Malouet
finds "persons of an ordinary stamp, practitioners, petty lawyers,
with no experience of public business, quoting the 'Contrat Social,'
vehemently declaiming against tyranny, and each proposing his own
constitution." Most of them are without any knowledge whatever, mere
traffickers in chicane; the best instructed entertain mere schoolboy
ideas of politics. In the colleges of the University no history is
taught[4352]. "The name of Henry IV., says Lavalette, was not once
uttered during my eight years of study, and, at seventeen years of age,
I was still ignorant of the epoch and the mode of the establishment
of the Bourbons on the throne." The stock they carry away with them
consists wholly, as with Camille Desmoulins, of scraps of Latin,
entering the world with brains stuffed with "republican maxims," excited
by souvenirs of Rome and Sparta, and "penetrated with profound contempt
for monarchical governments." Subsequently, at the law school, they
learn something about legal abstractions, or else learn nothing. In the
lecture-courses at Paris there are no students; the professor delivers
his lecture to copyists who sell their copy-books. If a pupil should
attend himself and take notes he would be regarded with suspicion; he
would be charged with trying to deprive the copyists of the means of
earning their living. A diploma, consequently, is worthless. At
Bourges one is obtainable in six months; if the young man succeeds in
comprehending the law it is through later practice and familiarity with
it.--Of foreign laws and institutions there is not the least knowledge,
scarcely even a vague or false notion of them. Malouet himself
entertains a meager idea of the English Parliament, while many,
with respect to ceremonial, imagine it a copy of the Parliament of
France.--The mechanism of free constitutions, or the conditions of
effective liberty, that is too complicated a question. Montesquieu, save
in the great magisterial families, is antiquated for twenty years past.
Of what avail are studies of ancient France? "What is the result of so
much and such profound research? Laborious conjecture and reasons for
doubting."[4353] It is much more convenient to start with the rights of
man and to deduce the consequences. Schoolboy logic suffices for that to
which collegiate rhetoric supplies the tirades.--In this great void of
enlightenment the vague terms of liberty, equality and the sovereignty
of the people, the glowing expressions of Rousseau and his successors,
all these new axioms, blaze up like burning coals, discharging clouds
of smoke and intoxicating vapor. High-sounding and vague language is
interposed between the mind and objects around it; all outlines are
confused and the vertigo begins. Never to the same extent have men lost
the purport of outward things. Never have they been at once more blind
and more chimerical. Never has their disturbed reason rendered them
more tranquil concerning real danger and created more alarm at imaginary
danger. Strangers with cool blood and who witness the spectacle, Mallet
du Pan, Dumont of Geneva, Arthur Young, Jefferson, Gouverneur Morris,
write that the French are insane. Morris, in this universal delirium,
can mention to Washington but one sane mind, that of Marmontel, and
Marmontel speaks in the same style as Morris. At the preliminary
meetings of the clubs, and at the assemblies of electors, he is the only
one who opposes unreasonable propositions. Surrounding him are none but
the excited, the exalted about nothing, even to grotesqueness[4354]. In
every act of the established régime, in every administrative measure,
"in all police regulations, in all financial decrees, in all the
graduated authorities on which public order and tranquility depend,
there was naught in which they did not find an aspect of tyranny. . .
On the walls and barriers of Paris being referred to, these were
denounced as enclosures for deer and derogatory to man."--

"I saw," says one of these orators, "at the barrier Saint-Victor,
sculptured on one of the pillars--would you believe it?----an enormous
lion's head, with open jaws vomiting forth chains as a menace to those
who passed it. Could a more horrible emblem of slavery and of despotism
be imagined!"--"The orator himself imitates the roar of the lion.
The listeners were all excited by it and I, who passed the barrier
Saint-Victor so often, was surprised that this horrible image had not
struck me. That very day I examined it closely and, on the pilaster, I
found only a small buckler suspended as an ornament by a little chain
attached by the sculptor to a little lion's mouth, like those we see
serving as door-knockers or as water-cocks."--Perverted sensations and
delirious conceptions of this kind would be regarded by physicians as
the symptoms of mental derangement, and we are only in the early
months of the year 1789!--In such excitable and over-excited brains the
powerful fascination of words is about to create phantoms, some of them
hideous, the aristocrat and the tyrant, and others adorable, the friend
of the people and the incorruptible patriot, so many disproportionate,
imaginary figures, but which will replace actual living persons, and
which the maniac is to overwhelm with his praise or pursue with his

VI. Summary

Thus does the philosophy of the eighteenth century descend among the
people and propagate itself. Ideas, on the first story of the house, in
handsome gilded rooms, serve only as an evening illumination, as drawing
room explosives and pleasing Bengal lights, with which people amuse
themselves, and then laughingly throw from the windows into the
street. Collected together in the story below and on the ground floor,
transported to shops, to warehouses and into business cabinets, they
find combustible material, piles of wood a long time accumulated, and
here do the flames enkindle. The conflagration seems to have already
begun, for the chimneys roar and a ruddy light gleams through the
windows; but "No," say the people above, "those below would take care
not to set the house on fire, for they live in it as we do. It is only a
straw bonfire and a burning chimney, and a little water will extinguish
it; and, besides, these little accidents clear the chimney and burn out
the soot."

Take care! Under the vast deep arches supporting it, in the cellars of
the house, there is a magazine of powder.



[Footnote 4301: I have verified these sentiments myself, in the
narration of aged people deceased twenty years ago. Cf. manuscript
memoirs of Hardy the bookseller (analyzed by Aubertin), and the "Travels
of Arthur Young."]

[Footnote 4302: Aubertin, ibid., 180, 362.]

[Footnote 4303: Voltaire, "Siècle de Louis XV," ch. XXXI; "Siècle de
Louis XIV," ch. XXX. "Industry increases every day. To see the private
display, the prodigious number of pleasant dwellings erected in Paris
and in the provinces, the numerous equipages, the conveniences, the
acquisitions comprehended in the term luxe, one might suppose that
opulence was twenty times greater than it formerly was. All this is the
result of ingenuity, much more than of wealth. . . The middle class has
become wealthy by industry. . . . Commercial gains have augmented. The
opulence of the great is less than it was formerly and much larger among
the middle class, the distance between men even being lessened by
it. Formerly the inferior class had no resource but to serve their
superiors; nowadays industry has opened up a thousand roads unknown a
hundred years ago."]

[Footnote 4304: John Law (Edinbourgh 1672--dead in Venice 1729) Scotch
financier, who founded a bank in Paris issuing paper money whose value
depended upon confidence and credit. He had to flee France when his
system collapsed and died in misery. (SR.)]

[Footnote 4305: Arthur Young, II. 360, 373.]

[Footnote 4306: De Tocqueville, 255.]

[Footnote 4307: Aubertin, 482.]

[Footnote 4308: Roux and Buchez, "Histoire parlementaire." Extracted
from the accounts made up by the comptrollers-general, I. 175, 205.--The
report by Necker, I. 376. To the 206,000,000 must be added 15,800,000
for expenses and interest on advances.]

[Footnote 4309: Compare this to the situation in year 1999 where
irresponsible democratic governments sell enormous fortunes in the form
of bonds to the popular pension funds, fortunes which they expect that
the next generation shall repay. (SR.)]

[Footnote 4310: Roux and Buchez, I. 190. "Rapport," M. de Calonne.]

[Footnote 4311: Champfort, p. 105.]

[Footnote 4312: De Tocqueville, 261.]

[Footnote 4313: D'Argenson, April 12, 1752, February 11, 1752, July 24,
1753, December 7, 1753.--Archives nationales, O1, 738.]

[Footnote 4314: Characters in Molière's comedies.--TR.]

[Footnote 4315: De Ségur. I. 17.]

[Footnote 4316: Lucas de Montigny, Letter of the Marquis de Mirabeau,
March 23, 1783.]

[Footnote 4317: Mme. Vigée-Lebrun, I. 269, 231. (The domestic
establishment of two farmers-general, M. de Verdun, at Colombes, and M.
de St. James, at Neuilly).--A superior type of the bourgeois and of the
merchant has already been put on the stage by Sedaine in "Le Philosophe
sans le Savoir."]

[Footnote 4318: John Andrews, "A comparative view," etc. p. 58.]

[Footnote 4319: De Tilly, "Mémoires," I. 31.]

[Footnote 4320: Goffroy, "Gustave III," letter of Mme. Staël (August,

[Footnote 4321: Mme. de Genlis, "Adele et Théodore" (1782), I.
312.--Already in 1762, Bachaumont mentions several pieces written by
grand seigniors, such as "Clytemnestre," by the Comte de Lauraguais;
"Alexandre," by the Chevalier de Fénélon; "Don Carlos," by the Marquis
de Ximènès.]

[Footnote 4322: Champfort, 119.]

[Footnote 4323: De Vaublanc, I. 117.--Beugnot, "Mémoires," (the first
and second passages relating to society at the domiciles of M. de
Brienne, and the Duc de Penthièvre.)]

[Footnote 4324: Barbier, II, 16; III. 255 (May, 1751). "The king is
robbed by all the seigniors around him, especially on his journeys
to his different châteaux, which are frequent."--And September,
1750.----Cf. Aubertin, 291, 415 ("Mémoires," manuscript by Hardy).]

[Footnote 4325: Treaties of Paris and Hubersbourg, 1763.--The trial of
La Chalotais, 1765.--Bankruptcy of Terray, 1770.--Destruction of the
Parliament, 1771.--The first partition of Poland, 1772.--Rousseau,
"Discours sur l'inégalité," 1753.--"Héloise," 1759.--"Emile" and
"Contrat Social," 1762.]

[Footnote 4326: De Barante, "Tableau de la littérature française au
dix-huitième siècle," 312.]

[Footnote 4327: "Mercure britannique," vol. II, 360.]

[Footnote 4328: Lacretelle, "Dix ans d'épreuves," p. 21.]

[Footnote 4329: "Memoires," by PASQUIER (Etienne-Dennis, duc),
chancelier de France. in VI volumes, Librarie Plon, Paris 1893.]

[Footnote 4330: "Le Compère Mathieu," by Dulaurens (1766). "Our
sufferings are due to the way in which we are brought up, namely, the
state of society in which we are born. Now that state being the source
of all our ills its dissolution must become that of all our good."]

[Footnote 4331: The "Tableau de Paris," by Mercier (12 vols.), is the
completest and most exact portrayal of the ideas and aspirations of the
middle class from 1781 to 1788.]

[Footnote 4332: "Correspondence," by Métra, XVII, 87 (August 20, 1784).]

[Footnote 4333: "Belisarious," is from 1780, and the "Oath of the
Horatii," from 1783.]

[Footnote 4334: Geffroy, "Gustave II et la cour de France." "Paris,
with its republican spirit, generally applauds whatever fails at
Fontainebleau." (A letter by Madame de Staël, Sept. 17, 1786).]

[Footnote 4335: Taine uses the French term "passe-droit", meaning both
passing over, slight, unjust promotion over the heads of others, a
special favour, or privilege. (SR.)]

[Footnote 4336: Sainte-Beuve, "Causeries du Lundi," II. 24, in the
article on Barnave.]

[Footnote 4337: Dr Tilly, "Mémoires," I. 243.]

[Footnote 4338: The words of Fontanes, who knew her and admired her.
(Sainte-Beuve, "Nouveaux Lundis," VIII. 221).]

[Footnote 4339: "Mémoires de Madame Roland," passim. At fourteen years
of age, on being introduced to Mme. de Boismorel, she is hurt at hearing
her grandmother addressed "Mademoiselle."--Shortly after this, she says:
"I could not concoal from myself that I was of more consequence than
Mlle. d'Hannaches, whose sixty years and her genealogy did not enable
her to write a common-sense letter or one that was legible."--About
the same epoch she passes a week at Versailles with a servant of the
Dauphine, and tells her mother, "A few days more and I shall so
detest these people that I shall not know how to suppress my hatred
of them."--"What injury have they done you?" she inquired. "It is the
feeling of injustice and the constant contemplation of absurdity!"--At
the château of Fontenay where she is invited to dine, she and her mother
are made to dine in the servants' room, etc.--In 1818, in a small town
in the north, the Comte de--dining with a bourgeois sub-prefect and
placed by the side of the mistress of the house, says to her, on
accepting the soup, 'Thanks, sweetheart,' But the Revolution has given
the lower class bourgeoisie the courage to defend themselves tooth
and nail so that, a moment later, she addresses him, with one of her
sweetest smiles, 'Will you take some chicken, my love?' (The French
expression 'mon coeur' means both sweetheart and my love. SR.)]

[Footnote 4340: De Vaublanc, I. 153.]

[Footnote 4341: Beugnot, "Mémoires," I. 77.]

[Footnote 4342: Champfort, 16.--"Who would believe it! Not taxation,
nor lettres-de-cachet, nor the abuses of power, nor the vexations of
intendants, and the ruinous delays of justice have provoked the ire of
the nation, but their prejudices against the nobility towards which
it has shown the greatest hatred. This evidently proves that the
bourgeoisie, the men of letters, the financial class, in short all who
envy the nobles have excited against these the inferior class in the
towns and among the rural peasantry." (Rivarol, "Mémoires.")]

[Footnote 4343: Champfort, 335.]

[Footnote 4344: Sieyès, "Qu'est ce que le Tiers?" 17, 41, 139, 166.]

[Footnote 4345: Cartouche (Luis Dominique) (Paris, 1693--id. 1721).
Notorious French bandit, leader of a gang of thieves. He died broken
alive on the wheel. (SR.)]

[Footnote 4346: "The nobility, say the nobles, is an intermediary
between the king and the people. Yes, as the hound is an intermediary
between the hunter and the hare." (Champfort).]

[Footnote 4347: Prud'homme, III. 2. ("The Third-Estate of Nivernais,"
passim.) Cf, on the other hand, the registers of the nobility of Bugey
and of Alençon.]

[Footnote 4348: Prud'homme, ibid.., Cahiers of the Third-Estates of
Dijon, Dax, Bayonne, Saint-Sévère, Rennes, etc.]

[Footnote 4349: Marmontel, "Mémoires," II. 247.]

[Footnote 4350: Arthur Young, I. 222.]

[Footnote 4351: Malouet, "Mémoires," I. 279.]

[Footnote 4352: De Lavalette, I. 7.--"Souvenirs", by PASQUIER
(Etienne-Dennis, duc), chancelier de France. in VI volumes, Librarie
Plon, Paris 1893.--. Cf. Brissot, Mémoires, I.]

[Footnote 4353: Prudhomme, "Résumé des cahiers," the "preface," by J. J.

[Footnote 4354: Marmontel, II. 245.]



I. Privations.

     Under Louis XIV.--Under Louis XV.--Under Louis XVI.

La Bruyère wrote, just a century before 1789,[5101]:

"Certain savage-looking animals, male and female, are seen in the
country, black, livid and sunburned, and attached to the soil which they
dig and grub with invincible stubbornness. They seem capable of speech,
and, when they stand erect, they display a human face. They are, in
fact, men. They retire at night into their dens where they live on black
bread, water and roots. They spare other human beings the trouble of
sowing, plowing and harvesting, and thus should not be in want of the
bread they have planted."

They are, however, in want during the twenty-five years after this,
and die in droves. I estimate that in 1715 more than one-third of the
population,[5102] six millions, perish with hunger and of destitution.
This description is, in respect of the first quarter of the century
preceding the Revolution, far from being too vivid, it is rather too
weak; we shall see that it, during more than half a century, up to the
death of Louis XV. is exact; so that instead of weakening any of its
details, they should be strengthened.

"In 1725," says Saint-Simon, "with the profusion of Strasbourg and
Chantilly, the people, in Normandy, live on the grass of the fields. The
first king in Europe could not be a great king if it was not for all the
beggars and the poor-houses full of dying from whom all had been taken
even though it was peace-time.[5103]

In the most prosperous days of Fleury and in the finest region in
France, the peasant hides "his wine on account of the excise and his
bread on account of the taille," convinced "that he is a lost man if
any doubt exists of his dying of starvation."[5104] In 1739 d'Argenson
writes in his journal[5105]:

"The famine has just caused three insurrections in the provinces, at
Ruffec, at Caen, and at Chinon. Women carrying their bread with them
have been assassinated on the highways. . . M. le Duc d'Orléans brought
to the Council the other day a piece of bread, and placed it on the
table before the king 'Sire,' said he, 'there is the bread on which your
subjects now feed themselves.'" "In my own canton of Touraine men have
been eating herbage more than a year." Misery finds company on all
sides. "It is talked about at Versailles more than ever. The king
interrogated the bishop of Chartres on the condition of his people; he
replied that 'the famine and the morality were such that men ate grass
like sheep and died like so many flies.'"

In 1740,[5106] Massillon, bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, writes to Fleury:

"The people of the rural districts are living in frightful destitution,
without beds, without furniture; the majority, for half the year, even
lack barley and oat bread which is their sole food, and which they are
compelled to take out of their own and their children's mouths to
pay the taxes. It pains me to see this sad spectacle every year on my
visits. The Negroes of our colonies are, in this respect, infinitely
better off; for, while working, they are fed and clothed along with
their wives and children, while our peasantry, the most laborious in the
kingdom, cannot, with the hardest and most devoted labor, earn bread for
themselves and their families, and at the same time pay their charges."
In 1740[5107] at Lille, the people rebel against the export of grain.
"An intendant informs me that the misery increases from hour to hour,
the slightest danger to the crops resulting in this for three years
past. . . .Flanders, especially, is greatly embarrassed; there is
nothing to live on until the harvesting, which will not take place for
two months. The provinces the best off are not able to help the others.
Each bourgeois in each town is obliged to feed one or two poor persons
and provide them with fourteen pounds of bread per week. In the little
town of Chatellerault, (of 4,000 inhabitants), 1800 poor, this winter,
are in that situation. . . . The poor outnumber those able to live
without begging. . . while prosecutions for unpaid dues are carried on
with unexampled rigor. The clothes of the poor, their last measure of
flour and the latches on their doors are seized, etc. .. . The abbess of
Jouarre told me yesterday that, in her canton, in Brie, most of the land
had not been planted." It is not surprising that the famine spreads even
to Paris. "Fears are entertained of next Wednesday. There is no more
bread in Paris, except that of the damaged flour which is brought in
and which burns (when baking). The mills are working day and night at
Belleville, regrinding old damaged flour. The people are ready to rebel;
bread goes up a sol a day; no merchant dares, or is disposed, to bring
in his wheat. The market on Wednesday was almost in a state of revolt,
there being no bread in it after seven o'clock in the morning. . . .
The poor creatures at Bicêtre prison were put on short rations, three
quarterons (twelve ounces), being reduced to only half a pound. A
rebellion broke out and they forced the guards. Numbers escaped and they
have inundated Paris. The watch, with the police of the neighborhood,
were called out, and an attack was made on these poor wretches with
bayonet and sword. About fifty of them were left on the ground; the
revolt was not suppressed yesterday morning."

Ten years later the evil is greater.[5108]

"In the country around me, ten leagues from Paris, I find increased
privation and constant complaints. What must it be in our wretched
provinces in the interior of the kingdom?. . . My curate tells me that
eight families, supporting themselves on their labor when I left, are
now begging their bread. There is no work to be had. The wealthy are
economizing like the poor. And with all this the taille is exacted with
military severity. The collectors, with their officers, accompanied by
locksmiths, force open the doors and carry off and sell furniture for
one-quarter of its value, the expenses exceeding the amount of the
tax. . . "--"I am at this moment on my estates in Touraine. I encounter
nothing but frightful privations; the melancholy sentiment of suffering
no longer prevails with the poor inhabitants, but rather one of utter
despair; they desire death only, and avoid increase. . . . It is
estimated that one-quarter of the working-days of the year go to the
corvées, the laborers feeding themselves, and with what?. . . I see poor
people dying of destitution. They are paid fifteen sous a day, equal to
a crown, for their load. Whole villages are either ruined or broken up,
and none of the households recover. . . . Judging by what my neighbors
tell me the inhabitants have diminished one-third. . . . The daily
laborers are all leaving and taking refuge in the small towns. In many
villages everybody leaves. I have several parishes in which the taille
for three years is due, the proceedings for its collection always going
on. . . . The receivers of the taille and of the taxes add one-half
each year in expenses above the tax. . . . An assessor, on coming to the
village where I have my country-house, states that the taille this year
will be much increased; he noticed that the peasants here were fatter
than elsewhere; that they had chicken feathers before their doors, and
that the living here must be good, everybody doing well, etc.--This is
the cause of the peasant's discouragement, and likewise the cause of
misfortune throughout the kingdom."--"In the country where I am staying
I hear that marriage is declining and that the population is decreasing
on all sides. In my parish, with a few fire-sides, there are more than
thirty single persons, male and female, old enough to marry and none of
them considering it. On being urged to marry they all reply alike that
it is not worth while to bring unfortunate beings like themselves into
the world. I have myself tried to induce some of the women to marry by
offering them assistance, but they all reason in this way as if they
had consulted together."[5109]--"One of my curates sends me word that,
although he is the oldest in the province of Touraine, and has seen many
things, including excessively high prices for wheat, he remembers no
misery so great as that of this year, even in 1709. . . . Some of the
seigniors of Touraine inform me that, being desirous of setting the
inhabitants to work by the day, they found very few of them, and these
so weak that they were unable to use their hands."

Those who are able to leave, go.

"A person from Languedoc tells me of vast numbers of peasants deserting
that province and taking refuge in Piedmont, Savoy, and Spain, tormented
and frightened by the measures resorted to in collecting tithes. . . .
The extortioners sell everything and imprison everybody as if prisoners
of war, and even with more avidity and malice, in order to gain
something themselves."--"I met an intendant of one of the finest
provinces in the kingdom, who told me that no more farmers could be
found there; that parents preferred to send their children to the towns;
that living in the surrounding country was daily becoming more horrible
to the inhabitants. . . . A man, well-informed in financial matters,
told me that over two hundred families in Normandy had left this year,
fearing the collections in their villages."--At Paris, "the streets
swarm with beggars. One cannot stop before a door without a dozen
mendicants besetting him with their importunities. They are said to be
people from the country who, unable to endure the persecutions they
have to undergo, take refuge in the cities. . . preferring begging to
labor."--And yet the people of the cities are not much better off. "An
officer of a company in garrison at Mezieres tells me that the poverty
of that place is so great that, after the officers had dined in the
inns, the people rush in and pillage the remnants."--"There are more
than 12,000 begging workmen in Rouen, quite as many in Tours, etc. More
than 20,000 of these workmen are estimated as having left the kingdom
in three months for Spain, Germany, etc. At Lyons 20,000 workers in
silk are watched and kept in sight for fear of their going abroad."
At Rouen,[5110] and in Normandy, "those in easy circumstances find it
difficult to get bread, the bulk of the people being entirely without
it, and, to ward off starvation, providing themselves with food
otherwise repulsive to human beings."--"Even at Paris," writes
d'Argenson,[5111] "I learn that on the day M. le Dauphin and Mme. la
Dauphine went to Notre Dame, on passing the bridge of the Tournelle,
more than 2,000 women assembled in that quarter crying out, 'Give
us bread, or we shall die of hunger.'. . . A vicar of the parish of
Saint-Marguerite affirms that over eight hundred persons died in the
Faubourg St. Antoine between January 20th and February 20th; that the
poor expire with cold and hunger in their garrets, and that the priests,
arriving too late, see them expire without any possible relief."

Were I to enumerate the riots, the sedition of the famished, and the
pillaging of storehouses, I should never end; these are the convulsive
twitching of exhaustion; the people have fasted as long as possible, and
instinct, at last, rebels. In 1747,[5112] "extensive bread-riots occur
in Toulouse, and in Guyenne they take place on every market-day." In
1750, from 6 to 7,000 men gather in Bearn behind a river to resist the
clerks; two companies of the Artois regiment fire on the rebels and kill
a dozen of them. In 1752, a sedition at Rouen and in its neighborhood
lasts three days; in Dauphiny and in Auvergne riotous villagers force
open the grain warehouses and take away wheat at their own price; the
same year, at Arles, 2,000 armed peasants demand bread at the town-hall
and are dispersed by the soldiers. In one province alone, that of
Normandy, I find insurrections in 1725, in 1737, in 1739, in 1752, in
1764, 1765, 1766, 1767 and 1768,[5113] and always on account of bread.

"Entire hamlets," writes the Parliament, "being without the necessities
of life, hunger compels them to resort to the food of brutes. . . . Two
days more and Rouen will be without provisions, without grain, without

Accordingly, the last riot is terrible; on this occasion, the populace,
again masters of the town for three days, pillage the public granaries
and the stores of all the communities.--Up to the last and even later,
in 1770 at Rheims, in 1775 at Dijon, at Versailles, at St. Germain, at
Pontoise and at Paris, in 1772 at Poitiers, in 1785 at Aix in Provence,
in 1788 and 1789 in Paris and throughout France, similar eruptions are
visible.[5114]--Undoubtedly the government under Louis XVI is milder;
the intendants are more humane, the administration is less rigid, the
taille becomes less unequal, and the corvée is less onerous through its
transformation, in short, misery has diminished, and yet this is greater
than human nature can bear.

Examine administrative correspondence for the last thirty years
preceding the Revolution. Countless statements reveal excessive
suffering, even when not terminating in fury. Life to a man of the lower
class, to an artisan, or workman, subsisting on the labor of his own
hands, is evidently precarious; he obtains simply enough to keep him
from starvation and he does not always get that[5115]. Here, in four
districts, "the inhabitants live only on buckwheat," and for five years,
the apple crop having failed, they drink only water. There, in a country
of vine-yards,[5116] "the wine-growers each year are reduced, for the
most part, to begging their bread during the dull season." Elsewhere,
several of the day-laborers and mechanics, obliged to sell their effects
and household goods, die of the cold; insufficient and unhealthy food
generates sickness, while, in two districts, 35,000 persons are stated
to be living on alms[5117]. In a remote canton the peasants cut the
grain still green and dry it in the oven, because they are too hungry to
wait. The intendant of Poitiers writes that "as soon as the workhouses
open, a prodigious number of the poor rush to them, in spite of the
reduction of wages and of the restrictions imposed on them in behalf
of the most needy." The intendant of Bourges notices that a great many
tenant farmers have sold off their furniture, and that "entire families
pass two days without eating," and that in many parishes the famished
stay in bed most of the day because they suffer less. The intendant
of Orleans reports that "in Sologne, poor widows have burned up their
wooden bedsteads and others have consumed their fruit trees," to
preserve themselves from the cold, and he adds, "nothing is exaggerated
in this statement; the cries of want cannot be expressed; the misery of
the rural districts must be seen with one's own eyes to obtain an idea
of it." From Rioni, from La Rochelle, from Limoges, from Lyons, from
Montauban, from Caen, from Alençon, from Flanders, from Moulins
come similar statements by other intendants. One might call it the
interruptions and repetitions of a funeral knell; even in years
not disastrous it is heard on all sides. In Burgundy, near

"taxes, seigniorial dues, the tithes, and the expenses of cultivation,
split up the productions of the soil into thirds, leaving nothing for
the unfortunate cultivators, who would have abandoned their fields, had
not two Swiss manufacturers of calicoes settled there and distributed
about the country 40,000 francs a year in cash."[5118]

In Auvergne, the country is depopulated daily; many of the villages have
lost, since the beginning of the century, more than one-third of their

"Had not steps been promptly taken to lighten the burden of a
down-trodden people," says the provincial assembly in 1787, "Auvergne
would have forever lost its population and its cultivation."

In Comminges, at the outbreak of the Revolution, certain communities
threaten to abandon their possessions, should they obtain no

"It is a well-known fact," says the assembly of Haute-Guyenne, in 1784,"
that the lot of the most severely taxed communities is so rigorous as to
have led their proprietors frequently to abandon their property[5121].
Who is not aware of the inhabitants of Saint-Servin having abandoned
their property ten times, and of their threats to resort again to this
painful proceeding in their recourse to the administration? Only a few
years ago an abandonment of the community of Boisse took place through
the combined action of the inhabitants, the seignior and the décimateur
of that community;" and the desertion would be still greater if the
law did not forbid persons liable to the taille abandoning over-taxed
property, except by renouncing whatever they possessed in the
community. In the Soissonais, according to the report of the provincial
assembly,[5122] "misery is excessive." In Gascony the spectacle is
"heartrending." In the environs of Toul, the cultivator, after paying
his taxes, tithes and other dues, remains empty-handed.

"Agriculture is an occupation of steady anxiety and privation, in which
thousands of men are obliged to painfully vegetate."[5123] In a village
in Normandy, "nearly all the inhabitants, not excepting the farmers
and proprietors, eat barley bread and drink water, living like the most
wretched of men, so as to provide for the payment of the taxes with
which they are overburdened." In the same province, at Forges, "many
poor creatures eat oat bread, and others bread of soaked bran, this
nourishment causing many deaths among infants."[5124] People evidently
live from day to day; whenever the crop proves poor they lack bread.
Let a frost come, a hailstorm, an inundation, and an entire province
is incapable of supporting itself until the coming year; in many places
even an ordinary winter suffices to bring on distress. On all sides
hands are seen outstretched to the king, who is the universal almoner.
The people may be said to resemble a man attempting to wade through a
pool with the water up to his chin, and who, losing his footing at the
slightest depression, sinks down and drowns. Existent charity and the
fresh spirit of humanity vainly strive to rescue them; the water has
risen too high. It must subside to a lower level, and the pool be drawn
off through some adequate outlet. Thus far the poor man catches breath
only at intervals, running the risk of drowning at every moment.

II. The Peasants.

     The condition of the peasant during the last thirty years of
     the Ancient Regime.--His precarious subsistence.--State of
     agriculture.--Uncultivated farms.--Poor cultivation.--
     Inadequate wages.--Lack of comforts.

Between 1750 and 1760,[5125] the idlers who eat suppers begin to regard
with compassion and alarm the laborers who go without dinners. Why are
the latter so impoverished; and by what misfortune, on a soil as rich
as that of France, do those lack bread who grow the grain? In the first
place many farms remain uncultivated, and, what is worse, many are
deserted. According to the best observers "one-quarter of the soil is
absolutely lying waste. . . . Hundreds and hundreds of arpents of heath
and moor form extensive deserts."[5126] Let a person traverse Anjou,
Maine, Brittany, Poitou, Limousin, la Marche, Berry, Nivernais,
Bourbonnais and Auvergne, and he finds one-half of these provinces in
heaths, forming immense plains, all of which might be cultivated." In
Touraine, in Poitou and in Berry they form solitary expanses of 30,000
arpents. In one canton alone, near Preuilly, 40,000 arpents of good
soil consist of heath. The agricultural society of Rennes declares
that two-thirds of Brittany is lying waste. This is not sterility but
decadence. The régime invented by Louis XIV has produced its effect; the
soil for a century past has been reverting to a wild state.

"We see only abandoned and ruinous chateaux; the principal towns of the
fiefs, in which the nobility formerly lived at their ease, are all now
occupied by poor tenant herdsmen whose scanty labor hardly suffices for
their subsistence, and a remnant of tax ready to disappear through the
ruin of the proprietors and the desertion of the settlers."

In the election district of Confolens a piece of property rented for
2,956 livres in 1665, brings in only 900 livres in 1747. On the confines
of la Marche and of Berry a domain which, in 1660, honorably supported
two seigniorial families is now simply a small unproductive tenant-farm;
"the traces of the furrows once made by the plow-iron being still
visible on the surrounding heaths." Sologne, once flourishing,[5127]
becomes a marsh and a forest; a hundred years earlier it produced three
times the quantity of grain; two-thirds of its mills are gone; not a
vestige of its vineyards remains; "grapes have given way to the heath."
Thus abandoned by the spade and the plow, a vast portion of the soil
ceases to feed man, while the rest, poorly cultivated, scarcely provides
the simplest necessities[5128].

In the first place, on the failure of a crop, this portion remains
untilled; its occupant is too poor to purchase seed; the intendant is
often obliged to distribute seed, without which the disaster of the
current year would be followed by sterility the following year[5129].
Every calamity, accordingly, in these days affects the future as well as
the present; during the two years of 1784 and 1785, around Toulouse,
the drought having caused the loss of all draft animals, many of the
cultivators are obliged to let their fields lie fallow. In the second
place, cultivation, when it does take place, is carried on according to
medieval modes. Arthur Young, in 1789, considers that French agriculture
has not progressed beyond that of the tenth century[5130]. Except in
Flanders and on the plains of Alsace, the fields lie fallow one year out
of three, and oftentimes one year out of two. The implements are poor;
there are no plows made of iron; in many places the plow of Virgil's
time is still in use. Cart-axles and wheel-tires are made of wood, while
a harrow often consists of the trestle of a cart. There are few animals
and but little manure; the capital bestowed on cultivation is three
times less than that of the present day. The yield is slight: "our
ordinary farms," says a good observer, "taking one with another return
about six times the seed sown."[5131] In 1778, on the rich soil around
Toulouse, wheat returns about five for one, while at the present day it
yields eight to one and more. Arthur Young estimates that, in his day,
the English acre produces twenty-eight bushels of grain, and the French
acre eighteen bushels, and that the value of the total product of the
same area for a given length of time is thirty-six pounds sterling
in England and only twenty-five in France. As the parish roads are
frightful, and transportation often impracticable, it is clear that,
in remote cantons, where poor soil yields scarcely three times the seed
sown, food is not always obtainable. How do they manage to live until
the next crop? This is the question always under consideration previous
to, and during, the Revolution. I find, in manuscript correspondence,
the syndics and mayors of villages estimating the quantities for local
subsistence at so many bushels in the granaries, so many sheaves in the
barns, so many mouths to be filled, so many days to wait until
the August wheat comes in, and concluding on short supplies for two,
three and four months. Such a state of inter-communication and of
agriculture condemns a country to periodical famines, and I venture to
state that, alongside of the small-pox which out of eight deaths causes
one, another endemic disease exists, as prevalent and as destructive,
and this disease is starvation.

We can easily imagine that it is the common people, and especially the
peasants who suffers. An increase of the price of bread prevents him
from getting any, and even without that increase, he obtains it with
difficulty. Wheat bread cost, as today, three sous per pound,[5132] but
as the average day's work brought only nineteen sous instead of forty,
the day-laborer, working the same time, could buy only the half of a
loaf instead of a full loaf[5133]. Taking everything into account, and
wages being estimated according to the price of grain, we find that the
husbandman's manual labor then procured him 959 litres of wheat, while
nowadays it gives him 1,851 litres; his well-being, accordingly, has
advanced ninety-three per cent., which suffices to show to what extent
his predecessors suffered privations. And these privations are peculiar
to France. Through analogous observations and estimates Arthur
Young shows that in France those who lived on field labor, and
they constituted the great majority, are seventy-six per cent.
less comfortable than the same laborers in England, while they are
seventy-six per cent. less well fed and well clothed, besides being
worse treated in sickness and in health. The result is that in
seven-eighths of the kingdom, there are no farmers, but simply métayers
(a kind of poor tenants)[5134]. The peasant is too poor to
undertake cultivation on his own account, possessing no agricultural
capital[5135]. "The proprietor, desirous of improving his land, finds
no one to cultivate it but miserable creatures possessing only a pair
of hands; he is obliged to advance everything for its cultivation at
his own expense, animals, implements and seed, and even to advance
the wherewithal to this tenant to feed him until the first crop comes
in."--"At Vatan, for example, in Berry, the tenants, almost every year,
borrow bread of the proprietor in order to await the harvesting."--"Very
rarely is one found who is not indebted to his master at least one
hundred livres a year."

Frequently the latter proposes to abandon the entire crop to them
on condition that they demand nothing of him during the year; "these
miserable creatures" have refused; left to themselves, they would not
be sure of keeping themselves alive.--In Limousin and in Angoumois their
poverty is so great[5136] "that, deducting the taxes to which they are
subject, they have no more than from twenty-five to thirty livres each
person per annum to spend; and not in money, it must be stated, but
counting whatever they consume in kind out of the crops they produce.
Frequently they have less, and when they cannot possibly make a living
the master is obliged to support them. . . . The métayer is always
reduced to just what is absolutely necessary to keep him from starving."
As to the small proprietor, the villager who plows his land himself,
his condition is but little better. "Agriculture,[5137] as our
peasants practice it, is a veritable drudgery; they die by thousands in
childhood, and in maturity they seek places everywhere but where they
should be."

In 1783, throughout the plain of the Toulousain they eat only maize,
a mixture of flour, common seeds and very little wheat; those on the
mountains feed, a part of the year, on chestnuts; the potato is hardly
known, and, according to Arthur Young, ninety-nine out of a hundred
peasants would refuse to eat it. According to the reports of intendants,
the basis of food, in Normandy, is oats; in the election-district
of Troyes, buck-wheat; in the Marche and in Limousin, buckwheat with
chestnuts and radishes; in Auvergne, buckwheat, chestnuts, milk-curds
and a little salted goat's meat; in Beauce, a mixture of barley and rye;
in Berry, a mixture of barley and oats. There is no wheat bread; the
peasant consumes inferior flour only because he is unable to pay two
sous a pound for his bread. There is no butcher's meat; at best he
kills one pig a year. His dwelling is built of clay (pise), roofed with
thatch, without windows, and the floor is the beaten ground. Even when
the soil furnishes good building materials, stone, slate and tile, the
windows have no sashes. In a parish in Normandy,[5138] in 1789, "most
of the dwellings consist of four posts." They are often mere stables
or barns "to which a chimney has been added made of four poles and some
mud." Their clothes are rags, and often in winter these are muslin rags.
In Quercy and elsewhere, they have no stockings, or wooden shoes. "It
is not in the power of an English imagination," says Arthur Young,
"to imagine the animals that waited on us here at the Chapeau
Rouge,--creatures that were called by courtesy Souillac women, but in
reality walking dung-hills. But a neatly dressed, clean waiting-girl at
an inn, will be looked for in vain in France." On reading descriptions
made on the spot we see in France a similar aspect of country and of
peasantry as in Ireland, at least in its broad outlines.

III. The Countryside.

Aspects of the country and of the peasantry.

In the most fertile regions, for instance, in Limagne, both cottages and
faces denote "misery and privation."[5139] "The peasants are generally
feeble, emaciated and of slight stature." Nearly all derive wheat and
wine from their homesteads, but they are forced to sell this to pay
their rents and taxes; they eat black bread, made of rye and barley,
and their sole beverage is water poured on the lees and the husks. "An
Englishman[5140] who has not traveled can not imagine the figure made
by infinitely the greater part of the countrywomen in France." Arthur
Young, who stops to talk with one of these in Champagne, says that "this
woman, at no great distance, might have been taken for sixty or
seventy, her figure was so bent and her face so hardened and furrowed by
labor,--but she said she was only twenty-eight." This woman, her
husband and her household, afford a sufficiently accurate example of the
condition of the small proprietary husbandmen. Their property consists
simply of a patch of ground, with a cow and a poor little horse; their
seven children consume the whole of the cow's milk. They owe to one
seignior a franchard (forty-two pounds) of flour, and three chickens; to
another three franchards of oats, one chicken and one sou, to which must
be added the taille and other taxes. "God keep us!" she said, "for the
tailles and the dues crush us."--What must it be in districts where the
soil is poor!--

"From Ormes, (near Chatellerault), as far as Poitiers," writes a
lady,[5141] "there is a good deal of ground which brings in nothing,
and from Poitiers to my residence (in Limousin) 25,000 arpents of ground
consist wholly of heath and sea-grass. The peasantry live on rye, of
which they do not remove the bran, and which is as black and heavy as
lead.--In Poitou, and here, they plow up only the skin of the ground
with a miserable little plow without wheels. . . . From Poitiers to
Montmorillon it is nine leagues, equal to sixteen of Paris, and I assure
you that I have seen but four men on the road, and, between Montmorillon
and my own house, which is four leagues, but three; and then only at a
distance, not having met one on the road. You need not be surprised at
this in such a country. . . Marriage takes place as early as with the
grand seigniors," doubtless for fear of the militia. "But the population
of the country is no greater because almost every infant dies. Mothers
having scarcely any milk, their infants eat the bread of which I spoke,
the stomach of a girl of four years being as big as that of a pregnant
woman. . . . The rye crop this year was ruined by the frost on Easter
day; flour is scarce; of the twelve métairies owned by my mother, four
of them may, perhaps, have some on hand. There has been no rain since
Easter; no hay, no pasture, no vegetables, no fruit. You see the lot of
the poor peasant. There is no manure, and there are no cattle. . . . My
mother, whose granaries used to be always full, has not a grain of wheat
in them, because, for two years past, she has fed all her métayers and
the poor."

"The peasant is assisted," says a seignior of the same province,[5142]
"protected, and rarely maltreated, but he is looked upon with disdain.
If kindly and pliable he is made subservient, but if ill-disposed he
becomes soured and irritable. . . . He is kept in misery, in an
abject state, by men who are not at all inhuman but whose prejudices,
especially among the nobles, lead them to regard him as of a different
species of being. . . . The proprietor gets all he can out of him; in
any event, looking upon him and his oxen as domestic animals, he puts
them into harness and employs them in all weathers for every kind of
journey, and for every species of carting and transport. On the other
hand, this métayer thinks of living with as little labor as possible,
converting as much ground as he can into pasturage, for the reason that
the product arising from the increase of stock costs him no labor.
The little plowing he does is for the purpose of raising low-priced
provisions suitable for his own nourishment, such as buckwheat,
radishes, etc. His enjoyment consists only of his own idleness and
sluggishness, hoping for a good chestnut year and doing nothing
voluntarily but procreate;" unable to hire farming hands he begets

The rest, ordinary laborers, have a few savings, "living on the herbage,
and on a few goats which devour everything." Often again, these, by
order of Parliament, are killed by the game-keepers. A woman, with two
children in swaddling clothes, having no milk, "and without an inch of
ground," whose two goats, her sole resource, had thus been slain, and
another, with one goat slain in the same way, and who begs along with
her boy, present themselves at the gate of the chateau; one receives
twelve livres, while the other is admitted as a domestic, and
henceforth, '' this village is all bows and smiling faces.''--In short,
they are not accustomed to kindness; the lot of all these poor people
is to endure. "As with rain and hail, they regard as inevitable the
necessity of being oppressed by the strongest, the richest, the most
skillful, the most in repute," and this stamps on them, "if one may be
allowed to say so, an air of painful suffering."

In Auvergne, a feudal country, covered with extensive ecclesiastic and
seigniorial domains, the misery is the same. At Clermont-Ferrand,[5143]
"there are many streets that can for blackness, dirt and scents only be
represented by narrow channels cut in a dunghill." In the inns of the
largest bourgs, "closeness, misery, dirtiness and darkness." That of
Pradelles is "one of the worst in France." That of Aubenas, says Young,
"would be a purgatory for one of my pigs." The senses, in short, are
paralyzed. The primitive man is content so long as he can sleep and get
something to eat. He gets something to eat, but what kind of food?
To put up with the indigestible mess a peasant here requires a still
tougher stomach than in Limousin; in certain villages where, ten years
later, every year twenty or twenty-five hogs are to be slaughtered, they
now slaughter but three[5144].--On contemplating this temperament, rude
and intact since Vercingetorix, and, moreover, rendered more savage
by suffering, one cannot avoid being somewhat alarmed. The Marquis de
Mirabeau describes

"the votive festival of Mont-Dore: savages descending from the mountain
in torrents,[5145] the curate with stole and surplice, the justice
in his wig, the police corps with sabers drawn, all guarding the open
square before letting the bagpipers play; the dance interrupted in a
quarter of an hour by a fight; the hooting and cries of children, of
the feeble and other spectators, urging them on as the rabble urge on so
many fighting dogs; frightful looking men, or rather wild beasts covered
with coats of coarse wool, wearing wide leather belts pierced with
copper nails, gigantic in stature, which is increased by high wooden
shoes, and making themselves still taller by standing on tiptoe to see
the battle, stamping with their feet as it progresses and rubbing each
other's flanks with their elbows, their faces haggard and covered with
long matted hair, the upper portion pallid, and the lower distended,
indicative of cruel delight and a sort of ferocious impatience. And
these folks pay the taille! And now they want to take away their salt!
And they know nothing of those they despoil, of those whom they think
they govern, believing that, by a few strokes of a cowardly and careless
pen, they may starve them with impunity up to the final catastrophe!
Poor Jean-Jacques, I said to myself, had any one dispatched you, with
your system, to copy music amongst these folks, he would have had some
sharp replies to make to your discourses!"

Prophetic warning and admirable foresight in one whom an excess of evil
does not blind to the evil of the remedy! Enlightened by his feudal and
rural instincts, the old man at once judges both the government and the
philosophers, the Ancient Regime and the Revolution.

IV. The Peasant Becomes Landowner.

     How the peasant becomes a proprietor.--He is no better off.
    --Increase of taxes.--He is the "mule" of the Ancient Regime.

Misery begets bitterness in a man; but ownership coupled with misery
renders him still more bitter. He may have submitted to indigence but
not to spoliation--which is the situation of the peasant in 1789, for,
during the eighteenth century, he had become the possessor of land. But
how could he maintain himself in such destitution? The fact is almost
incredible, but it is nevertheless true. We can only explain it by the
character of the French peasant, by his sobriety, his tenacity, his
rigor with himself, his dissimulation, his hereditary passion
for property and especially for that of the soil. He had lived on
privations, and economized sou after sou. Every year a few pieces of
silver are added to his little store of crowns buried in the most secret
recess of his cellar; Rousseau's peasant, concealing his wine and bread
in a pit, assuredly had a yet more secret hiding-place; a little money
in a woollen stocking or in a jug escapes, more readily than elsewhere,
the search of the clerks. Dressed in rags, going barefoot, eating
nothing but coarse black bread, but cherishing the little treasure
in his breast on which he builds so many hopes, he watches for the
opportunity which never fails to come. "In spite of privileges," writes
a gentleman in 1755,[5146] "the nobles are daily being ruined and
reduced, the Third-Estate making all the fortunes." A number of
domains, through forced or voluntary sales, thus pass into the hands
of financiers, of men of the quill, of merchants, and of the well-to-do
bourgeois. Before undergoing this total dispossession, however, the
seignior, involved in debt, is evidently resigned to partial alienation
of his property. The peasant who has bribed the steward is at hand with
his hoard. "It is poor property, my lord, and it costs you more than you
get from it." This may refer to an isolated patch, one end of a field or
meadow, sometimes a farm whose farmer pays nothing, and generally worked
by a métayer whose wants and indolence make him an annual expense to his
master. The latter may say to himself that the alienated parcel is not
lost, since, some day or other, through his right of repurchase, he may
take it back, while, in the meantime, he enjoys a cens, drawbacks,
and the lord's dues. Moreover, there is on his domain and around him,
extensive open spaces which the decline of cultivation and depopulation
have left a desert. To restore the value of this he must surrender its
proprietorship. There is no other way by which to attach man permanently
to the soil. And the government helps him along in this matter.
Obtaining no revenue from the abandoned soil, it assents to a
provisional withdrawal of its too weighty hand. By the edict of 1766,
a piece of cleared waste land remains free of the taille for fifteen
years, and, thereupon, in twenty-eight provinces 400,000 arpents are
cleared in three years[5147].

This is the mode by which the seigniorial domain gradually crumbles away
and decreases. Towards the last, in many places, with the exception
of the chateau and the small adjoining farm which brings in 2 or
3000 francs a year, nothing is left to the seignior but his feudal
dues;[5148] the rest of the soil belongs to the peasantry. Forbonnais
already remarks, towards 1750, that many of the nobles and of the
ennobled "reduced to extreme poverty but with titles to immense
possessions," have sold off portions to small cultivators at low prices,
and often for the amount of the taille. Towards 1760, one-quarter of the
soil is said to have already passed into the hands of farmers. In 1772,
in relation to the vingtième, which is levied on the net revenue of real
property, the intendant of Caen, having completed the statement of his
quota, estimates that out of 150,000 "there are perhaps 50,000 whose
liabilities did not exceed five sous, and perhaps still as many more not
exceeding twenty sous."[5149] Contemporary observers authenticate this
passion of the peasant for land. "The savings of the lower classes,
which elsewhere are invested with individuals and in the public funds,
are wholly destined in France to the purchase of land." "Accordingly the
number of small rural holdings is always on the increase. Necker
says that there is an immensity of them." Arthur Young, in 1789, is
astonished at their great number and "inclines to think that they form a
third of the kingdom." This already would be our actual estimate, and we
still find, approximately, the actual figures, on estimating the number
of proprietors in comparison with the number of inhabitants.

The small cultivator, however, in becoming a possessor of the soil
assumed its charges. Simply as day-laborer, and with his arms alone, he
was only partially affected by the taxes; "where there is nothing the
king loses his dues." But now, vainly is he poor and declaring himself
still poorer; the fisc has a hold on him and on every portion of his
new possessions. The collectors, peasants like himself, and jealous, by
virtue of being his neighbors, know how much his property, exposed to
view, brings in; hence they take all they can lay their hands on. Vainly
has he labored with renewed energy; his hands remain as empty, and,
at the end of the year, he discovers that his field has produced him
nothing. The more he acquires and produces the more burdensome do the
taxes become. In 1715, the taille and the poll-tax, which he alone pays,
or nearly alone, amounts to sixty-six millions of livres; the amount
is ninety-three millions in 1759 and one hundred and ten millions in
1789.[5150] In 1757, the charges amount to 283,156,000 livres; in 1789
to 476,294,000 livres.

Theoretically, through humanity and through good sense, there is,
doubtless, a desire to relieve the peasant, and pity is felt for him.
But, in practice, through necessity and routine, he is treated according
to Cardinal Richelieu's precept, as a beast of burden to which oats is
sparingly rationed out for fear that he may become too strong and kick,
"a mule which, accustomed to his load, is spoiled more by long repose
than by work."....



[Footnote 5101: Labruyère, edition of Destailleurs, II, 97. Addition to
the fourth ed. (1689)]

[Footnote 5102: Oppression and misery begin about 1672.--At the end of
the seventeenth century (1698), the reports made up by the intendants
for the Duc de Bourgogne, state that many of the districts and provinces
have lost one-sixth, one-fifth, one-quarter, the third and even the
half of their population. (See details in the "correspondance des
contrôleurs-généraux from 1683 to 1698," published by M. de Boislisle).
According to the reports of intendants, (Vauban, "Dime Royale," ch.
VII. § 2.), the population of France in 1698 amounted to 19,994,146
inhabitants. From 1698 to 1715 it decreases. According to Forbonnais,
there were but 16 or 17 millions under the Regency. After this epoch
the population no longer diminishes but, for forty years, it hardly
increases. In 1753 (Voltaire, "Dict Phil.," article Population), there
are 3,550,499 hearths, besides 700,000 souls in Paris, which makes from
16 to 17 millions of inhabitants if we count four and one-half persons
to each fireside, and from 18 to 19 millions if we count five persons.]

[Footnote 5103: Floquet, "Histoire du Parlement de Normandie," VII.

[Footnote 5104: Rousseau, "Confessions," 1st part, ch. IV. (1732).]

[Footnote 5105: D'Argenson, 19th and 24th May, July 4, and Aug. 1, 1739]

[Footnote 5106: "Résumé d'histoire d'Auvergne par un Auvergnat" (M.
Tallandier), p. 313.]

[Footnote 5107: D'Argenson, 1740, Aug. 7 and 21, September 19 and 24,
May 28 and November 7.]

[Footnote 5108: D'Argenson, October 4, 1749; May 20, Sept. 12, Oct. 28,
Dec. 28, 1750.]

[Footnote 5109: D'Argenson, June 21, 1749; May 22, 1750; March 19, 1751;
February 14, April 15, 1752, etc.]

[Footnote 5110: Floquet, ibid.. VII. 410 (April, 1752, an address to the
Parliament of Normandy)]

[Footnote 5111: D'Argenson, November 26, 1751: March 15, 1753.]

[Footnote 5112: D'Argenson, IV. 124; VI. 165: VII. 194, etc.]

[Footnote 5113: Floquet, ibid. VI. 400-430]

[Footnote 5114: "Correspondance," by Métra, I. 338, 341.--Hippeau, "Le
Gouvernement de Normandie," IV. 62, 199, 358.]

[Footnote 5115: "Procès-verbaux de l'assemblée provinciale de Basse
Normandie" (1787), p.151.]

[Footnote 5116: Archives nationales, G, 319. Condition of the directory
of Issoudun, and H, 1149, 612, 1418.]

[Footnote 5117: Ibid.. The letters of M. de Crosne, intendant of Rouen
(February 17, 1784); of M. de Blossac, intendant of Poitiers (May 9,
1784); of M. de Villeneuve, intendant of Bourges (March 28, 1784); of
M. de Cypierre, intendant of Orleans (May 28, 1784); of M. de Maziron,
intendant of Moulins (June 28, 1786); of M. Dupont, intendant of Moulins
(Nov. 16, 1779), etc.]

[Footnote 5118: Archives nationales, H, 200 (A memorandum by M. Amelot,
intendant at Dijon, 1786).]

[Footnote 5119: Gautier de Bianzat, "Doléances sur les surcharges que
portent les gens du Tiers-Etat," etc. (1789), p. 188.--"Procès-verbaux
de I'assemblée provinciale d'Auvergne" (1787), p. 175.]

[Footnote 5120: Théron de Montaugé, "L'Agriculture et les chores rurales
dans le Toulousain," 112.]

[Footnote 5121: "Procès-verbaux de assemblée provinciale de la
Haute-Guyenne," I. 47, 79.]

[Footnote 5122: "Procès-verbaux de l'assemblée provinciale du
Soissonais" (1787), p. 457; "de l'assemblée provinciale d'Auch," p. 24.]

[Footnote 5123: "Résumé des cahiers," by Prudhomme, III. 271.]

[Footnote 5124: Hippeau, ibid. VI. 74, 243 (grievances drawn up by the
Chevalier de Bertin).]

[Footnote 5125: See the article "Fermiers et Grains," in the
Encyclopedia, by Quesnay, 1756.]

[Footnote 5126: Théron de Montaugé, p.25.--"Ephémérides du citoyen,"
III. 190 (1766); IX. 15 (an article by M. de Butré, 1767).]

[Footnote 5127: "Procés-verbaux de l'assemblée provinciale de
l'Orléanais" (1787), in a memoir by M. d'Autroche.]

[Footnote 5128: One is surprised to see such a numerous people fed even
though one-half, or one-quarter of the arable land is sterile wastes.
(Arthur Young, II, 137.)]

[Footnote 5129: Archives nationales, H, 1149. A letter of the Comtesse
de Saint-Georges (1772) on the effects of frost. "The ground this
year will remain uncultivated, there being already much land in this
condition, and especially in our parish." Théron de Montaugé, ibid.. 45,

[Footnote 5130: Arthur Young, II. 112, 115.--Théron de Montaugé, 52,

[Footnote 5131: The Marquis de Mirabeau, "Traité de la population,"

[Footnote 5132: Cf Galiani, "Dialogues sur le commerce des blés."
(1770), p. 193. Wheat bread at this time cost four sous per pound.]

[Footnote 5133: Arthur Young, II. 200, 201, 260-265.--Théron de
Montaugé, 59, 68, 75, 79, 81, 84.]

[Footnote 5134: "The poor people who cultivate the soil here are
métayers, that is men who hire the land without ability to stock it; the
proprietor is forced to provide cattle and seed and he and his tenants
divide the produce."--ARTHUR YOUNG.(TR.)]

[Footnote 5135: "Ephémérides du citoyen," VI. 81-94 (1767), and IX. 99

[Footnote 5136: Turgot, "Collections des économistes," I. 544, 549.]

[Footnote 5137: Marquis de Mirabeau, "Traité de la population," 83..]

[Footnote 5138: Hippeau, VI, 91.]

[Footnote 5139: Dulaure, "Description de l'Auvergne," 1789.]

[Footnote 5140: Arthur Young, I. 235.]

[Footnote 5141: "Ephémérides du citoyen," XX. 146, a letter of the
Marquis de--August 17, 1767.]

[Footnote 5142: Lucas de Montigny, "Memoires de Mirabeau," I, 394.]

[Footnote 5143: Arthur Young, I. 280, 289, 294.]

[Footnote 5144: Lafayette "Mémoires," V. 533.]

[Footnote 5145: Lucas de Montigny, ibid. (a letter of August 18, 1777).]

[Footnote 5146: De Tocqueville, 117.]

[Footnote 5147: "Procès-verbaux de l'assemblée provinciale de Basse
Normandie" (1787), p.205.]

[Footnote 5148: Léonce de Lavergne, p. 26 (according to the tables of
indemnity granted to the émigrés in 1825). In the estate of Blet (see
note 2 at the end of the volume), twenty-two parcels are alienated in
1760.--Arthur Young, I. 308 (the domain of Tour-d'Aigues, in Provence),
and II. 198, 214.--Doniol, "Histoire des classes rurales," p.450.--De
Tocqueville, p.36.]

[Footnote 5149: Archives nationales, H, 1463 (a letter by M. de
Fontette, November 16, 1772).--Cf. Cochut, "Revue des Deux Mondes,"
September, 1848. The sale of the national property seems not to have
sensibly increased small properties nor sensibly diminished the number
of the large ones. The Revolution developed moderate sized properties.
In 1848, the large estates numbered 183,000 (23,000 families paying 300
francs taxes, and more, and possessing on the average 260 hectares
of land, and 160,000 families paying from 230 to 500 francs taxes and
possessing on the average 75 hectares.) These 183,000 families possessed
18,000,000 hectares.--There are besides 700,000 medium sized estates
(paying from 50 to 250 francs tax), and comprising 15,000,000
hectares.--And finally 3,900,000 small properties comprising 15,000,000
hectares (900,000 paying from 25 to 50 francs tax, averaging five
and one-half hectares each, and 3,000,000 paying less than 25 francs,
averaging three and one ninth hectares each).--According to the partial
statement of de Tocqueville the number of holders of real property had
increased, on the average, to five-twelfths; the population, at the same
time, having increased five-thirteenths (from 26 to 36 millions).]

[Footnote 5150: "Compte-général des revenus et dépenses fixes au 1er
Mai, 1789 (Imprimerie Royale, 1789).--De Luynes, XVI. 49.--Roux and
Buchez, I. 206, 374. (This relates only to the countries of election; in
the provinces, with assemblies, the increase is no less great). Archives
nationales, H2, 1610 (the parish of Bourget, in Anjou). Extracts from
the taille rolls of three métayer--farms belonging to M. de Ruillé. The
taxes in 1762 are 334 livres, 3 sous; in 1783, 372 livres, 15 sous.]


I. Extortion.

     Direct taxes.--State of different domains at the end of the
     reign of Louis XV.--Levies of the tithe and the owner.--What
     remains to the proprietor.

Let us closely examine the extortions he has to endure, which are very
great, much beyond any that we can imagine. Economists had long prepared
the budget of a farm and shown by statistics the excess of charges with
which the cultivator is overwhelmed. If he continues to cultivate, they
say, he must have his share in the crops, an inviolable portion, equal
to one-half of the entire production, and from which nothing can
be deducted without ruining him. This portion, in short, accurately
represents, and not a sou too much, in the first place, the interest
of the capital first expended on the farm in cattle, furniture, and
implements of husbandry; in the second place, the maintenance of this
capital, every year depreciated by wear and tear; in the third place,
the advances made during the current year for seed, wages, and food for
men and animals; and, in the last place, the compensation due him for
the risks he takes and his losses. Here is a first lien which must be
satisfied beforehand, taking precedence of all others, superior to that
of the seignior, to that of the tithe-owner (décimateur), to even that
of the king, for it is an indebtedness due to the soil.[5201] After this
is paid back, then, and only then, that which remains, the net product,
can be touched. Now, in the then state of agriculture, the tithe-owner
and the king appropriate one-half of this net product, when the estate
is large, and the whole, if the estate is a small one[5202]. A certain
large farm in Picardy, worth to its owner 3,600 livres, pays 1,800
livres to the king, and 1,311 livres to the tithe owner; another, in the
Soissonnais, rented for 4,500 livres, pays 2,200 livres taxes and more
than 1,000 livres to the tithes. An ordinary métayer-farm near Nevers
pays into the treasury 138 livres, 121 livres to the church, and
114 livres to the proprietor. On another, in Poitou, the fisc (tax
authorities) absorbs 348 livres, and the proprietor receives only 238.
In general, in the regions of large farms, the proprietor obtains ten
livres the arpent if the cultivation is very good, and three livres when
ordinary. In the regions of small farms, and of the métayer system, he
gets fifteen sous the arpent, eight sous and even six sous. The entire
net profit may be said to go to the church and into the State treasury.

Hired labor, meantime, is no less costly. On this métayer-farm in
Poitou, which brings in eight sous the arpent, thirty-six laborers
consume each twenty-six francs per annum in rye, two francs respectively
in vegetables, oil and milk preparations, and two francs ten sous in
pork, amounting to a sum total, each year, for each person, of sixteen
pounds of meat at an expense of thirty-six francs. In fact they drink
water only, use rape-seed oil for soup and for light, never taste
butter, and dress themselves in materials made of the wool and hair of
the sheep and goats they raise. They purchase nothing save the tools
necessary to make the fabrics of which these provide the material. On
another metayer-farm, on the confines of la Marche and Berry, forty-six
laborers cost a smaller sum, each one consuming only the value of
twenty-five francs per annum. We can judge by this of the exorbitant
share appropriated to themselves by the Church and State, since, at so
small a cost of cultivation, the proprietor finds in his pocket, at the
end of the year, six or eight sous per arpent out of which, if plebeian,
he must still pay the dues to his seignior, contribute to the common
purse for the militia, buy his taxed salt and work out his corvée and
the rest. Towards the end of the reign of Louis XV in Limousin, says
Turgot,[5203] the king derives for himself alone "about as much from the
soil as the proprietor." In a certain election-district, that of Tulle,
where he abstracts fifty-six and one-half per cent. of the product,
there remains to the latter forty-three and one-half per cent. thus
accounting for "a multitude of domains being abandoned."

It must not be supposed that time renders the tax less onerous or that,
in other provinces, the cultivator is better treated. In this respect
the documents are authentic and almost up to the latest hour. We have
only to take up the official statements of the provincial assemblies
held in 1787, to learn by official figures to what extent the fisc may
abuse the men who labor, and take bread out of the mouths of those who
have earned it by the sweat of their brows.

II. Local Conditions.

     State of certain provinces on the outbreak of the
     Revolution.--The taille, and other taxes.--The proportion of
     these taxes in relation to income.--The sum total immense.

Direct taxation alone is here concerned, the tailles, collateral
taxes, poll-tax, vingtièmes, and the pecuniary tax substituted for
the corvée[5204] In Champagne, the tax-payer pays on 100 livres
income fifty-four livres fifteen sous, on the average, and in many
parishes,[5205] seventy-one livres thirteen sous. In the Ile-de-France,
"if a taxable inhabitant of a village, the proprietor of twenty arpents
of land which he himself works, and the income of which is estimated at
ten livres per arpent it is supposed that he is likewise the owner of
the house he occupies, the site being valued at forty livres."[5206]
This tax-payer pays for his real taille, personal and industrial,
thirty-five livres fourteen sous, for collateral taxes seventeen livres
seventeen sous, for the poll-tax twenty-one livres eight sous, for the
vingtièmes twenty-four livres four sous, in all ninety-nine livres three
sous, to which must be added about five livres as the substitution for
the corvée, in all 104 livres on a piece of property which he rents for
240 livres, a tax amounting to five-twelfths of his income.

It is much worse on making the same calculation for the poorer
generalities. In Haute-Guyenne,[5207] "all property in land is taxed
for the taille, the collateral taxes, and the vingtièmes, more than
one-quarter of its revenue, the only deduction being the expenses of
cultivation; also dwellings, one-third of their revenue, deducting
only the cost of repairs and of maintenance; to which must be added the
poll-tax, which takes about one-tenth of the revenue; the tithe, which
absorbs one-seventh; the seigniorial rents which take another seventh;
the tax substituted for the corvée; the costs of compulsory collections,
seizures, sequestration and constraints, and all ordinary and
extraordinary local charges. This being subtracted, it is evident that,
in communities moderately taxed, the proprietor does not enjoy a third
of his income, and that, in the communities wronged by the assessments,
the proprietors are reduced to the status of simple farmers scarcely
able to get enough to restore the expenses of cultivation." In
Auvergne,[5208] the taille amounts to four sous on the livre net profit;
the collateral taxes and the poll-tax take off four sous three deniers
more; the vingtièmes, two sous and three deniers; the contribution to
the royal roads, to the free gift, to local charges and the cost of
levying, take again one sou one denier, the total being eleven sous and
seven deniers on the livre income, without counting seigniorial dues and
the tithe. "The bureau, moreover, recognizes with regret, that several
of the collections pay at the rate of seventeen sous, sixteen sous, and
the most moderate at the rate of fourteen sous the livre. The evidence
of this is in the bureau; it is on file in the registry of the court
of excise, and of the election-districts. It is still more apparent
in parishes where an infinite number of assessments are found, laid on
property that has been abandoned, which the collectors lease, and the
product of which is often inadequate to pay the tax." Statistics of this
kind are terribly eloquent. They may be summed up in one word. Putting
together Normandy, the Orleans region, that of Soissons, Champagne,
Ile-de-France, Berry, Poitou, Auvergne, the Lyons region, Gascony, and
Haute-Guyenne, in brief the principal election sections, we find that
out of every hundred francs of revenue the direct tax on the tax-payer
is fifty-three francs, or more than one-half[5209]. This is about five
times as much as at the present day.

III. The Common Laborer.

Four direct taxes on the common laborer.

The taxation authorities, however, in thus bearing down on taxable
property has not released the taxable person without property. In the
absence of land it seizes on men. In default of an income it taxes a
man's wages. With the exception of the vingtièmes, the preceding taxes
not only bore on those who possessed something but, again, on those who
possessed nothing. In the Toulousain[5210] at St. Pierre de Barjouville,
the poorest day-laborer, with nothing but his hands by which to earn
his support, and getting ten sous a day, pays eight, nine and ten
livres poll-tax. "In Burgundy[5211] it is common to see a poor mechanic,
without any property, taxed eighteen and twenty livres for his poll-tax
and the taille." In Limousin,[5212] all the money brought back by the
masons in winter serves "to pay the taxes charged to their families." As
to the rural day-laborers and the settlers (colons) the proprietor, even
when privileged, who employs them, is obliged to take upon himself a
part of their quota, otherwise, being without anything to eat, they
cannot work,[5213] even in the interest of the master; man must have his
ration of bread the same as an ox his ration of hay. "In Brittany,[5214]
it is notorious that nine-tenths of the artisans, though poorly fed and
poorly clothed, have not a crown free of debt at the end of the year,"
the poll-tax and others carrying off this only and last crown. At
Paris[5215] "the dealer in ashes, the buyer of old bottles, the gleaner
of the gutters, the peddlers of old iron and old hats," the moment they
obtain a shelter pay the poll-tax of three livres and ten sous each. To
ensure its payment the occupant of a house who sub-lets to them is
made responsible. Moreover, in case of delay, a "blue man," a bailiff's
subordinate, is sent who installs himself on the spot and whose time
they have to pay for. Mercier cites a mechanic, named Quatremain,
who, with four small children, lodged in the sixth story, where he had
arranged a chimney as a sort of alcove in which he and his family
slept. "One day I opened his door, fastened with a latch only, the room
presenting to view nothing but the walls and a vice; the man, coming
out from under his chimney, half sick, says to me, 'I thought it was the
blue man for the poll-tax."' Thus, whatever the condition of the person
subject to taxation, however stripped and destitute, the dexterous hands
of the fisc take hold of him. Mistakes cannot possibly occur: it puts on
no disguise, it comes on the appointed day and rudely lays its hand
on his shoulder. The garret and the hut, as well as the farm and the
farmhouse know the collector, the constable and the bailiff; no hovel
escapes the detestable brood. The people sow, harvest their crops, work
and undergo privation for their benefit; and, should the pennies so
painfully saved each week amount, at the end of the year to a piece of
silver, the mouth of their pouch closes over it.

IV. Collections And Seizures.--Observe the system actually at work. It
is a sort of shearing machine, clumsy and badly put together, of which
the action is about as mischievous as it is serviceable. The worst
feature is that, with its creaking gear, the taxable, those employed
as its final instruments, are equally shorn and flayed. Each parish
contains two, three, five, or seven individuals who, under the title of
collectors, and under the authority of the election tribunal, apportion
and assess the taxes. "No duty is more onerous;"[5216] everybody,
through patronage or favor, tries to get rid of it. The communities are
constantly pleading against the refractory, and, that nobody may escape
under the pretext of ignorance, the table of future collectors is made
up for ten and fifteen years in advance. In parishes of the second class
these consist of "small proprietors, each of whom becomes a collector
about every six years." In many of the villages the artisans,
day-laborers, and métayer-farmers perform the service, although
requiring all their time to earn their own living. In Auvergne, where
the able-bodied men expatriate themselves in winter to find work,
the women are taken;[5217] in the election-district of Saint-Flour, a
certain village has four collectors in petticoats.--They are responsible
for all claims entrusted to them, their property, their furniture and
their persons; and, up to the time of Turgot, each is bound for the
others. We can judge of their risks and sufferings. In 1785,[5218] in
one single district in Champagne, eighty-five are imprisoned and two
hundred of them are on the road every year. "The collector, says the
provincial assembly of Berry,[5219] usually passes one-half of the day
for two years running from door to door to see delinquent tax-payers."
"This service," writes Turgot,[5220] "is the despair and almost
always the ruin of those obliged to perform it; all families in easy
circumstances in a village are thus successively reduced to want." In
short, there is no collector who is not forced to act and who has not
each year "eight or ten writs" served on him[5221]. Sometimes he is
imprisoned at the expense of the parish. Sometimes proceedings are
instituted against him and the tax-contributors by the installation of
"'blue men' and seizures, seizures under arrest, seizures in execution
and sales of furniture." "In the single district of Villefranche," says
the provincial Assembly of Haute-Guyenne, "a hundred and six warrant
officers and other agents of the bailiff are counted always on the

The thing becomes customary and the parish suffers in vain, for it
would suffer yet more were it to do otherwise. "Near Aurillac," says the
Marquis de Mirabeau,[5222] "there is industry, application and economy
without which there would be only misery and want. This produces a
people equally divided into being, on the one hand, insolvent and poor
and on the other hand shameful and rich, the latter who, for fear
of being fined, create the impoverished. The taille once assessed,
everybody groans and complains and nobody pays it. The term having
expired, at the hour and minute, constraint begins, the collectors,
although able, taking no trouble to arrest this by making a settlement,
notwithstanding the installation of the bailiff's men is costly. But
this kind of expense is habitual and people expect it instead of fearing
it, for, if it were less rigorous, they would be sure to be additionally
burdened the following year." The receiver, indeed, who pays the
bailiff's officers a franc a day, makes them pay two francs and
appropriates the difference. Hence "if certain parishes venture to pay
promptly, without awaiting constraint, the receiver, who sees himself
deprived of the best portion of his gains, becomes ill-humored, and, at
the next department (meeting), an arrangement is made between himself,
messieurs the elected, the sub-delegate and other shavers of this
species, for the parish to bear a double load, to teach it how to behave

A population of administrative blood-suckers thus lives on the peasant.
"Lately," says an intendant, "in the district of Romorantin,[5223] the
collectors received nothing from a sale of furniture amounting to six
hundred livres, because the proceeds were absorbed by the expenses. In
the district of Chateaudun the same thing occurred at a sale amounting
to nine hundred livres and there are other transactions of the same kind
of which we have no information, however flagrant." Besides this, the
fisc itself is pitiless. The same intendant writes, in 1784, a year
of famine:[5224] "People have seen, with horror, the collector, in the
country, disputing with heads of families over the costs of a sale of
furniture which had been appropriated to stopping their children's cry
of want." Were the collectors not to make seizures they would themselves
be seized. Urged on by the receiver we see them, in the documents,
soliciting, prosecuting and persecuting the tax-payers. Every Sunday and
every fête-day they are posted at the church door to warn delinquents;
and then, during the week they go from door to door to obtain their
dues. "Commonly they cannot write, and take a scribe with them." Out of
six hundred and six traversing the district of Saint-Flour not ten of
them are able to read the official summons and sign a receipt; hence
innumerable mistakes and frauds. Besides a scribe they take along the
bailiff's subordinates, persons of the lowest class, laborers without
work, conscious of being hated and who act accordingly. "Whatever orders
may be given them not to take anything, not to make the inhabitants feed
them, or to enter taverns with collectors," habit is too strong "and
the abuse continues."[5225] But, burdensome as the bailiff's men may be,
care is taken not to evade them. In this respect, writes an intendant,
"their obduracy is strange." "No person," a receiver reports,[5226]
"pays the collector until he sees the bailiff's man in his house." The
peasant resembles his ass, refusing to go without being beaten, and,
although in this he may appear stupid, he is clever. For the collector,
being responsible, "naturally inclines to an increase of the assessment
on prompt payers to the advantage of the negligent. Hence the prompt
payer becomes, in his turn, negligent and, although with money in
his chest, he allows the process to go on."[5227] Summing all up, he
calculates that the process, even if expensive, costs less than extra
taxation, and of the two evils he chooses the least. He has but one
resource against the collector and receiver, his simulated or actual
poverty, voluntary or involuntary. "Every one subject to the taille,"
says, again, the provincial assembly of Berry, "dreads to expose his
resources; he avoids any display of these in his furniture, in
his dress, in his food, and in everything open to another's
observation."--"M. de Choiseul-Gouffier,[5228] willing to roof his
peasants' houses, liable to take fire, with tiles, they thanked him for
his kindness but begged him to leave them as they were, telling him
that if these were covered with tiles, instead of with thatch, the
subdelegates would increase their taxation."--"People work, but merely
to satisfy their prime necessities. . . . The fear of paying an
extra crown makes an average man neglect a profit of four times the
amount."[5229]--". . . Accordingly, lean cattle, poor implements,
and bad manure-heaps even among those who might have been better
off."[5230]--"If I earned any more," says a peasant, "it would be for
the collector." Annual and illimitable spoliation "takes away even
the desire for comforts." The majority, pusillanimous, distrustful,
stupefied, "debased," "differing little from the old serfs,[5231]"
resemble Egyptian fellahs and Hindoo pariahs. The fisc, indeed, through
the absolutism and enormity of its claims, renders property of all kinds
precarious, every acquisition vain, every accumulation delusive; in
fact, proprietors are owners only of that which they can hide.

V. Indirect Taxes.

The salt-tax and the excise.

The tax-man, in every country, has two hands, one which visibly and
directly searches the coffers of tax-payers, and the other which
covertly employs the hand of an intermediary so as not to incur the
odium of fresh extortions. Here, no precaution of this kind is taken,
the claws of the latter being as visible as those of the former;
according to its structure and the complaints made of it, I am tempted
to believe it more offensive than the other.--In the first place, the
salt-tax, the excises and the customs are annually estimated and sold
to adjudicators who, purely as a business matter, make as much profit
as they can by their bargain. In relation to the tax-payer they are not
administrators but speculators; they have bought him up. He belongs to
them by the terms of their contract; they will squeeze out of him, not
merely their advances and the interest on their advances, but, again,
every possible benefit. This suffices to indicate the mode of levying
indirect taxes.--In the second place, by means of the salt-tax and the
excises, the inquisition enters each household. In the provinces where
these are levied, in Ile-de-France, Maine, Anjou, Touraine, Orleanais,
Berry, Bourbonnais, Bourgogne, Champagne, Perche, Normandy and Picardy,
salt costs thirteen sous a pound, four times as much as at the present
day, and, considering the standard of money, eight times as much[5232].
And, furthermore, by virtue of the ordinance of 1680, each person over
seven years of age is expected to purchase seven pounds per annum,
which, with four persons to a family, makes eighteen francs a year, and
equal to nineteen days' work: a new direct tax, which, like the taille,
is a fiscal hand in the pockets of the tax-payers, and compelling them,
like the taille, to torment each other. Many of them, in fact, are
officially appointed to assess this obligatory use of salt and, like the
collectors of the taille, these are "jointly responsible for the price
of the salt." Others below them, ever following the same course as in
collecting the taille, are likewise responsible. "After the former have
been seized in their persons and property, the speculator fermier
is authorized to commence action, under the principle of mutual
responsibility, against the principal inhabitants of the parish."
The effects of this system have just been described. Accordingly, "in
Normandy," says the Rouen parliament,[5233] "unfortunates without bread
are daily objects of seizure, sale and execution."

But if the rigor is as great as in the matter of the taille, the
vexations are ten times greater, for these are domestic, minute and
of daily occurrence.--It is forbidden to divert an ounce of the seven
obligatory pounds to any use but that of the "pot and the salt-cellar."
If a villager should economize the salt of his soup to make brine for a
piece of pork, with a view to winter consumption, let him look out for
the collecting-clerks! His pork is confiscated and the fine is three
hundred livres. The man must come to the warehouse and purchase other
salt, make a declaration, carry off a certificate and show this at
every visit of inspection. So much the worse for him if he has not the
wherewithal to pay for this supplementary salt; he has only to sell his
pig and abstain from meat at Christmas. This is the more frequent case,
and I dare say that, for the métayers who pay twenty-five francs per
annum, it is the usual case.--It is forbidden to make use of any other
salt for the pot and salt-cellar than that of the seven pounds. "I am
able to cite," says Letrosne, "two sisters residing one league from a
town in which the warehouse is open only on Saturday. Their supply was
exhausted. To pass three or four days until Saturday comes they boil a
remnant of brine from which they extract a few ounces of salt. A visit
from the clerk ensues and a procès-verbal. Having friends and protectors
this costs them only forty-eight livres."--It is forbidden to take water
from the ocean and from other saline sources, under a penalty of from
twenty to forty livres fine. It is forbidden to water cattle in marshes
and other places containing salt, under penalty of confiscation and
a fine of three hundred livres. It is forbidden to put salt into
the bellies of mackerel on returning from fishing, or between their
superposed layers. An order prescribes one pound and a half to a barrel.
Another order prescribes the destruction annually of the natural salt
formed in certain cantons in Provence. Judges are prohibited from
moderating or reducing the penalties imposed in salt cases, under
penalty of accountability and of deposition.--I pass over quantities
of orders and prohibitions, existing by hundreds. This legislation
encompasses tax-payers like a net with a thousand meshes, while the
official who casts it is interested in finding them at fault. We see the
fisherman, accordingly, unpacking his barrel, the housewife seeking a
certificate for her hams, the exciseman inspecting the buffet, testing
the brine, peering into the salt-box and, if it is of good quality,
declaring it contraband because that of the ferme, the only legitimate
salt, is usually adulterated and mixed with plaster.

Meanwhile, other officials, those of the excise, descend into the
cellar. None are more formidable, nor who more eagerly seize on pretexts
for delinquency[5234]. "Let a citizen charitably bestow a bottle of
wine on a poor feeble creature and he is liable to prosecution and to
excessive penalties. . . . The poor invalid that may interest his curate
in the begging of a bottle of wine for him will undergo a trial, ruining
not alone the unfortunate man that obtains it, but again the benefactor
who gave it to him. This is not a fancied story." By virtue of the right
of deficient revenue the clerks may, at any hour, take an inventory of
wine on hand, even the stores of a vineyard proprietor, indicate what he
may consume, tax him for the rest and for the surplus quantity already
drunk, the ferme thus associating itself with the wine-producer and
claiming its portion of his production.--In a vine-yard at Epernay[5235]
on four casks of wine, the average product of one arpent, and worth six
hundred francs, it levies, at first, thirty francs, and then, after the
sale of the four casks, seventy five francs additionally. Naturally,
"the inhabitants resort to the shrewdest and best planned artifices
to escape" such potent rights. But the clerks are alert, watchful, and
well-informed, and they pounce down unexpectedly on every suspected
domicile; their instructions prescribe frequent inspections and exact
registries "enabling them to see at a glance the condition of the
cellar of each inhabitant."[5236]--The manufacturer having paid up, the
merchant now has his turn. The latter, on sending the four casks to
the consumer--again pays seventy-five francs to the ferme. The wine
is dispatched and the ferme prescribes the roads by which it must go;
should others be taken it is confiscated, and at every step on the way
some payment must be made. "A boat laden with wine from Languedoc,[5237]
Dauphiny or Roussillon, ascending the Rhone and descending the Loire
to reach Paris, through the Briare canal, pays on the way, leaving
out charges on the Rhone, from thirty-five to forty kinds of duty, not
comprising the charges on entering Paris." It pays these "at fifteen or
sixteen places, the multiplied payments obliging the carriers to devote
twelve or fifteen days more to the passage than they otherwise would if
their duties could be paid at one bureau."--The charges on the routes
by water are particularly heavy. "From Pontarlier to Lyons there are
twenty-five or thirty tolls; from Lyons to Aigues-Mortes there are
others, so that whatever costs ten sous in Burgundy, amounts to
fifteen and eighteen sous at Lyons, and to over twenty-five sous at
Aigues-Mortes."--The wine at last reaches the barriers of the city where
it is to be drunk. Here it pays an octroi[5238] of forty-seven francs
per hogshead.--Entering Paris it goes into the tapster's or innkeeper's
cellar where it again pays from thirty to forty francs for the duty on
selling it at retail; at Rethel the duty is from fifty to sixty francs
per puncheon, Rheims gauge.--The total is exorbitant. "At Rennes,[5239]
the dues and duties on a hogshead (or barrel) of Bordeaux wine, together
with a fifth over and above the tax, local charges, eight sous per pound
and the octroi, amount to more than seventy-two livres exclusive of the
purchase money; to which must be added the expenses and duties advanced
by the Rennes merchant and which he recovers from the purchaser,
Bordeaux drayage, freight, insurance, tolls of the flood-gate, entrance
duty into the town, hospital dues, fees of gaugers, brokers and
inspectors. The total outlay for the tapster who sells a barrel of wine
amounts to two hundred livres." We may imagine whether, at this
price, the people of Rennes drink it, while these charges fall on the
wine-grower, since, if consumers do not purchase, he is unable to sell.

Accordingly, among the small growers, he is the most to be pitied;
according to the testimony of Arthur Young, wine-grower and misery are
two synonymous terms. The crop often fails, "every doubtful crop ruining
the man without capital." In Burgundy, in Berry, in Soisonnais, in the
Trois-Evêche's, in Champagne,[5240] I find in every report that he
lacks bread and lives on alms. In Champagne, the syndics of Bar-sur-Aube
write[5241] that the inhabitants, to escape duties, have more than once
emptied their wine into the river, the provincial assembly declaring
that "in the greater portion of the province the slightest augmentation
of duties would cause the cultivators to desert the soil."--Such is the
history of wine under the ancient regime. From the producer who grows
to the tapster who sells, what extortions and what vexations! As to
the salt-tax, according to the comptroller-general,[5242] this annually
produces 4,000 domiciliary seizures, 3,400 imprisonments, 500 sentences
to flogging, exile and the galleys.--

If ever two taxes were well combined, not only to despoil, but also to
irritate the peasantry, the poor and the people, here they were.

VI. Burdens And Exemptions.

Why taxation is so burdensome.--Exemptions and privileges.

Evidently the burden of taxation forms the chief cause of misery; hence
an accumulated, deep-seated hatred against the fisc and its agents,
receivers, store-house keepers, excise officials, customs officers and
clerks.--But why is taxation so burdensome? As far as the communes which
annually plead in detail against certain gentlemen to subject them to
the taille are concerned, there is no doubt. What renders the charge
oppressive is the fact that the strongest and those best able to bear
taxation succeed in evading it, the prime cause of misery being the
vastness of the exemptions[5243].

Let us look at each of these exemptions, one tax after another.--In
the first place, not only are nobles and ecclesiastics exempt from the
personal taille but again, as we have already seen, they are exempt from
the cultivator's taille, through cultivating their domains themselves
or by a steward. In Auvergne,[5244] in the single election-district
of Clermont, fifty parishes are enumerated in which, owing to this
arrangement, every estate of a privileged person is exempt, the taille
falling wholly on those subject to it. Furthermore, it suffices for a
privileged person to maintain that his farmer is only a steward, which
is the case in Poitou in several parishes, the subdelegate and the
élu not daring to look into the matter too closely. In this way the
privileged classes escape the taille, they and their property, including
their farms.--Now, the taille, ever augmenting, is that which provides,
through its special delegations, such a vast number of new offices. A
man of the Third-Estate has merely to run through the history of its
periodical increase to see how it alone, or almost alone, paid and is
paying[5245] for the construction of bridges, roads, canals and courts
of justice, for the purchase of offices, for the establishment and
support of houses of refuge, insane asylums, nurseries, post-houses for
horses, fencing and riding schools, for paving and sweeping Paris, for
salaries of lieutenants-general, governors, and provincial commanders,
for the fees of bailiffs, seneschals and vice-bailiffs, for the salaries
of financial and election officials and of commissioners dispatched to
the provinces, for those of the police of the watch and I know not how
many other purposes.--In the provinces which hold assemblies, where the
taille would seem to be more justly apportioned, the like inequality
is found. In Burgundy[5246] the expenses of the police, of public
festivities, of keeping horses, all sums appropriated to the courses
of lectures on chemistry, botany, anatomy and parturition, to the
encouragement of the arts, to subscriptions to the chancellorship, to
franking letters, to presents given to the chiefs and subalterns of
commands, to salaries of officials of the provincial assemblies, to the
ministerial secretaryship, to expenses of levying taxes and even alms,
in short, 1,800,000 livres are spent in the public service at the charge
of the Third-Estate, the two higher orders not paying a cent.

In the second place, with respect to the poll-tax, originally
distributed among twenty-two classes and intended to bear equally on
all according to fortunes, we know that, from the first, the clergy buy
themselves off; and, as to the nobles, they manage so well as to have
their tax reduced proportionately with its increase at the expense of
the Third-Estate. A count or a marquis, an intendant or a master of
requests, with 40,000 livres income, who, according to the tariff of
1695,[5247] should pay from 1,700 to 2,500 livres, pays only 400 livres,
while a bourgeois with 6,000 livres income, and who, according to
the same tariff; should pay 70 livres, pays 720. The poll-tax of the
privileged individual is thus diminished three-quarters or five-sixths,
while that of the taille-payer has increased tenfold. In the
Ile-de-France,[5248] on an income of 240 livres, the taille-payer pays
twenty-one livres eight sous, and the nobles three livres, and the
intendant himself states that he taxes the nobles only an eightieth of
their revenue; that of Orléanais taxes them only a hundredth, while,
on the other hand, those subject to the taille are assessed
one-eleventh.--If other privileged parties are added to the nobles, such
as officers of justice, employee's of the fermes, and exempted townsmen,
a group is formed embracing nearly everybody rich or well-off and whose
revenue certainly greatly surpasses that of those who are subject to the
taille. Now, the budgets of the provincial assemblies inform us how much
each province levies on each of the two groups: in the Lyonnais district
those subject to the taille pay 898,000 livres, the privileged, 190,000;
in the Ile-de-France, the former pay 2,689,000 livres and the latter
232,000; in the generalship of Alençon, the former pay 1,067,000 livres
and the latter 122,000; in Champagne, the former pay 1,377,000 livres,
and the latter 199,000; in Haute-Guyenne, the former pay 1,268,000
livres, and the latter 61,000; in the generalship of Auch, the former
pay 797,000 livres, the privileged 21,000; in Auvergne the former pay
1,753,000 livres and the latter 86,000; in short, summing up the total
of ten provinces, 11,636,000 livres paid by the poor group and 1,450,000
livres by the rich group, the latter paying eight times less than it
ought to pay.

With respect to the vingtièmes, the disproportion is less, the precise
amounts not being attainable; we may nevertheless assume that the
assessment of the privileged class is about one-half of what it should
be. "In 1772," says[5249] M. de Calonne, "it was admitted that the
vingtièmes were not carried to their full value. False declarations,
counterfeit leases, too favorable conditions granted to almost all the
wealthy proprietors gave rise to inequalities and countless errors.
A verification of 4,902 parishes shows that the product of the two
vingtièmes amounting to 54,000,000 should have amounted to 81,000,000."
A seigniorial domain which, according to its own return of income,
should pay 2,400 livres, pays only 1,216. The case is much worse with
the princes of the blood; we have seen that their domains are exempt and
pay only 188,000 livres instead of 2,400,000. Under this system, which
crushes the weak to relieve the strong, the more capable one is of
contributing, the less one contributes.--The same story characterizes
the fourth and last direct taxation, namely, the tax substituted for the
corvée. This tax, attached, at first, to the vingtièmes and consequently
extending to all proprietors, through an act of the Council is attached
to the taille and, consequently, bears on those the most burdened[5250].
Now this tax amounts to an extra of one-quarter added to the principal
of the taille, of which one example may be cited, that of Champagne,
where, on every 100 livres income the sum of six livres five sous
devolves on the taille-payer. "Thus," says the provincial assembly,
"every road used by active commerce, by the multiplied coursing of the
rich, is repaired wholly by the contributions of the poor."--As these
figures spread out before the eye we involuntarily recur to the two
animals in the fable, the horse and the mule traveling together on the
same road; the horse, by right, may prance along as he pleases; hence
his load is gradually transferred to the mule, the beast of burden,
which finally sinks beneath the extra load.

Not only, in the corps of tax-payers, are the privileged disburdened to
the detriment of the taxable, but again, in the corps of the taxable,
the rich are relieved to the injury of the poor, to such an extent that
the heaviest portion of the load finally falls on the most indigent and
most laborious class, on the small proprietor cultivating his own field,
on the simple artisan with nothing but his tools and his hands, and,
in general, on the inhabitants of villages. In the first place, in
the matter of taxes, a number of the towns are "abonnées," or free.
Compiègne, for the taille and its accessories, with 1,671 firesides,
pays only 8,000 francs, whilst one of the villages in its neighborhood,
Canly, with 148 firesides, pays 4,475 francs[5251]. In the poll-tax,
Versailles, Saint-Germain, Beauvais, Etampes, Pontoise, Saint-Denis,
Compiegne, Fontainebleau, taxed in the aggregate at 169,000 livres, are
two-thirds exempt, contributing but little more than one franc, instead
of three francs ten sous, per head of the population; at Versailles it
is still less, since for 70,000 inhabitants the poll-tax amounts to only
51,600 francs[5252]. Besides, in any event, on the apportionment of a
tax, the bourgeois of the town is favored above his rural neighbors.
Accordingly, "the inhabitants of the country, who depend on the town and
are comprehended in its functions, are treated with a rigor of which it
would be difficult to form an idea. . . . Town influence is constantly
throwing the burden on those who are trying to be relieved of it, the
richest of citizens paying less taille than the most miserable of the
peasant farmers[5253]." Hence, "the horror of the taille depopulates the
rural districts, concentrating in the towns all the talents and all the
capital[5254]." Outside of the towns there is the same differences. Each
year, the élus and their collectors, exercising arbitrary power, fix
the taille of the parish and of each inhabitant. In these ignorant and
partial hands the scales are not held by equity but by self-interest,
local hatreds, the desire for revenge, the necessity of favoring some
friend, relative, neighbor, protector, or patron, some powerful or some
dangerous person. The intendant of Moulins, on visiting his generalship,
finds "people of influence paying nothing, while the poor are
over-charged." That of Dijon writes that "the basis of apportionment is
arbitrary, to such an extent that the people of the province must not be
allowed to suffer any longer."[5255] In the generalship of Rouen
"some parishes pay over four sous the livre and others scarcely one
sou."[5256] "For three years past that I have lived in the country,"
writes a lady of the same district, "I have remarked that most of the
wealthy proprietors are the least pressed; they are selected to make the
apportionment, and the people are always abused."[5257]--"I live on an
estate ten leagues from Paris," wrote d'Argenson, "where it was desired
to assess the taille proportionately, but only injustice has been the
outcome since the seigniors made use of their influence to relieve their
own tenants." [5258] Besides, in addition to those who, through favor,
diminish their taille, there are others who buy themselves off entirely.
An intendant, visiting the subdelegation of Bar-sur-Seine, observes"
that the rich cultivators succeed in obtaining petty commissions in
connection with the king's household and enjoy the privileges attached
to these, which throws the burden of taxation on the others."[5259] "One
of the leading causes of our prodigious taxation," says the provincial
assembly of Auvergne, "is the inconceivable number of the privileged,
which daily increases through traffic in and the assignment of offices;
cases occur in which these have ennobled six families in less than
twenty years." Should this abuse continue, "in a hundred years
every tax-payer the most capable of supporting taxation will be
ennobled."[5260] Observe, moreover, that an infinity of offices and
functions, without conferring nobility, exempt their titularies from
the personal taille and reduce their poll-tax to the fortieth of their
income; at first, all public functionaries, administrative or judicial,
and next all employments in the salt-department, in the customs, in the
post-office, in the royal domains, and in the excise.[5261] "There are
few parishes," writes an intendant, "in which these employees are
not found, while several contain as many as two or three."[5262]
A postmaster is exempt from the taille, in all his possessions and
offices, and even on his farms to the extent of a hundred arpents. The
notaries of Angoulême are exempt from the corvée, from collections, and
the lodging of soldiers, while neither their sons or chief clerks can
be drafted in the militia. On closely examining the great fiscal net
in administrative correspondence, we detect at every step some meshes
through which, with a bit of effort and cunning, all the big and
average-sized fish escape; the small fry alone remain at the bottom of
the scoop. A surgeon not an apothecary, a man of good family forty-five
years old, in commerce, but living with his parent and in a province
with a written code, escapes the collector. The same immunity is
extended to the begging agents of the monks of "la Merci" and "L'Etroite
Observance." Throughout the South and the East individuals in easy
circumstances purchase this commission of beggar for a "louis," or for
ten crowns, and, putting three livres in a cup, go about presenting it
in this or that parish:[5263] ten of the inhabitants of a small mountain
village and five inhabitants in the little village of Treignac obtain
their discharge in this fashion. Consequently, "the collections fall
on the poor, always powerless and often insolvent," the privileged
who effect the ruin of the tax-payer causing the deficiencies of the

VII. Municipal Taxation.

     The octrois of towns.--The poor the greatest sufferers.

One word more to complete the picture. People seek shelter in the towns
and, indeed, compared with the country, the towns are a refuge. But
misery accompanies the poor, for, on the one hand, they are involved
in debt, and, on the other, the closed circles administering municipal
affairs impose taxation on the poor. The towns being oppressed by the
fisc, they in their turn oppress the people by passing to them the load
which the king had imposed. Seven times in twenty-eight years[5264] he
withdraws and re-sells the right of appointing their municipal officers,
and, to get rid of "this enormous financial burden," the towns double
their octrois. At present, although liberated, they still make payment;
the annual charge has become a perpetual charge; never does the fisc
release its hold; once beginning to suck it continues to suck. "Hence,
in Brittany," says an intendant, "not a town is there whose expenses
are not greater than its revenue."[5265] They are unable to mend their
pavements, and repair their streets, "the approaches to them being
almost impracticable." What could they do for self-support, obliged, as
they are, to pay over again after having already paid? Their augmented
octrois, in 1748, ought to furnish during a period of eleven years a
total of 606,000 livres; but, the eleven years having lapsed, the
tax authorities, in spite of having been paid, still maintains its
exigencies, and to such an extent that, in 1774, they have contributed
2,071,052 livres, the provisional octroi being still maintained.--Now,
this exorbitant octroi bears heavily everywhere on the most
indispensable necessities, the artisan being more heavily burdened than
the bourgeois. In Paris, as we have seen above, wine pays forty-seven
livres a hogshead entrance duty which, at the present standard of value,
must be doubled. "A turbot, taken on the coast at Harfleur and brought
by post, pays an entrance duty of eleven times its value, the people
of the capital therefore being condemned to dispense with fish from
the sea."[5266] At the gates of Paris, in the little parish of
Aubervilliers, I find "excessive duties on hay, straw, seeds, tallow,
candles, eggs, sugar, fish, faggots and firewood."[5267] Compiegne
pays the whole amount of its taille by means of a tax on beverages and
cattle[5268]. "In Toul and in Verdun the taxes are so onerous that but
few consent to remain in the town, except those kept there by their
offices and by old habits."[5269] At Coulommiers, "the merchants and
the people are so severely taxed they dread undertaking any enterprise."
Popular hatred everywhere is profound against octroi, barrier and clerk.
The bourgeois oligarchy everywhere first cares for itself before caring
for those it governs. At Nevers and at Moulins,[5270] "all rich persons
find means to escape their turn to collect taxes by belonging to
different commissions or through their influence with the élus, to such
an extent that the collectors of Nevers, of the present and preceding
year, might be mistaken for real beggars; there is hardly any small
village whose tax collectors are solvent, since the tenant farmers
(métayers) have had to be appointed." At Angers, "independent of
presents and candles, which annually consume 2,172 livres, the public
pence are employed and wasted in clandestine outlays according to the
fancy of the municipal officers." In Provence, where the communities
are free to tax themselves and where they might be expected to show
some consideration for the poor, "most of the towns, and notably Aix,
Marseilles and Toulon,[5271] pay their impositions," local and general,
"exclusively by the tax called the "piquet." This is a tax "on all
species of flour belonging to and consumed on the territory;" for
example, of 254,897 livres, which Toulon expends, the piquet furnishes
233,405. Thus the taxation falls wholly on the people, while the bishop,
the marquis, the president, the merchant of importance pay less on their
dinner of delicate fish and becaficos than the caulker or porter on his
two pounds of bread rubbed with a piece of garlic! Bread in this country
is already too dear! And the quality is so poor that Malouet, the
intendant of the marine, refuses to let his workmen eat it!

"Sire," said M. de la Fare, bishop of Nancy, from his pulpit, May 4th,
1789, "Sire, the people over which you reign has given unmistakable
proofs of its patience. . . . They are martyrs in whom life seems to
have been allowed to remain to enable them to suffer the longer."

VIII. Complaints In The Registers [5272].

"I am miserable because too much is taken from me. Too much is taken
from me because not enough is taken from the privileged. Not only do the
privileged force me to pay in their place, but, again, they previously
deduct from my earnings their ecclesiastic and feudal dues. When, out
of my income of 100 francs, I have parted with fifty-three francs, and
more, to the collector, I am obliged again to give fourteen francs to
the seignior, also more than fourteen for tithes,[5273] and, out of the
remaining eighteen or nineteen francs, I have additionally to satisfy
the excise men. I alone, a poor man, pay two governments, one the old
government, local and now absent, useless, inconvenient and humiliating,
and active only through annoyances, exemptions and taxes; and the other,
recent, centralized, everywhere present, which, taking upon itself all
functions, has vast needs, and makes my meager shoulders support its
enormous weight."

These, in precise terms, are the vague ideas beginning to ferment in
the popular brain and encountered on every page of the records of the

"Would to God," says a Normandy village,[5274] "the monarch might take
into his own hands the defense of the miserable citizen pelted and
oppressed by clerks, seigniors, justiciary and clergy!"

"Sire," writes a village in Champagne,[5275] "the only message to us on
your part is a demand for money. We were led to believe that this might
cease, but every year the demand comes for more. We do not hold you
responsible for this because we love you, but those whom you employ, who
better know how to manage their own affairs than yours. We believed that
you were deceived by them and we, in our chagrin, said to ourselves,
If our good king only knew of this!. . . We are crushed down with every
species of taxation; thus far we have given you a part of our bread,
and, should this continue, we shall be in want. . . . Could you see the
miserable tenements in which we live, the poor food we eat, you would
feel for us; this would prove to you better than words that we can
support this no longer and that it must be lessened. . . . That which
grieves us is that those who possess the most, pay the least. We pay the
tailles and for our implements, while the ecclesiastics and nobles who
own the best land pay nothing. Why do the rich pay the least and the
poor the most? Should not each pay according to his ability? Sire, we
entreat that things may be so arranged, for that is just. . . . Did we
dare, we should undertake to plant the slopes with vines; but we are
so persecuted by the clerks of the excise we would rather pull up those
already planted; the wine that we could make would all go to them,
scarcely any of it remaining for ourselves. These exactions are a great
scourge and, to escape them, we would rather let the ground lie waste.
. . . Relieve us of all these extortions and of the excisemen; we are
great sufferers through all these devices; now is the time to change
them; never shall we be happy as long as these last. We entreat all
this of you, Sire, along with others of your subjects as wearied as
ourselves. . . . We would entreat yet more but you cannot do all at one

Imposts and privileges, in the really popular registers, are the two
enemies against which complaints everywhere arise[5276].

"We are overwhelmed by demands for subsidies,. . . we are burdened with
taxes beyond our strength,. . . we do not feel able to support any more,
we perish, overpowered by the sacrifices demanded of us. Labor is taxed
while indolence is exempt. . . . Feudalism is the most disastrous of
abuses, the evils it causes surpassing those of hail and lightning. . . .
Subsistence is impossible if three-quarters of the crops are to be
taken for field-rents, terrage, etc. . . . The proprietor has a fourth
part, the décimateur a twelfth, the harvester a twelfth, taxation a
tenth, not counting the depredations of vast quantities of game which
devour the growing crops: nothing is left for the poor cultivator but
pain and sorrow."

Why should the Third-Estate alone pay for roads on which the nobles and
the clergy drive in their carriages? Why are the poor alone subject to
militia draft? Why does "the subdelegate cause only the defenseless and
the unprotected to be drafted?" Why does it suffice to be the servant
of a privileged person to escape this service? Destroy those dove-cotes,
formerly only small pigeon-pens and which now contain as many as 5,000
pairs. Abolish the barbarous rights of "motte, quevaise and domaine
congéable[5277] under which more than 500,000 persons still suffer
in Lower Brittany." "You have in your armies, Sire, more than 30,000
Franche-Comté serfs;" should one of these become an officer and be
pensioned out of the service he would be obliged to return to and live
in the hut in which he was born, otherwise; at his death, the seignior
will take his pittance. Let there be no more absentee prelates, nor
abbés-commendatory. "The present deficit is not to be paid by us but
by the bishops and beneficiaries; deprive the princes of the church of
two-thirds of their revenues." "Let feudalism be abolished. Man, the
peasant especially, is tyrannically bowed down to the impoverished
ground on which he lies exhausted. . . . There is no freedom, no
prosperity, no happiness where the soil is enthralled. . . . Let the
lord's dues, and other odious taxes not feudal, be abolished, a thousand
times returned to the privileged. Let feudalism content itself with
its iron scepter without adding the poniard of the revenue

Here, and for some time before this, it is not the Countryman who speaks
but the procureur, the lawyer, who places professional metaphors and
theories at his service. But the lawyer has simply translated the
countryman's sentiments into literary dialect.



[Footnote 5201: "Collection des économistes," II. 832. See a tabular
statement by Beaudan.]

[Footnote 5202: "Ephémérides du citoyen," IX. 15; an article by M. de
Butré, 1767.]

[Footnote 5203: "Collection des économistes," I. 551, 562.]

[Footnote 5204: "Procès-verbaux de l'assemblée provinciale de Champagne"
(1787), p. 240.]

[Footnote 5205: Cf., "Notice historique sur la Révolution dans le
département de l'Eure," by Boivin-Champeaux, p. 37.--A register of
grievances of the parish of Epreville; on 100 francs income the Treasury
takes 22 for the taille, 16 for collaterals, 15 for the poll-tax, 11 for
the vingtièmes, total 67 livres.]

[Footnote 5206: "Procès-verbaux de l'assemblée provinciale de
Ile-de-France" (1787), p. 131.]

[Footnote 5207: "Procèx-verbaux de l'ass. prov de la Haute-Guyenne"
(1784), II. 17, 40, 47.]

[Footnote 5208: "Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. d'Auvergne" (1787), p.
253.--Doléances, by Gautier de Biauzat, member of the council elected by
the provincial assembly of Auvergne. (1788), p.3.]

[Footnote 5209: See note 5 at the end of the volume.]

[Footnote 5210: "Théron de Montaugé," p. 109 (1763). Wages at this time
are from 7 to 12 sous a day during the summer.]

[Footnote 5211: Archives nationales, procès-verbaux and registers of the
States-General, V. 59, p. 6. Memorandum to M. Necker from M. d'Orgeux,
honorary councilor to the Parliament of Bourgogne, 25 Oct. 1788..]

[Footnote 5212: Ibid. H, 1418. A letter of the intendant of Limoges,
Feb. 26, 1784.]

[Footnote 5213: Turgot, II. 259.]

[Footnote 5214: Archives nationales, H, 426 (remonstrances of the
Parliament of Brittany, Feb. 1783).]

[Footnote 5215: Mercier; XI. 59; X. 262.]

[Footnote 5216: Archives nationales, H, 1422, a letter by M d'Aine,
intendant of Limoges (February 17, 1782) one by the intendant of Moulins
(April, 1779); the trial of the community of Mollon (Bordelais), and the
tables of its collectors.]

[Footnote 5217: "Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. d'Auvergne," p. 266.]

[Footnote 5218: Albert Babeau, "Histoire de Troyes," I. 72]

[Footnote 5219: "Procés-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de Berry" (1778), I.
pp.72, 80.]

[Footnote 5220: De Tocqueville, 187.]

[Footnote 5221: Archives nationales, H, 1417. (A letter of M. de
Cypièrre, intendant at Orleans, April 17, 1765).]

[Footnote 5222: "Traité de Population," 2d part, p.26.]

[Footnote 5223: Archives nationales, H, 1417. (A letter of M. de
Cypièrre, intendant at Orleans, April 17, 1765).]

[Footnote 5224: Ibid. H, 1418. (Letter of May 28, 1784).]

[Footnote 5225: Ibid. (Letter of the intendant of Tours, June 15,

[Footnote 5226: Archives Nationales, H, 1417. A report by Raudon,
receiver of tailles in the election of Laon, January, 1764.]

[Footnote 5227: "Procèx-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de Berry" (1778), I.

[Footnote 5228: Champfort, 93.]

[Footnote 5229: "Procèx-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de Berry," I. 77.]

[Footnote 5230: Arthur Young, II. 205.]

[Footnote 5231: "Procès-verbaux of the ass. prov. of the generalship of
Rouen" (1787), p.271.]

[Footnote 5232: Letrosne (1779). "De l'administration provinciale et de
Ia reforme de l'impôt," pp. 39 to 262 and 138.--Archives nationales,
H. 138 (1782). Cahier de Bugey, "Salt costs a person living in the
countryside purchasing it from the retailers from 15 to 17 sous a pound,
according to the way of measuring it."]

[Footnote 5233: Floquet, VI. 367 (May 10, 1760).]

[Footnote 5234: Boivin-Champeaux, p.44. (Cahiers of Bray and of

[Footnote 5235: Arthur Young, II. 175-178.]

[Footnote 5236: Archives nationales, G, 300; G, 319. (Registers
and instructions of various local directors of the Excise to their

[Footnote 5237: Letrosne, ibid. 523.]

[Footnote 5238: Octroi: a toll or tax levied at the gates of a city on
articles brought in. (SR.)]

[Footnote 5239: Archives Nationales, H, 426 (Papers of the Parliament of
Brittany, February, 1783).]

[Footnote 5240: "Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de Soissonnais" (1787),
p.45.--Archives nationales, H, 1515 (Remonstrances of the Parliament of
Metz, 1768). "The class of indigents form more than twelve-thirteenths
of the whole number of villages of laborers and generally those of the
wine-growers." Ibid. G, 319 (Tableau des directions of Chateaudon and

[Footnote 5241: Albert Babeau, I. 89. p. 21.]

[Footnote 5242: "Mémoires," presented to the Assembly of Notables, by M.
de Calonne (1787), p.67.]

[Footnote 5243: Here we are at the root of the reason why democratically
elected politicians and their administrative staffs are today taxed even
though such taxation is only a paper-exercise adding costs to the cost
of government administration. (SR.)]

[Footnote 5244: Gautier de Bianzat, "Doléances," 193, 225.
"Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de Poitou" (1787), p.99.]

[Footnote 5245: Gautier de Bianzat, ibid..]

[Footnote 5246: Archives nationales, the procès-verbaux and cahiers of
the States-General, V. 59. P. 6. (Letter of M. Orgeux to M. Necker), V.
27. p. 560-573. (Cahiers of the Third-Estate of Arnay-le-Duc)]

[Footnote 5247: In these figures the rise of the money standard has been
kept in mind, the silver "marc," worth 59 francs in 1965, being worth 49
francs during the last half of the eighteenth century.]

[Footnote 5248: "Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de Ile-de-France," 132,
158; de l'Orléanais, 96, 387.]

[Footnote 5249: "Mémoire," presented to the Assembly of Notables (1787),
p. 1.--See note 2 at the end of the volume, on the estate of Blet.]

[Footnote 5250: "Procès-verbeaux de l'ass. prov. d'Alsace" (1787), p.
116;"--of Champagne," 192. (According to a declaration of June 2, 1787,
the tax substituted for the corvée may be extended to one-sixth of
the taille, with accessory taxes and the poll-tax combined). "De la
généralité d'Alençcon," 179; "--du Berry," I. 218.]

[Footnote 5251: Archives nationales, G, 322 (Memorandum on the excise
dues of Compiègne and its neighborhood, 1786)]

[Footnote 5252: "Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de l'Ile-de-France," p.

[Footnote 5253: "Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de Berry, I. 85, II. 91.
--de l'Orléanais, p. 225." "Arbitrariness, injustice, inequality, are
inseparable from the taille when any change of collector takes place."]

[Footnote 5254: "Archives Nationales," H. 615. Letter of M. de Lagourda,
a noble from Bretagne, to M. Necker, dated December 4, 1780: "You are
always taxing the useful and necessary people who decrease in numbers
all the time: these are the workers of the land. The countryside has
become deserted and no one will any longer plow the land. I testify to
God and to you, Sir, that we have lost more than a third of our
budding wheat of the last harvest because we did not have the necessary
man-power do to the work."]

[Footnote 5255: Ibid. 1149. (letter of M. de Reverseau, March 16, 1781);
H, 200 (letter of M. Amelot, Nov. 2, 1784).]

[Footnote 5256: "Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de la généralite de
Rouen," p.91.]

[Footnote 5257: Hippeau, VI. 22 (1788).]

[Footnote 5258: D'Argenson. VI. 37.]

[Footnote 5259: Archives nationales, H. 200 (Memoir of M. Amelot,

[Footnote 5260: "Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. d'Auvergne," 253.]

[Footnote 5261: Boivin-Champeaux, "Doléances de la parvisse de
Tilleul-Lambert" (Eure). "Numbers of privileged characters, Messieurs of
the elections, Messieurs the post-masters, Messieurs the presidents
and other attachés of the salt-warehouse, every individual possessing
extensive property pays but a third or a half of the taxes they ought to

[Footnote 5262: De Tocqueville, 385.--"Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. de
Lyonnais," p. 56]

[Footnote 5263: Archives nationales, H, 1422. (Letters of M. d'Aine,
intendant, also of the receiver for the election of Tulle, February 23,

[Footnote 5264: De Tocqueville, 64, 363.]

[Footnote 5265: Archives nationales, H, 612, 614. (Letters of M. de la
Bove, September 11, and Dec. 2, 1774; June 28, 1777).]

[Footnote 5266: Mercier, II. 62.]

[Footnote 5267: "Grievances" of the parish of Aubervilliers.]

[Footnote 5268: Archives nationales, G, 300; G, 322 ("Mémoires" on the
excise duties).]

[Footnote 5269: "Procès-verbaux de l'ass. prov. des Trois-Evêchés p.

[Footnote 5270: Archives nationales, H, 1422 (Letter of the intendant of
Moulins, April 1779).]

[Footnote 5271: Archives nationales, H. 1312 (Letters of M. D'Antheman
procureur-général of the excise court (May 19, 1783), and of the
Archbishop of Aix (June 15, 1783).)--Provence produced wheat only
sufficient for seven and a half months' consumption.]

[Footnote 5272: Abbreviation for the "cahier des doléances", in English
'register of grieviances', brought with them by the representatives of
the people to the great gathering in Paris of the "States-Généraux" in
1789. (SR.)]

[Footnote 5273: The feudal dues may be estimated at a seventh of the net
income and the dime also at a seventh. These are the figures given
by the ass. prov. of Haute-Guyenne (Procès-verbaux, p. 47).--Isolated
instances, in other provinces, indicate similar results. The dime ranges
from a tenth to the thirteenth of the gross product, and commonly the
tenth. I regard the average as about the fourteenth, and as one-half
of the gross product must be deducted for expenses of cultivation, it
amounts to one-seventh. Letrosne says a fifth and even a quarter.]

[Footnote 5274: Boivin-Champeaux, 72.]

[Footnote 5275: Grievances of the community of Culmon (Election de

[Footnote 5276: Boivin-Champeaux, 34, 36, 41, 48.--Périn ("Doléances
des paroisses rurales de l'Artuis," 301, 308).--Archives nationales,
procès-verbaux and cahiers of the States-Géneraux, vol. XVII. P. 12
(Letter of the inhabitants of Dracy-le Viteux).]

[Footnote 5277: Motte: a mound indicative of Seigniorial dominion;
quevaise; the right of forcing a resident to remain on his property
under penalty of forfeiture; domaine congéable; property held subject to
capricious ejection. (TR)]

[Footnote 5278: Prud'homme, "Résumé des cahiers," III. passim, and
especially from 317 to 340.]



     Intellectual incapacity.--How ideas are transformed into
     marvelous stories.

To comprehend their actions we ought now to look into the condition of
their minds, to know the current train of their ideas, their mode of
thinking. But is it really essential to draw this portrait, and are not
the details of their mental condition we have just presented sufficient?
We shall obtain a knowledge of them later, and through their actions,
when, in Touraine, they knock a mayor and his assistant, chosen by
themselves, senseless with kicks from their wooden shoes, because, in
obeying the national Assembly, these two unfortunate men prepared a
table of taxes; or when at Troyes, they drag through the streets and
tear to pieces the venerable magistrate who was nourishing them at
that very moment, and who had just dictated his testament in their
favor.-Take the still rude brain of a contemporary peasant and deprive
it of the ideas which, for eighty years past, have entered it by so many
channels, through the primary school of each village, through the return
home of the conscript after seven years' service, through the prodigious
multiplication of books, newspapers, roads, railroads, foreign travel
and every other species of communication.[5301] Try to imagine the
peasant of the eighteenth century, penned and shut up from father to
son in his hamlet, without parish highways, deprived of news, with no
instruction but the Sunday sermon, continuously worrying about his daily
bread and the taxes, "with his wretched, dried-up aspect,"[5302] not
daring to repair his house, always persecuted, distrustful, his mind
contracted and stinted, so to say, by misery. His condition is almost
that of his ox or his ass, while his ideas are those of his condition.
He has been a long time stolid; "he lacks even instinct,"[5303]
mechanically and fixedly regarding the ground on which he drags along
his hereditary plow. In 1751, d'Argenson wrote in his journal:

"nothing in the news from the court affects them; the reign is
indifferent to them. . . . . the distance between the capital and the
province daily widens. . . . Here they are ignorant of the striking
occurrences that most impressed us at Paris. . . .The inhabitants of the
country side are merely poverty-stricken slaves, draft cattle under a
yoke, moving on as they are goaded, caring for nothing and embarrassed
by nothing, provided they can eat and sleep at regular hours."

They make no complaints, "they do not even dream of complaining;"[5304]
their wretchedness seems to them natural like winter or hail. Their
minds, like their agriculture, still belong to the middle ages.-In the
environment of Toulouse,[5305] to ascertain who committed a robbery, to
cure a man or a sick animal, they resort to a sorcerer, who divines this
by means of a sieve. The countryman fully believes in ghosts and, on
All Saints' eve, he lays the cloth for the dead.--In Auvergne, at the
outbreak the Revolution, on a contagious fever making its appearance,
M. de Montlosier, declared to be a sorcerer, is the cause of it, and two
hundred men assemble together to demolish his dwelling. Their religious
belief is on the same level.[5306] "Their priests drink with them
and sell them absolution. On Sundays, at the sermon, they put up
lieutenancies and sub-lieutenancies (among the saints) for sale: so much
for a lieutenant's place under St. Peter!--If the peasant hesitates in
his bid, an eulogy of St. Peter at once begins, and then our peasants
run it up fast enough."--To intellects in a primitive state, barren of
ideas and crowded with images, idols on earth are as essential as idols
in heaven. "No doubt whatever existed in my mind," says Rétit de la
Bretonne,[5307] "of the power of the king to compel any man to bestow
his wife or daughter on me, and my village (Sacy, in Burgundy) thought
as I did."[5308] There is no room in minds of this description for
abstract conceptions, for any idea of social order; they are submissive
to it and that is all. "The mass of the people," writes Governor in
1789, "have no religion but that of their priests, no law but that of
those above them, no morality but that of self-interest; these are
the beings who, led on by drunken curates, are now on the high road
to liberty, and the first use they make of it is to rebel on all sides
because there is dearth."[5309]

How could things be otherwise? Every idea, previous to taking root in
their brain, must possess a legendary form, as absurd as it is simple,
adapted to their experiences, their faculties, their fears and their
aspirations. Once planted in this uncultivated and fertile soil it
vegetates and becomes transformed, developing into gross excrescences,
somber foliage and poisonous fruit. The more monstrous the greater its
vigor, clinging to the slightest of probabilities and tenacious against
the most certain of demonstrations. Under Louis XV, in an arrest of
vagabonds, a few children having been carried off willfully or by
mistake, the rumor spreads that the king takes baths in blood to restore
his exhausted functions, and, so true does this seem to be, the
women, horrified through their maternal instincts, join in the riot; a
policeman is seized and knocked down, and, on his demanding a confessor,
a woman in the crowd, picking up a stone, cries out that he must not
have time to go to heaven, and smashes his head with it, believing that
she is performing an act of justice[5310]. Under Louis XVI evidence is
presented to the people that there is no scarcity: in 1789, [5311] an
officer, listening to the conversation of his soldiers, hears them state
"with full belief that the princes and courtiers, with a view to
starve Paris out, are throwing flour into the Seine." Turning to a
quarter-master he asks him how he can possibly believe such an absurd
story. "Lieutenant," he replies, "'tis time--the bags were tied with
blue strings (cordons bleus)." To them this is a sufficient reason, and
no argument could convince them to the contrary. Thus, among the dregs
of society, foul and horrible romances are forged, in connection
the famine and the Bastille, in which Louis XVI., the queen Marie
Antoinette, the Comte d'Artois, Madame de Lamballe, the Polignacs, the
revenue farmers, the seigniors and ladies of high rank are portrayed as
vampires and ghouls. I have seen many editions of these in the pamphlets
of the day, in the engravings not exhibited, and among popular prints
and illustrations, the latter the most effective, since they appeal to
the eye. They surpass the stories of Mandrin[5312] and Cartouche,
being exactly suitable for men whose literature consists of the popular
laments of Mandrin and Cartouche.


     Political incapacity.--Interpretation of political rumors
     and of government action.

By this we can judge of their political intelligence. Every object
appears to them in a false light; they are like children who, at each
turn of the road, see in each tree or bush some frightful hobgoblin.
Arthur Young, on visiting the springs near Clermont, is arrested,[5313]
and the people want to imprison a woman, his guide, some of the
bystanders regarding him as an "agent of the Queen, who intended to blow
the town up with a mine, and send all that escaped to the galleys."
Six days after this, beyond Puy, and notwithstanding his passport, the
village guard come and take him out of bed at eleven o'clock at nights,
declaring that "I was undoubtedly a conspirator with the Queen, the
Count d'Artois and the Count d'Entragues (who has property here), who
had employed me as arpenteur to measure their fields in order to double
their taxes." We here take the unconscious, apprehensive, popular
imagination in the act; a slight indication, a word, prompting the
construction of either air castles or fantastic dungeons, and seeing
these as plainly as if they were so many substantial realities. They
have not the inward resources that render capable of separating and
discerning; their conceptions are formed in a lump; both object and
fancy appear together and are united in one single perception. At the
moment of electing deputies the report is current in Province[5314] that
"the best of kings desires perfect equality, that there are to be no
more bishops, nor seigniors, nor tithes, nor seigniorial dues, no more
tithes or distinctions, no more hunting or fishing rights,. . . that
the people are to be wholly relieved of taxation, and that the first two
orders alone are to provide the expenses of the government." Whereupon
forty or fifty riots take place in one day. "Several communities refuse
to make any payments to their treasurer outside of royal requisitions."
Others do better: "on pillaging the strong-box of the receiver of the
tax on leather at Brignolles, they shout out Vive le Roi!" "The peasant
constantly asserts his pillage and destruction to be in conformity with
the king's will." A little later, in Auvergne, the peasants who burn
castles are to display "much repugnance" in thus maltreating "such kind
seigniors," but they allege "imperative orders, having been advised that
the king wished it."[5315] At Lyons, when the tapsters of the town and
the peasants of the neighborhood trample the customs officials underfoot
they believe that the king has suspended all customs dues for three
days.[5316] The scope of their imagination is proportionate to their
shortsightedness. "Bread, no more rents, no more taxes!" is the sole
cry, the cry of want, while exasperated want plunges ahead like a
famished bull. Down with the monopolist!--storehouses are forced open,
convoys of grain are stopped, markets are pillaged, bakers are hung, and
the price of bread is fixed so that none is to be had or is concealed.
Down with the octroi!--barriers are demolished, clerks are beaten,
money is wanting in the towns for urgent expenses. Burn tax registries,
account-books, municipal archives, seigniors' charter-safes, convent
parchments, every detestable document creative of debtors and sufferers!
The village itself is no longer able to preserve its parish property.
The rage against any written document, against public officers, against
any man more or less connected with grain, is blind and determined.
The furious animal destroys all, although wounding himself, driving and
roaring against the obstacle that ought to be outflanked.


     Destructive impulses.--The object of blind rage.--Distrust
     of natural leaders.--Suspicion of them changed into hatred.
    --Disposition of the people in 1789.

This owing to the absence of leaders and in the absence of organization,
a mob is simply a herd. Its mistrust of its natural leaders, of the
great, of the wealthy, of persons in office and clothed with authority,
is inveterate and incurable. Vainly do these wish it well and do it
good; it has no faith in their humanity or disinterestedness. It has
been too down-trodden; it entertains prejudices against every measure
proceeding from them, even the most liberal and the most beneficial. "At
the mere mention of the new assemblies," says a provincial commission in
1787,[5317] "we heard a workman exclaim, 'What, more new extortioners!'"
Superiors of every kind are suspected, and from suspicion to
hostility the road is not long. In 1788[5318] Mercier declares that
"insubordination has been manifest for some years, especially among the
trades. . . . Formerly, on entering a printing-office the men took off
their hats. Now they content themselves with staring and leering at
you; scarcely have you crossed threshold when you yourself more lightly
spoken of than if you were one of them." The same attitude is taken by
the peasants in the environment of Paris; Madame Vigée-Lebrun,[5319] on
going to Romainville to visit Marshal de Ségur, remarks: "Not only do
they not remove their hats but they regard us insolently; some of them
even threatened us with clubs." In March and April following this, her
guests arrive at her concert in consternation. "In the morning, at
the promenade of Longchamps, the populace, assembled at the barrier of
l'Etoile, insulted the people passing by in carriages in the grossest
manner; some of the wretches on the footsteps exclaiming: 'Next year you
shall be behind the carriage and we inside.'" At the close of the
year 1788, the stream becomes a torrent and the torrent a cataract.
An intendant[5320] writes that, in his province, the government must
decide, and in the popular sense, to separate from privileged classes,
abandon old forms and give the Third-Estate a double vote. The clergy