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Title: Brief Reflections relative to the Emigrant French Clergy
Author: Burney, Fanny, 1752-1840
Language: English
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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.

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 Transcriber's Note

 The punctuation and spelling from the original text have been faithfully
 preserved.



 BRIEF

 REFLECTIONS

 RELATIVE TO THE

 EMIGRANT FRENCH CLERGY:

 EARNESTLY SUBMITTED

 TO THE HUMANE CONSIDERATION

 OF THE

 LADIES OF GREAT BRITAIN.


 _BY THE AUTHOR OF_
 EVELINA AND CECILIA.


 London:
 PRINTED BY T. DAVISON,
 FOR THOMAS CADELL, IN THE STRAND.
 1793.

 [Price one Shilling and Sixpence.]


 [Asterism] _The profits of this Publication are to be wholly
 appropriated to the Relief of the_

 EMIGRANT FRENCH CLERGY.



APOLOGY.


However wide from the allotted boundaries and appointed province of
Females may be all interference in public matters, even in the agitating
season of general calamity; it does not thence follow that they are
exempt from all public claims, or mere passive spectatresses of the
moral as well as of the political oeconomy of human life. The distinct
ties of their prescriptive duties, which, pointed out by Nature, have
been recognised by reason, and established by custom, remove, indeed,
from their view and knowledge all materials for forming public
characters. The privacy, therefore, of their lives is the dictate of
common sense, stimulated by local discretion. But in the doctrine of
morality the reverse is the case, and their feminine deficiencies are
there changed into advantages: since the retirement, which divests them
of practical skills for public purposes, guards them, at the same time,
from the heart-hardening effects of general worldly commerce. It gives
them leisure to reflect and to refine, not merely upon the virtues, but
the pleasures of benevolence; not only and abstractedly upon that sense
of good and evil which is implanted in all, but feelingly, nay awefully,
upon the woes they see, yet are spared!

It is here, then, in the cause of tenderness and humanity, they may come
forth, without charge of presumption, or forfeiture of delicacy.
Exertions here may be universal, without rivality or impropriety; the
head may work, the hand may labour; the heart may suggest,
indiscriminately in all, in men without disdain, in women without a
blush: and however truly of the latter to withdraw from notice may be in
general the first praise, in a service such as this, they may with yet
more dignity come forward: for it is here that their purest principles,
in union with their softest feelings, may blend immediate gratification
with the most solemn future hopes.----And it is here, in full
persuasion of sympathy as well as of pardon, that the Author of these
lines ventures to offer to her countrywomen a short exhortation in
favour of the emigrant French Clergy.



BRIEF

REFLEXIONS

RELATIVE TO THE

EMIGRANT FRENCH CLERGY.


The astonishing period of political history upon which our days have
fallen, robs all former times of wonder, wearies expectation, sickens
even hope! while the occurrences of every passing minute have such
prevalence over our minds, that public affairs assume the interest of
private feelings, affect domestic peace, and occupy not merely the most
retired part of mankind, but even mothers, wives, and children with
solicitude irresistible.

Yet the amazement which has been excited, though stupendous, though
terrific, by the general events that in our neighbour kingdom have
convulsed all order, and annihilated tranquility, is feeble, is almost
null, compared with that produced by the living contrast of virtue and
of guilt exhibited in the natives of one and the same country; virtue,
the purest and most disinterested, emanating from the first best cause,
religion; and guilt, too heinous for any idea to which we have hitherto
given definition.

The emigrant FRENCH CLERGY, who present us with the bright side of this
picture, are fast verging to a situation of the most necessitous
distress; and, notwithstanding the generous collections repeatedly
raised, and the severest oeconomy unremittingly exercised in their
distribution, if something further is not quickly obtained, all that has
been done will prove of no avail, and they must soon end their hapless
career, not by paying the debt of nature, but by famine.

That the kingdom at large, in its legislative capacity, will ere long
take into consideration a more permanent provision for these pious
fugitives, there is every reason to infer from the national interest,
which has universally been displayed in their cause. To preserve them in
the mean time is the object of present application.

So much has already so bountifully been bestowed in large donations,
that it seems wanting in modesty, if not in equity, to make further
immediate demands upon heads of houses, and masters of families.

Which way, then, may these destitute wanderers turn for help? To their
own country they cannot go back; it is still in the same state of
lawless iniquity which drove them from it, still under the tyrannic sway
of the sanguinary despots of the Convention.

What then remains? Must their dreadful hardships, their meek endurance,
their violated rights, terminate in the death of hunger?

No! there is yet a resource; a resource against which neither modesty
nor equity plead; a resource which, on the contrary, has every moral
propensity, every divine obligation, in its favour: this resource is
FEMALE BENEFICENCE.

Already a considerable number of Ladies have stept forward for this
Christian purpose. Their plan has been printed and dispersed. It speaks
equally to the heart and to the understanding; it points out
wretchedness which we cannot dispute, and methods for relief of which
we cannot deny the feasibility.

The Ladies who have instituted this scheme desire not to be named; and
those who are the principal agents for putting it in execution, join in
the same wish. Such delicacy is too respectable to be opposed, and
ostentation is unnecessary to promulgate what modest silence may
recommend to higher purposes. There are other records than those of
newspapers, and lists of subscribers; records in which to see one fair
action, one virtuous exertion, one self-denying sacrifice entered, may
bring to its author, _that peace which the world cannot give_, and a joy
more refined than even the praise of the worthy.

Such names, nevertheless, will ultimately be sought, for what now is
benevolence will in future become honour; and female tradition will not
fail to hand down to posterity the formers and protectresses of a plan
which, if successful, will exalt for ever the female annals of Great
Britain.

The minutest scrutinizer into the rights of charity cannot here start
one objection that a little consideration will not supersede. No
votaries of pleasure, ruined by extravagance and luxury, forfeit pity in
censure by imploring your assistance; no slaves of idleness, no dupes of
ambition, invite reproof for neglected concerns in soliciting your
liberality. The objects of this petition are reduced, indeed, from
affluence to penury, but the change has been wrought through the
exaltation of their souls, not through the depravity of their conduct.
Whatever may be their calls upon our tenderness, their claims, to every
thinking mind, are still higher to our admiration. Driven from house and
home, despoiled of dignities and honours, abandoned to the seas for
mercy, to chance for support, many old, some infirm, all impoverished?
with mental strength alone allowed them for coping with such an
aggregate of evil! Weigh, weigh but a moment their merits and their
sufferings, and what will not be sooner renounced than the gratification
of serving so much excellence. It is to _itself_ the liberal heart does
justice in doing justice to the oppressed; they are its own happiest
feelings which it nourishes, in nourishing the unfortunate.

By addressing myself to females, I am far from inferring that charity is
exclusively their praise; no, it is a virtue as manly as it is gentle;
it is christian, in one word, and ought therefore to be universal. But
the pressure of present need is so urgent, that the ladies who patronize
this plan are content to spread it amongst their own sex, whose
contributions, though smaller, may more conveniently be sudden, and
whose demands for wealth being less serious, may render those
contributions more general[1].

Nor are the misfortunes we would now mitigate so foreign to our
"business and bosoms" as we may lightly suppose: all Europe is involved
by the circumstances which occasioned them, and with indignation as
strong, though with sensations less acute, has watched their wonderful
progress[2].

Whatever by unbelievers may be urged in defence of what they style the
_religion of nature_, its inefficacy, even for the exclusive purposes of
morality, is now surely exposed beyond all theory or controversy: and
the _religion of God_ has received a testimony as clear of its _moral_
influence, by the atrocious acts of the Convention since it has been
cast aside, as of its _divine_, in the voluntary sacrifices offered up
at its shrine by those who still adhere to its holy doctrines.

And shall we, with our arms, our treasures, our dearest blood, resist
the authors of these wrongs, yet forbear to protect their victims?

All ages have furnished examples of individuals who have been
distinguished from their contemporaries by actions of Heroism: but to
find a similar instance of a whole body of men, thus repelling every
allurement of protection and preferment, of home, country, friends,
fortune, possessions, for the still calls of piety, and private
dictates of conscience, precedent may be defied, and the annals of
virtue explored in vain.

Shall we deem it a misfortune to be burthened with beings such as these?
No; let us, more justly, conclude it a blessing. Prosperity is apt to be
forgetful, to confound what it possesses with what it deserves; but the
claims we here feel to give, awaken us to remember the abundance we have
received.

Thankfully, and not disdainfully, let us bow down to an admonition thus
mildly instilled through the medium of borrowed experience. What a
contrast to the terrible lesson given to the distracted country which
offers it! where both crimes and afflictions are of such enormous
magnitude, as to engross the whole civilized earth between resentment
and compassion!

Already we look back on the past as on a dream, too wild in its
horrors, too unnatural in its cruelties, too abrupt in its succession of
terrors, even for the exaggerating pencil of the most eccentric and
gloomy imagination; surpassing whatever has been heard, read, or
thought; and admitting no similitude but to the feverish visions of
delirium! so marvellous in fertility of incident, so improbable in
excess of calamity, so monstrous in impunity of guilt! the witches of
Shakespeare are less wanton in absurdity, and the demons of Milton less
horrible in denunciations.

Of the present nothing can be said but, _what is it_?--It is gone while
I write the question.

The future--the consequences--what judgment can pervade? The scenery is
so dark, we fear to look forward. Experience offers no direction,
observation no clue; the mystery is as impervious, the obscurity as
tremendous, as that we would vainly penetrate for our destinies in the
world to come. Ah! might the veil but drop to clearness as refulgent!

Let us not, however, destroy the rectitude of our horror of these
enormities, by mingling it with implacable prejudice; nor condemn the
oppressed with the oppressor, the slaughtered with the assassin. Are we
not all the creatures of one Creator? Does not the same sun give us
warmth? And will not _the days of the years of our pilgrimage_ be as
short as theirs? It is an offence to Religion, an injury to Providence,
to suppose That vast tract of land wholly seized by evil spirits; though
licentiousness, rapacity, ambition, and irreligion have given rulers to
it, of late, abhorrent to all humanity.

We are too apt to consider ourselves rather as a distinct race of
beings, than as merely the emulous inhabitants of rival states; but ere
our detestation leads to the indiscriminate proscription of a whole
people, let us look at the Emigrant French Clergy, and ask where is the
Englishman, where, indeed, the human being, in whom a sense of right can
more disinterestedly have been demonstrated, or more nobly predominate?
O let us be brethren with the good, wheresoever they may arise! and let
us resist the culpable, whether abroad or at home.

The world, in all its varied stores of good, contains nothing that can
vie with Philanthropy--that soft _milk of human kindness_, that benign
spirit of social harmony, that genuine emblem of practical Religion!
seeking some extenuation from goodness even amongst the fallen,
accepting some apology from temptation even amongst the sinful; lenient
in its judgments, conciliating in its awards, forgiving in its wrath!
and receiving in bosom-serenity all the solace it humanely expands.

But while to the individual we talk of alms, and plead distress,
sickness, infirmity; to the community we may be bolder, juster, firmer,
and talk of duties.

Flourishing and happy ourselves, shall we see cast upon our coasts
virtue we scarce thought mortal, sufferers whose story we could not read
without tears, martyrs that remind us of other days--and let them
perish? Behold age unhonoured, disease unattended, strangers unfed? and
not till they are no more, till the compassionating hand of Death has
closed their miseries, learn to do them justice? _then_, when we can
only lament,--not _now_, when we may also succour? Is it to that period
we must wait to enquire, to exclaim "How came they to this pass?"

Anticipate the answer, anticipate the historians of times to come: will
they not say, "These holy men, who died for want of bread, were Priests
of the Christian Religion. They had committed no sin, they had offended
against no law: they refused to take an oath which their consciences
disapproved; their piety banished them from their country; and the land
in which they sought refuge received, admired, relieved--neglected,
forgot, and finally permitted them to starve!

"And what was this land? some wild, uncultivated spot, where yet no arts
had flourished, no civilization been spread, no benefits reciprocated?
no religion known? Where novelty was the only passport, and where
kindness was the short-lived offspring of curiosity? Unhappy men! to
have struck on such inhospitable shores, amidst a race so unapprized of
all social, all relative ties, as to confer favours only where they may
be expected in return, unconscious, or unreflecting that every
unoffending man is a brother!

"Or--were they thrown on some bleak northern strand, where life is mere
existence, where the genial board has never welcomed the wearied
traveller, where freezing cold benumbs even the soft affections of the
heart, and where, from the first great law of self-preservation,
compassion is monopolized by internal penury and want? Ill-fated
passengers! it was not here, in the chill atmosphere of personal misery,
your woes should have sought redress; the commiseration which is your
due can only be conceived by those who have known the height from which
ye have fallen, who have enjoyed the same affluence, and blessed Heaven
for similar peace and joy--"

But no; this, at least, has not been their doom--nor will this, I trust,
be their fate. No land of barbarians has been insensible to their worth,
no ruthless region of the north has blighted sensibility for their
misfortunes from ignorance of milder life: the land to which they
sailed was Great Britain; in the fulness of its felicity, in the
meridian of its glory, not more celebrated for arts and arms, than
beloved for indulgent benevolence, and admired for munificence of
liberality.

Here, then, ye reverend fathers, blest at least in the choice of your
asylum, here rest your weary limbs, _till the wicked cease from
troubling_! secure of the kindest, and, when once your exigency is
known, the most effectual succour. Calm, therefore, your harrassed
spirits, repose your shattered frames, look around you with fearless
reliance; you will see a friend in every beholder, you will find a
sympathizer in every auditor.

It ought also, to be remembered, that though the money now gathered will
be paid into foreign hands, it is wholly among ourselves it will be
expended; it is all and entirely our own by immediate circulation.

Yet--were it not--what is it but a refined species of usury? a hoard
lodged beyond all reach of bankruptcy? a store for futurity? exempt from
the numerous losses and disappointments of those who mistake the
blessing of wealth to consist in its power of selfish appropriation?

Whoever bestows, whether promptly from impulse, or maturely from
principle, will alike be content with the recompence of doing good: but
in justice, in delicacy to the uncommon objects of this unexampled
contribution, we should suggest what cannot fail to pass in their own
minds, and anticipate what we cannot doubt will be the result of their
restored powers: that those who survive the anarchy by which they are
desolated, who live to see their country rescued from its present
despotic tyrants, will still be strangers to repose, even at the natal
home for which now every earthly sigh is heard, till, with their
restituted property, they have cleared their dignity of character from
every possible aspersion of calumny, and returned--not to their
benefactors--whose accounts, far more nobly, will be settled
elsewhere!----but to the poor of the kingdom at large, that bounty
which has sustained them in banishment and woe.

Who is there that can look forward without emotion to the period of
their recal and departure? With what blessings and what prayers will
their hearts overflow! "Farewell, they will cry, ye friends of the
unhappy! ye protectors of the houseless! ye generous rich, who thus
benignly have worked for us! Ye patient poor who thus unrepiningly have
seen us supported! Blest be your kingdom! Long live your virtuous
sovereign? Be heavenly peace your portion! and never may ye know the
sorrows of national divisions!"

Yet, to many it may appear, that where so much has been done, nothing
more can be required. This is rather a mistake from failure in reflexion
than in benevolence. To such, it is sufficient to ask, "Why gave ye at
all?"

The answer is obvious; to save a distressed herd of fellow-creatures
from want.

And are they less worth saving now, their helplessness, unhappily, being
the same? Was the novelty of their appearance and situation a plea more
forcible than acquaintance with their merits? than the view of their
harmless lives, their inoffensive manners, their patient resignation to
the evils of their lot?

But--_are we to give_, ye cry, _for ever_?

Ah! rather, and for more generously, reverse the question, and, in
_their_ names exclaim, "Must we _receive_ for ever? will the epoch never
arrive when our injuries may be redressed, and our sufferings allowed
the soft recompence of manifesting our gratitude?"

O happy donors! compare but thus your subjects for murmuring with the
feelings of your receivers! and do not, because ye see them, bowed down
by adversity, thus lowly grateful for the pittance that grants them
bread and covering, imagine them so unlike the human race to which they
belong, that sometimes, in bitterness of spirit, they can forbear the
piercing recollection of better days; days, when beneficence flourished
from their own deeds, when anguish and poverty were relieved by their
own hands!

Still a little nearer let us bring reflexion home, and entreat those
who having done much, would do no more, to suppose themselves, for a
moment only, placed in _l'Eglise des Carmes_, in Paris, on the 2d of
September, 1792, in full sight of the hapless assemblage of this pious
fraternity, who there sought sanctuary--not for the crimes they had
committed, but for the duty they had discharged to their consciences,
not from just punishment of guilt, but from fury against innocence.

Here, then, behold these venerable men, collected in a body, enclosed
within walls dedicated to holy offices, bewailing the flagitious actions
of their country-men, yet devout, composed, earnest in prayer, and
incorruptible in purity.

Now, then, in mental retrospection, witness the unheard-of massacre that
ensued! Behold the ruffians that invade the sacred abode, each bearing
in his hand some exterminating weapon; in his eye, a more than
fiend-like ferocity. Can it be you they seek, ye men of peace? unarmed,
defenceless, and sanctuarised within the precincts of your own religious
functions!----Incredible!--

Alas, no!--behold them reviled--chaced--assaulted. They demand their
offence? They are answered by staves and pikes. They fly to the
altar--to that altar where, so lately, salvation seemed to hang upon
their benediction.--

Here, at least, are they not safe? At this sanctified spot will not some
reverence revive? some devotion rekindle? Will not the fell instruments
of destruction fall guiltless from the shaking hands of their contrite
pursuers? Will not remorse seize their inmost souls, and vibrate through
the hallowed habitation, in one universal cry of, "O men of God! live
yet--so forgive--and pray for us!"--Ah, deadly shame! indelible
disgrace! not here, not even here, could compunction or humanity find a
friend--

"Would not those white hairs move pity?"--

No!--the murderers dart after them: the pious suppliants kneel--but they
rise no more! They pray--and their prayers ascend to heaven, unheard on
earth! Groans resound through the vaulted roof--Mangled carcases strew
the consecrated ground--derided, while wounded; insulted, while
slaughtered--they are cleft in twain--their savage destroyers joy in
their cries----Blood, agony, and death close the fatal scene!

And ye, O ye who hear it, revere the immortal faith that, proof against
this consummate barbarity, preferred its most baneful rage, to uttering
one deviating word! And then, while your hearts bleed fresh with
sympathy, will ye not call out, "O could they have been rescued! had
pitying Heaven but spared the final blow, and, snatching them from their
dread assassins, cast them, despoiled, forlorn, friendless, on this our
happy isle, with what transport would we have welcomed and cherished
them! sought balm for their lacerated hearts, and studied to have
alleviated their exile, by giving to it every character of a second and
endearing home. Our nation would have been honoured by affording refuge
to such perfection; every family would have been blessed with whom such
pilgrims associated; our domestics would have vied with each other to
shew them kindness and respect; our poor would have contributed their
mite to assist them; our children would have relinquished some enjoyment
to have fed them!"

Let not reflection stop here, nor this merciful regret be unavailing:
extend it a little farther, and mark the question to which it leads:
can ye, wish this for those who are gone, and not practice it for those
who remain? Sufferers in the same cause, bred in the same faith, and
firm in the same principles; the banished men now amongst us would have
shared a similar fate, if seized upon the same spot. Venerate them,
then, O Christians of every denomination, as the representatives of
those who have been slain; and let the same generous feeling which would
call to life those murdered martyrs, protect their yet existing
brethren, and save them, at every risk, and by every exertion, from an
end as painful and more lingering; as unnatural, though less violent.

Come forth, then, O ye Females, blest with affluence! spare from your
luxuries, diminish from your pleasures, solicit with your best powers;
and hold in heart and mind that, when the awful hour of your own
dissolution arrives, the wide-opening portals of heaven may present to
your view these venerable sires, as the precursors of your admission.


FINIS.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] The females of that miserable country whence these meritorious
outcasts are driven, had the happiness, in former and better times, of
exercising a charity as decisive for life or death as that which the
females of Great Britain are now conjured to perform. St. Vincent de
Paule, _aumonier général des galeres_, to whom France owes the chief of
its humane establishments, instituted amongst the rest, the Foundling
Hospital of Paris. His fund for its endowment failing, after repeated
remonstrances for further general alms, which though not unsuccessful,
proved insufficient, he gathered together a congregation of females,
before whom he presented the innocent little objects of his prayers. His
address to them was at once simple and sublime: "I call not upon you, he
cried, as Christians, nor even as fellow creatures; I call upon you
solely and singly to pronounce sentence as judges. To the largesses you
have already bestowed, these orphans owe their natural existence: but
those largesses are exhausted, and without a further supply, their
existence is at an end. You are their judges--pronounce, then, their
fate; do you ordain them to live? do you doom them to die?"

[2] 5000 French ecclesiastics _live_ in Switzerland, 4000 in the
ecclesiastical State, 15,000 in Spain, more than 20,000 in Germany,
Holland, and the Austrian Netherlands; and shall 6000 be suffered to
_die_ in England?


N.B. _A Translation of this Tract is preparing for the press by_ M.
D'ARBLAY.

PLANS and ADVERTISEMENTS, proposed to the LADIES OF GREAT BRITAIN for
the relief of the Emigrant French Clergy, may be had at the Publisher's.





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