by Edmund Burke


IT MAY NOT BE UNNECESSARY to inform the reader that the
following Reflections had their origin in a correspondence between the
Author and a very young gentleman at Paris, who did him the honor of
desiring his opinion upon the important transactions which then, and
ever since, have so much occupied the attention of all men. An
answer was written some time in the month of October 1789, but it
was kept back upon prudential considerations. That letter is alluded
to in the beginning of the following sheets. It has been since
forwarded to the person to whom it was addressed. The reasons for
the delay in sending it were assigned in a short letter to the same
gentleman. This produced on his part a new and pressing application
for the Author's sentiments.
The Author began a second and more full discussion on the subject.
This he had some thoughts of publishing early in the last spring; but,
the matter gaining upon him, he found that what he had undertaken
not only far exceeded the measure of a letter, but that its importance
required rather a more detailed consideration than at that time he had
any leisure to bestow upon it. However, having thrown down his first
thoughts in the form of a letter, and, indeed, when he sat down to
write, having intended it for a private letter, he found it difficult
to change the form of address when his sentiments had grown into a
greater extent and had received another direction. A different plan,
he is sensible, might be more favorable to a commodious division and
distribution of his matter.

You are pleased to call again, and with some earnestness, for my
thoughts on the late proceedings in France. I will not give you reason
to imagine that I think my sentiments of such value as to wish
myself to be solicited about them. They are of too little
consequence to be very anxiously either communicated or withheld. It
was from attention to you, and to you only, that I hesitated at the
time when you first desired to receive them. In the first letter I had
the honor to write to you, and which at length I send, I wrote neither
for, nor from, any description of men, nor shall I in this. My errors,
if any, are my own. My reputation alone is to answer for them.
You see, Sir, by the long letter I have transmitted to you, that
though I do most heartily wish that France may be animated by a spirit
of rational liberty, and that I think you bound, in all honest policy,
to provide a permanent body in which that spirit may reside, and an
effectual organ by which it may act, it is my misfortune to
entertain great doubts concerning several material points in your late

YOU IMAGINED, WHEN YOU WROTE LAST, that I might possibly be
reckoned among the approvers of certain proceedings in France, from
the solemn public seal of sanction they have received from two clubs
of gentlemen in London, called the Constitutional Society and the
Revolution Society.
I certainly have the honor to belong to more clubs than one, in
which the constitution of this kingdom and the principles of the
glorious Revolution are held in high reverence, and I reckon myself
among the most forward in my zeal for maintaining that constitution
and those principles in their utmost purity and vigor. It is because I
do so, that I think it necessary for me that there should be no
mistake. Those who cultivate the memory of our Revolution and those
who are attached to the constitution of this kingdom will take good
care how they are involved with persons who, under the pretext of zeal
toward the Revolution and constitution, too frequently wander from
their true principles and are ready on every occasion to depart from
the firm but cautious and deliberate spirit which produced the one,
and which presides in the other. Before I proceed to answer the more
material particulars in your letter, I shall beg leave to give you
such information as I have been able to obtain of the two clubs
which have thought proper, as bodies, to interfere in the concerns
of France, first assuring you that I am not, and that I have never
been, a member of either of those societies.
The first, calling itself the Constitutional Society, or Society
for Constitutional Information, or by some such title, is, I
believe, of seven or eight years standing. The institution of this
society appears to be of a charitable and so far of a laudable nature;
it was intended for the circulation, at the expense of the members, of
many books which few others would be at the expense of buying, and
which might lie on the hands of the booksellers, to the great loss
of an useful body of men. Whether the books, so charitably circulated,
were ever as charitably read is more than I know. Possibly several
of them have been exported to France and, like goods not in request
here, may with you have found a market. I have heard much talk of
the lights to be drawn from books that are sent from hence. What
improvements they have had in their passage (as it is said some
liquors are meliorated by crossing the sea) I cannot tell; but I never
heard a man of common judgment or the least degree of information
speak a word in praise of the greater part of the publications
circulated by that society, nor have their proceedings been accounted,
except by some of themselves, as of any serious consequence.
Your National Assembly seems to entertain much the same opinion
that I do of this poor charitable club. As a nation, you reserved
the whole stock of your eloquent acknowledgments for the Revolution
Society, when their fellows in the Constitutional were, in equity,
entitled to some share. Since you have selected the Revolution Society
as the great object of your national thanks and praises, you will
think me excusable in making its late conduct the subject of my
observations. The National Assembly of France has given importance
to these gentlemen by adopting them; and they return the favor by
acting as a committee in England for extending the principles of the
National Assembly. Henceforward we must consider them as a kind of
privileged persons, as no inconsiderable members in the diplomatic
body. This is one among the revolutions which have given splendor to
obscurity, and distinction to undiscerned merit. Until very lately I
do not recollect to have heard of this club. I am quite sure that it
never occupied a moment of my thoughts, nor, I believe, those of any
person out of their own set. I find, upon inquiry, that on the
anniversary of the Revolution in 1688, a club of dissenters, but of
what denomination I know not, have long had the custom of hearing a
sermon in one of their churches; and that afterwards they spent the
day cheerfully, as other clubs do, at the tavern. But I never heard
that any public measure or political system, much less that the merits
of the constitution of any foreign nation, had been the subject of a
formal proceeding at their festivals, until, to my inexpressible
surprise, I found them in a sort of public capacity, by a
congratulatory address, giving an authoritative sanction to the
proceedings of the National Assembly in France.
In the ancient principles and conduct of the club, so far at least
as they were declared, I see nothing to which I could take
exception. I think it very probable that for some purpose new
members may have entered among them, and that some truly Christian
politicians, who love to dispense benefits but are careful to
conceal the hand which distributes the dole, may have made them the
instruments of their pious designs. Whatever I may have reason to
suspect concerning private management, I shall speak of nothing as
of a certainty but what is public.
For one, I should be sorry to be thought, directly or
indirectly, concerned in their proceedings. I certainly take my full
share, along with the rest of the world, in my individual and
private capacity, in speculating on what has been done or is doing
on the public stage in any place ancient or modern; in the republic of
Rome or the republic of Paris; but having no general apostolical
mission, being a citizen of a particular state and being bound up,
in a considerable degree, by its public will, I should think it at
least improper and irregular for me to open a formal public
correspondence with the actual government of a foreign nation, without
the express authority of the government under which I live.
I should be still more unwilling to enter into that correspondence
under anything like an equivocal description, which to many,
unacquainted with our usages, might make the address, in which I
joined, appear as the act of persons in some sort of corporate
capacity acknowledged by the laws of this kingdom and authorized to
speak the sense of some part of it. On account of the ambiguity and
uncertainty of unauthorized general descriptions, and of the deceit
which may be practiced under them, and not from mere formality, the
House of Commons would reject the most sneaking petition for the
most trifling object, under that mode of signature to which you have
thrown open the folding doors of your presence chamber, and have
ushered into your National Assembly with as much ceremony and
parade, and with as great a bustle of applause, as if you have been
visited by the whole representative majesty of the whole English
nation. If what this society has thought proper to send forth had been
a piece of argument, it would have signified little whose argument
it was. It would be neither the more nor the less convincing on
account of the party it came from. But this is only a vote and
resolution. It stands solely on authority; and in this case it is
the mere authority of individuals, few of whom appear. Their
signatures ought, in my opinion, to have been annexed to their
instrument. The world would then have the means of knowing how many
they are; who they are; and of what value their opinions may be,
from their personal abilities, from their knowledge, their experience,
or their lead and authority in this state. To me, who am but a plain
man, the proceeding looks a little too refined and too ingenious; it
has too much the air of a political strategem adopted for the sake
of giving, under a high-sounding name, an importance to the public
declarations of this club which, when the matter came to be closely
inspected, they did not altogether so well deserve. It is a policy
that has very much the complexion of a fraud.
I flatter myself that I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty
as well as any gentleman of that society, be he who he will; and
perhaps I have given as good proofs of my attachment to that cause
in the whole course of my public conduct. I think I envy liberty as
little as they do to any other nation. But I cannot stand forward
and give praise or blame to anything which relates to human actions,
and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it stands
stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of
metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen
pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its
distinguishing color and discriminating effect. The circumstances
are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious
to mankind. Abstractedly speaking, government, as well as liberty,
is good; yet could I, in common sense, ten years ago, have felicitated
France on her enjoyment of a government (for she then had a
government) without inquiry what the nature of that government was, or
how it was administered? Can I now congratulate the same nation upon
its freedom? Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed
amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate
a madman, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and
wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of
light and liberty? Am I to congratulate a highwayman and murderer
who has broke prison upon the recovery of his natural rights? This
would be to act over again the scene of the criminals condemned to the
galleys, and their heroic deliverer, the metaphysic Knight of the
Sorrowful Countenance.
When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong
principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know
of it. The wild gas, the fixed air, is plainly broke loose; but we
ought to suspend our judgment until the first effervescence is a
little subsided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see
something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy
surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to
congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have really received
one. Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver, and
adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings. I
should, therefore, suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of
France until I was informed how it had been combined with
government, with public force, with the discipline and obedience of
armies, with the collection of an effective and well-distributed
revenue, with morality and religion, with the solidity of property,
with peace and order, with civil and social manners. All these (in
their way) are good things, too, and without them liberty is not a
benefit whilst it lasts, and is not likely to continue long. The
effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please;
we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk
congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints. Prudence
would dictate this in the case of separate, insulated, private men,
but liberty, when men act in bodies, is power. Considerate people,
before they declare themselves, will observe the use which is made
of power and particularly of so trying a thing as new power in new
persons of whose principles, tempers, and dispositions they have
little or no experience, and in situations where those who appear
the most stirring in the scene may possibly not be the real movers.

ALL these considerations, however, were below the transcendental
dignity of the Revolution Society. Whilst I continued in the
country, from whence I had the honor of writing to you, I had but an
imperfect idea of their transactions. On my coming to town, I sent for
an account of their proceedings, which had been published by their
authority, containing a sermon of Dr. Price, with the Duke de
Rochefoucault's and the Archbishop of Aix's letter, and several
other documents annexed. The whole of that publication, with the
manifest design of connecting the affairs of France with those of
England by drawing us into an imitation of the conduct of the National
Assembly, gave me a considerable degree of uneasiness. The effect of
that conduct upon the power, credit, prosperity, and tranquility of
France became every day more evident. The form of constitution to be
settled for its future polity became more clear. We are now in a
condition to discern, with tolerable exactness, the true nature of the
object held up to our imitation. If the prudence of reserve and
decorum dictates silence in some circumstances, in others prudence
of a higher order may justify us in speaking our thoughts. The
beginnings of confusion with us in England are at present feeble
enough, but, with you, we have seen an infancy still more feeble
growing by moments into a strength to heap mountains upon mountains
and to wage war with heaven itself. Whenever our neighbor's house is
on fire, it cannot be amiss for the engines to play a little on our
own. Better to be despised for too anxious apprehensions than ruined
by too confident a security.
Solicitous chiefly for the peace of my own country, but by no
means unconcerned for yours, I wish to communicate more largely what
was at first intended only for your private satisfaction. I shall
still keep your affairs in my eye and continue to address myself to
you. Indulging myself in the freedom of epistolary intercourse, I
beg leave to throw out my thoughts and express my feelings just as
they arise in my mind, with very little attention to formal method.
I set out with the proceedings of the Revolution Society, but I
shall not confine myself to them. Is it possible I should? It
appears to me as if I were in a great crisis, not of the affairs of
France alone, but of all Europe, perhaps of more than Europe. All
circumstances taken together, the French revolution is the most
astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most
wonderful things are brought about, in many instances by means the
most absurd and ridiculous, in the most ridiculous modes, and
apparently by the most contemptible instruments. Everything seems
out of nature in this strange chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all
sorts of crimes jumbled together with all sorts of follies. In viewing
this monstrous tragicomic scene, the most opposite passions
necessarily succeed and sometimes mix with each other in the mind:
alternate contempt and indignation, alternate laughter and tears,
alternate scorn and horror.
It cannot, however, be denied that to some this strange scene
appeared in quite another point of view. Into them it inspired no
other sentiments than those of exultation and rapture. They saw
nothing in what has been done in France but a firm and temperate
exertion of freedom, so consistent, on the whole, with morals and with
piety as to make it deserving not only of the secular applause of
dashing Machiavellian politicians, but to render it a fit theme for
all the devout effusions of sacred eloquence.
On the forenoon of the fourth of November last, Doctor Richard
Price, a non-conforming minister of eminence, preached, at the
dissenting meeting house of the Old Jewry, to his club or society, a
very extraordinary miscellaneous sermon, in which there are some
good moral and religious sentiments, and not ill expressed, mixed up
in a sort of porridge of various political opinions and reflections;
but the Revolution in France is the grand ingredient in the
cauldron. I consider the address transmitted by the Revolution Society
to the National Assembly, through Earl Stanhope, as originating in the
principles of the sermon and as a corollary from them. It was moved by
the preacher of that discourse. It was passed by those who came
reeking from the effect of the sermon without any censure or
qualification, expressed or implied. If, however, any of the gentlemen
concerned shall wish to separate the sermon from the resolution,
they know how to acknowledge the one and to disavow the other. They
may do it: I cannot.
For my part, I looked on that sermon as the public declaration
of a man much connected with literary caballers and intriguing
philosophers, with political theologians and theological politicians
both at home and abroad. I know they set him up as a sort of oracle,
because, with the best intentions in the world, he naturally
philippizes and chants his prophetic song in exact unison with their
That sermon is in a strain which I believe has not been heard in
this kingdom, in any of the pulpits which are tolerated or
encouraged in it, since the year 1648, when a predecessor of Dr.
Price, the Rev. Hugh Peters, made the vault of the king's own chapel
at St. James's ring with the honor and privilege of the saints, who,
with the "high praises of God in their mouths, and a two-edged sword
in their hands, were to execute judgment on the heathen, and
punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and
their nobles with fetters of iron".* Few harangues from the pulpit,
except in the days of your league in France or in the days of our
Solemn League and Covenant in England, have ever breathed less of
the spirit of moderation than this lecture in the Old Jewry.
Supposing, however, that something like moderation were visible in
this political sermon, yet politics and the pulpit are terms that have
little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the
healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and
civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion
of duties. Those who quit their proper character to assume what does
not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the
character they leave and of the character they assume. Wholly
unacquainted with the world in which they are so fond of meddling, and
inexperienced in all its affairs on which they pronounce with so
much confidence, they have nothing of politics but the passions they
excite. Surely the church is a place where one day's truce ought to be
allowed to the dissensions and animosities of mankind.

* Psalm CXLIX.

This pulpit style, revived after so long a discontinuance, had
to me the air of novelty, and of a novelty not wholly without
danger. I do not charge this danger equally to every part of the
discourse. The hint given to a noble and reverend lay divine, who is
supposed high in office in one of our universities,* and other lay
divines "of rank and literature" may be proper and seasonable,
though somewhat new. If the noble Seekers should find nothing to
satisfy their pious fancies in the old staple of the national
church, or in all the rich variety to be found in the well-assorted
warehouses of the dissenting congregations, Dr. Price advises them
to improve upon non-conformity and to set up, each of them, a separate
meeting house upon his own particular principles.*(2) It is somewhat
remarkable that this reverend divine should be so earnest for
setting up new churches and so perfectly indifferent concerning the
doctrine which may be taught in them. His zeal is of a curious
character. It is not for the propagation of his own opinions, but of
any opinions. It is not for the diffusion of truth, but for the
spreading of contradiction. Let the noble teachers but dissent, it
is no matter from whom or from what. This great point once secured, it
is taken for granted their religion will be rational and manly. I
doubt whether religion would reap all the benefits which the
calculating divine computes from this "great company of great
preachers". It would certainly be a valuable addition of
nondescripts to the ample collection of known classes, genera and
species, which at present beautify the hortus siccus of dissent. A
sermon from a noble duke, or a noble marquis, or a noble earl, or
baron bold would certainly increase and diversify the amusements of
this town, which begins to grow satiated with the uniform round of its
vapid dissipations. I should only stipulate that these new
Mess-Johns in robes and coronets should keep some sort of bounds in
the democratic and leveling principles which are expected from their
titled pulpits. The new evangelists will, I dare say, disappoint the
hopes that are conceived of them. They will not become, literally as
well as figuratively, polemic divines, nor be disposed so to drill
their congregations that they may, as in former blessed times,
preach their doctrines to regiments of dragoons and corps of
infantry and artillery. Such arrangements, however favorable to the
cause of compulsory freedom, civil and religious, may not be equally
conducive to the national tranquility. These few restrictions I hope
are no great stretches of intolerance, no very violent exertions of

* Discourse on the Love of our Country, Nov. 4, 1789, by Dr.
Richard Price, 3d ed., pp. 17, 18.
*(2) "Those who dislike that mode of worship which is prescribed
by public authority, ought, if they can find no worship out of the
church which they approve, to set up a separate worship for
themselves; and by doing this, and giving an example of a rational and
manly worship, men of weight from their rank and literature may do the
greatest service to society and the world".- P 18, Dr. Price's Sermon.

BUT I may say of our preacher "utinam nugis tota illa dedisset
tempora saevitiae".- All things in this his fulminating bull are not
of so innoxious a tendency. His doctrines affect our constitution in
its vital parts. He tells the Revolution Society in this political
sermon that his Majesty "is almost the only lawful king in the world
because the only one who owes his crown to the choice of his
people." As to the kings of the world, all of whom (except one) this
archpontiff of the rights of men, with all the plenitude and with more
than the boldness of the papal deposing power in its meridian fervor
of the twelfth century, puts into one sweeping clause of ban and
anathema and proclaims usurpers by circles of longitude and
latitude, over the whole globe, it behooves them to consider how
they admit into their territories these apostolic missionaries who are
to tell their subjects they are not lawful kings. That is their
concern. It is ours, as a domestic interest of some moment,
seriously to consider the solidity of the only principle upon which
these gentlemen acknowledge a king of Great Britain to be entitled
to their allegiance.
This doctrine, as applied to the prince now on the British throne,
either is nonsense and therefore neither true nor false, or it affirms
a most unfounded, dangerous, illegal, and unconstitutional position.
According to this spiritual doctor of politics, if his Majesty does
not owe his crown to the choice of his people, he is no lawful king.
Now nothing can be more untrue than that the crown of this kingdom
is so held by his Majesty. Therefore, if you follow their rule, the
king of Great Britain, who most certainly does not owe his high office
to any form of popular election, is in no respect better than the rest
of the gang of usurpers who reign, or rather rob, all over the face of
this our miserable world without any sort of right or title to the
allegiance of their people. The policy of this general doctrine, so
qualified, is evident enough. The propagators of this political gospel
are in hopes that their abstract principle (their principle that a
popular choice is necessary to the legal existence of the sovereign
magistracy) would be overlooked, whilst the king of Great Britain
was not affected by it. In the meantime the ears of their
congregations would be gradually habituated to it, as if it were a
first principle admitted without dispute. For the present it would
only operate as a theory, pickled in the preserving juices of pulpit
eloquence, and laid by for future use. Condo et compono quae mox
depromere possim. By this policy, whilst our government is soothed
with a reservation in its favor, to which it has no claim, the
security which it has in common with all governments, so far as
opinion is security, is taken away.
Thus these politicians proceed whilst little notice is taken of
their doctrines; but when they come to be examined upon the plain
meaning of their words and the direct tendency of their doctrines,
then equivocations and slippery constructions come into play. When
they say the king owes his crown to the choice of his people and is
therefore the only lawful sovereign in the world, they will perhaps
tell us they mean to say no more than that some of the king's
predecessors have been called to the throne by some sort of choice,
and therefore he owes his crown to the choice of his people. Thus,
by a miserable subterfuge, they hope to render their proposition
safe by rendering it nugatory. They are welcome to the asylum they
seek for their offense, since they take refuge in their folly. For
if you admit this interpretation, how does their idea of election
differ from our idea of inheritance?
And how does the settlement of the crown in the Brunswick line
derived from James the First come to legalize our monarchy rather than
that of any of the neighboring countries? At some time or other, to be
sure, all the beginners of dynasties were chosen by those who called
them to govern. There is ground enough for the opinion that all the
kingdoms of Europe were, at a remote period, elective, with more or
fewer limitations in the objects of choice. But whatever kings might
have been here or elsewhere a thousand years ago, or in whatever
manner the ruling dynasties of England or France may have begun, the
king of Great Britain is, at this day, king by a fixed rule of
succession according to the laws of his country; and whilst the
legal conditions of the compact of sovereignty are performed by him
(as they are performed), he holds his crown in contempt of the
choice of the Revolution Society, who have not a single vote for a
king amongst them, either individually or collectively, though I
make no doubt they would soon erect themselves into an electoral
college if things were ripe to give effect to their claim. His
Majesty's heirs and successors, each in his time and order, will
come to the crown with the same contempt of their choice with which
his Majesty has succeeded to that he wears.
Whatever may be the success of evasion in explaining away the
gross error of fact, which supposes that his Majesty (though he
holds it in concurrence with the wishes) owes his crown to the
choice of his people, yet nothing can evade their full explicit
declaration concerning the principle of a right in the people to
choose; which right is directly maintained and tenaciously adhered to.
All the oblique insinuations concerning election bottom in this
proposition and are referable to it. Lest the foundation of the king's
exclusive legal title should pass for a mere rant of adulatory
freedom, the political divine proceeds dogmatically to assert* that,
by the principles of the Revolution, the people of England have
acquired three fundamental rights, all which, with him, compose one
system and lie together in one short sentence, namely, that we have
acquired a right:

(1) to choose our own governors.
(2) to cashier them for misconduct.
(3) to frame a government for ourselves.

This new and hitherto unheard-of bill of rights, though made in the
name of the whole people, belongs to those gentlemen and their faction
only. The body of the people of England have no share in it. They
utterly disclaim it. They will resist the practical assertion of it
with their lives and fortunes. They are bound to do so by the laws
of their country made at the time of that very Revolution which is
appealed to in favor of the fictitious rights claimed by the Society
which abuses its name.

* Discourse on the Love of our Country, by Dr. Price, p. 34.

THESE GENTLEMEN OF THE OLD JEWRY, in all their reasonings on the
Revolution of 1688, have a revolution which happened in England
about forty years before and the late French revolution, so much
before their eyes and in their hearts that they are constantly
confounding all the three together. It is necessary that we should
separate what they confound. We must recall their erring fancies to
the acts of the Revolution which we revere, for the discovery of its
true principles. If the principles of the Revolution of 1688 are
anywhere to be found, it is in the statute called the Declaration of
Right. In that most wise, sober, and considerate declaration, drawn up
by great lawyers and great statesmen, and not by warm and
inexperienced enthusiasts, not one word is said, nor one suggestion
made, of a general right "to choose our own governors, to cashier them
for misconduct, and to form a government for ourselves".
This Declaration of Right (the act of the 1st of William and Mary,
sess. 2, ch. 2) is the cornerstone of our constitution as
reinforced, explained, improved, and in its fundamental principles for
ever settled. It is called, "An Act for declaring the rights and
liberties of the subject, and for settling the succession of the
crown". You will observe that these rights and this succession are
declared in one body and bound indissolubly together.
A few years after this period, a second opportunity offered for
asserting a right of election to the crown. On the prospect of a total
failure of issue from King William, and from the Princess,
afterwards Queen Anne, the consideration of the settlement of the
crown and of a further security for the liberties of the people
again came before the legislature. Did they this second time make
any provision for legalizing the crown on the spurious revolution
principles of the Old Jewry? No. They followed the principles which
prevailed in the Declaration of Right, indicating with more
precision the persons who were to inherit in the Protestant line. This
act also incorporated, by the same policy, our liberties and an
hereditary succession in the same act. Instead of a right to choose
our own governors, they declared that the succession in that line (the
Protestant line drawn from James the First), was absolutely
necessary "for the peace, quiet, and security of the realm", and
that it was equally urgent on them "to maintain a certainty in the
succession thereof, to which the subjects may safely have recourse for
their protection". Both these acts, in which are heard the unerring,
unambiguous oracles of revolution policy, instead of countenancing the
delusive, gipsy predictions of a "right to choose our governors",
prove to a demonstration how totally adverse the wisdom of the
nation was from turning a case of necessity into a rule of law.
Unquestionably, there was at the Revolution, in the person of King
William, a small and a temporary deviation from the strict order of
a regular hereditary succession; but it is against all genuine
principles of jurisprudence to draw a principle from a law made in a
special case and regarding an individual person. Privilegium non
transit in exemplum. If ever there was a time favorable for
establishing the principle that a king of popular choice was the
only legal king, without all doubt it was at the Revolution. Its not
being done at that time is a proof that the nation was of opinion it
ought not to be done at any time. There is no person so completely
ignorant of our history as not to know that the majority in parliament
of both parties were so little disposed to anything resembling that
principle that at first they were determined to place the vacant
crown, not on the head of the Prince of Orange, but on that of his
wife Mary, daughter of King James, the eldest born of the issue of
that king, which they acknowledged as undoubtedly his. It would be
to repeat a very trite story, to recall to your memory all those
circumstances which demonstrated that their accepting King William was
not properly a choice; but to all those who did not wish, in effect,
to recall King James or to deluge their country in blood and again
to bring their religion, laws, and liberties into the peril they had
just escaped, it was an act of necessity, in the strictest moral sense
in which necessity can be taken.
In the very act in which for a time, and in a single case,
parliament departed from the strict order of inheritance in favor of a
prince who, though not next, was, however, very near in the line of
succession, it is curious to observe how Lord Somers, who drew the
bill called the Declaration of Right, has comported himself on that
delicate occasion. It is curious to observe with what address this
temporary solution of continuity is kept from the eye, whilst all that
could be found in this act of necessity to countenance the idea of
an hereditary succession is brought forward, and fostered, and made
the most of, by this great man and by the legislature who followed
him. Quitting the dry, imperative style of an act of parliament, he
makes the Lords and Commons fall to a pious, legislative ejaculation
and declare that they consider it "as a marvellous providence and
merciful goodness of God to this nation to preserve their said
Majesties' royal persons most happily to reign over us on the throne
of their ancestors, for which, from the bottom of their hearts, they
return their humblest thanks and praises".- The legislature plainly
had in view the act of recognition of the first of Queen Elizabeth,
chap. 3rd, and of that of James the First, chap. 1st, both acts
strongly declaratory of the inheritable nature of the crown; and in
many parts they follow, with a nearly literal precision, the words and
even the form of thanksgiving which is found in these old
declaratory statutes.
The two Houses, in the act of King William, did not thank God that
they had found a fair opportunity to assert a right to choose their
own governors, much less to make an election the only lawful title
to the crown. Their having been in a condition to avoid the very
appearance of it, as much as possible, was by them considered as a
providential escape. They threw a politic, well-wrought veil over
every circumstance tending to weaken the rights which in the
meliorated order of succession they meant to perpetuate, or which
might furnish a precedent for any future departure from what they
had then settled forever. Accordingly, that they might not relax the
nerves of their monarchy, and that they might preserve a close
conformity to the practice of their ancestors, as it appeared in the
declaratory statutes of Queen Mary* and Queen Elizabeth, in the next
clause they vest, by recognition, in their Majesties all the legal
prerogatives of the crown, declaring "that in them they are most
fully, rightfully, and entirely invested, incorporated, united, and
annexed". In the clause which follows, for preventing questions by
reason of any pretended titles to the crown, they declare (observing
also in this the traditionary language, along with the traditionary
policy of the nation, and repeating as from a rubric the language of
the preceding acts of Elizabeth and James,) that on the preserving
"a certainty in the SUCCESSION thereof, the unity, peace, and
tranquillity of this nation doth, under God, wholly depend".

* 1st Mary, sess. 3, ch. 1.

They knew that a doubtful title of succession would but too much
resemble an election, and that an election would be utterly
destructive of the "unity, peace, and tranquillity of this nation",
which they thought to be considerations of some moment. To provide for
these objects and, therefore, to exclude for ever the Old Jewry
doctrine of "a right to choose our own governors", they follow with
a clause containing a most solemn pledge, taken from the preceding act
of Queen Elizabeth, as solemn a pledge as ever was or can be given
in favor of an hereditary succession, and as solemn a renunciation
as could be made of the principles by this Society imputed to them:
The Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, do, in the name of
all the people aforesaid, most humbly and faithfully submit
themselves, their heirs and posterities for ever; and do faithfully
promise that they will stand to maintain, and defend their said
Majesties, and also the limitation of the crown, herein specified
and contained, to the utmost of their powers, etc. etc.
So far is it from being true that we acquired a right by the
Revolution to elect our kings that, if we had possessed it before, the
English nation did at that time most solemnly renounce and abdicate
it, for themselves and for all their posterity forever. These
gentlemen may value themselves as much as they please on their whig
principles, but I never desire to be thought a better whig than Lord
Somers, or to understand the principles of the Revolution better
than those, by whom it was brought about, or to read in the
Declaration of Right any mysteries unknown to those whose
penetrating style has engraved in our ordinances, and in our hearts,
the words and spirit of that immortal law.
It is true that, aided with the powers derived from force and
opportunity, the nation was at that time, in some sense, free to
take what course it pleased for filling the throne, but only free to
do so upon the same grounds on which they might have wholly
abolished their monarchy and every other part of their constitution.
However, they did not think such bold changes within their commission.
It is indeed difficult, perhaps impossible, to give limits to the mere
abstract competence of the supreme power, such as was exercised by
parliament at that time, but the limits of a moral competence
subjecting, even in powers more indisputably sovereign, occasional
will to permanent reason and to the steady maxims of faith, justice,
and fixed fundamental policy, are perfectly intelligible and perfectly
binding upon those who exercise any authority, under any name or under
any title, in the state. The House of Lords, for instance, is not
morally competent to dissolve the House of Commons, no, nor even to
dissolve itself, nor to abdicate, if it would, its portion in the
legislature of the kingdom. Though a king may abdicate for his own
person, he cannot abdicate for the monarchy. By as strong, or by a
stronger reason, the House of Commons cannot renounce its share of
authority. The engagement and pact of society, which generally goes by
the name of the constitution, forbids such invasion and such
surrender. The constituent parts of a state are obliged to hold
their public faith with each other and with all those who derive any
serious interest under their engagements, as much as the whole state
is bound to keep its faith with separate communities. Otherwise
competence and power would soon be confounded and no law be left but
the will of a prevailing force. On this principle the succession of
the crown has always been what it now is, an hereditary succession
by law; in the old line it was a succession by the common law; in
the new, by the statute law operating on the principles of the
common law, not changing the substance, but regulating the mode and
describing the persons. Both these descriptions of law are of the same
force and are derived from an equal authority emanating from the
common agreement and original compact of the state, communi
sponsione reipublicae, and as such are equally binding on king and
people, too, as long as the terms are observed and they continue the
same body politic.

It is far from impossible to reconcile, if we do not suffer
ourselves to be entangled in the mazes of metaphysic sophistry, the
use both of a fixed rule and an occasional deviation: the sacredness
of an hereditary principle of succession in our government with a
power of change in its application in cases of extreme emergency. Even
in that extremity (if we take the measure of our rights by our
exercise of them at the Revolution), the change is to be confined to
the peccant part only, to the part which produced the necessary
deviation; and even then it is to be effected without a
decomposition of the whole civil and political mass for the purpose of
originating a new civil order out of the first elements of society.
A state without the means of some change is without the means of
its conservation. Without such means it might even risk the loss of
that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously
to preserve. The two principles of conservation and correction
operated strongly at the two critical periods of the Restoration and
Revolution, when England found itself without a king. At both those
periods the nation had lost the bond of union in their ancient
edifice; they did not, however, dissolve the whole fabric. On the
contrary, in both cases they regenerated the deficient part of the old
constitution through the parts which were not impaired. They kept
these old parts exactly as they were, that the part recovered might be
suited to them. They acted by the ancient organized states in the
shape of their old organization, and not by the organic moleculae of a
disbanded people. At no time, perhaps, did the sovereign legislature
manifest a more tender regard to that fundamental principle of British
constitutional policy than at the time of the Revolution, when it
deviated from the direct line of hereditary succession. The crown
was carried somewhat out of the line in which it had before moved, but
the new line was derived from the same stock. It was still a line of
hereditary descent, still an hereditary descent in the same blood,
though an hereditary descent qualified with Protestantism. When the
legislature altered the direction, but kept the principle, they showed
that they held it inviolable.
On this principle, the law of inheritance had admitted some
amendment in the old time, and long before the era of the
Revolution. Some time after the Conquest, great questions arose upon
the legal principles of hereditary descent. It became a matter of
doubt whether the heir per capita or the heir per stirpes was to
succeed; but whether the heir per capita gave way when the heirdom per
stirpes took place, or the Catholic heir when the Protestant was
preferred, the inheritable principle survived with a sort of
immortality through all transmigrations- multosque per annos stat
fortuna domus, et avi numerantur avorum. This is the spirit of our
constitution, not only in its settled course, but in all its
revolutions. Whoever came in, or however he came in, whether he
obtained the crown by law or by force, the hereditary succession was
either continued or adopted.
The gentlemen of the Society for Revolution see nothing in that of
1688 but the deviation from the constitution; and they take the
deviation from the principle for the principle. They have little
regard to the obvious consequences of their doctrine, though they must
see that it leaves positive authority in very few of the positive
institutions of this country. When such an unwarrantable maxim is once
established, that no throne is lawful but the elective, no one act
of the princes who preceded this era of fictitious election can be
valid. Do these theorists mean to imitate some of their predecessors
who dragged the bodies of our ancient sovereigns out of the quiet of
their tombs? Do they mean to attaint and disable backward all the
kings that have reigned before the Revolution, and consequently to
stain the throne of England with the blot of a continual usurpation?
Do they mean to invalidate, annul, or to call into question,
together with the titles of the whole line of our kings, that great
body of our statute law which passed under those whom they treat as
usurpers, to annul laws of inestimable value to our liberties- of as
great value at least as any which have passed at or since the period
of the Revolution? If kings who did not owe their crown to the
choice of their people had no title to make laws, what will become
of the statute de tallagio non concedendo?- of the petition of right?-
of the act of habeas corpus? Do these new doctors of the rights of men
presume to assert that King James the Second, who came to the crown as
next of blood, according to the rules of a then unqualified
succession, was not to all intents and purposes a lawful king of
England before he had done any of those acts which were justly
construed into an abdication of his crown? If he was not, much trouble
in parliament might have been saved at the period these gentlemen
commemorate. But King James was a bad king with a good title, and
not an usurper. The princes who succeeded, according to the act of
parliament which settled the crown on the Electress Sophia and on
her descendants, being Protestants, came in as much by a title of
inheritance as King James did. He came in according to the law as it
stood at his accession to the crown; and the princes of the House of
Brunswick came to the inheritance of the crown, not by election, but
by the law as it stood at their several accessions of Protestant
descent and inheritance, as I hope I have shown sufficiently.
The law by which this royal family is specifically destined to the
succession is the act of the 12th and 13th of King William. The
terms of this act bind "us and our heirs, and our posterity, to
them, their heirs, and their posterity", being Protestants, to the end
of time, in the same words as the Declaration of Right had bound us to
the heirs of King William and Queen Mary. It therefore secures both an
hereditary crown and an hereditary allegiance. On what ground,
except the constitutional policy of forming an establishment to secure
that kind of succession which is to preclude a choice of the people
forever, could the legislature have fastidiously rejected the fair and
abundant choice which our country presented to them and searched in
strange lands for a foreign princess from whose womb the line of our
future rulers were to derive their title to govern millions of men
through a series of ages?
The Princess Sophia was named in the act of settlement of the 12th
and 13th of King William for a stock and root of inheritance to our
kings, and not for her merits as a temporary administratrix of a power
which she might not, and in fact did not, herself ever exercise. She
was adopted for one reason, and for one only, because, says the act,
"the most excellent Princess Sophia, Electress and Duchess Dowager
of Hanover, is daughter of the most excellent Princess Elizabeth, late
Queen of Bohemia, daughter of our late sovereign lord King James the
First, of happy memory, and is hereby declared to be the next in
succession in the Protestant line etc., etc., and the crown shall
continue to the heirs of her body, being Protestants." This limitation
was made by parliament, that through the Princess Sophia an
inheritable line not only was to be continued in future, but (what
they thought very material) that through her it was to be connected
with the old stock of inheritance in King James the First, in order
that the monarchy might preserve an unbroken unity through all ages
and might be preserved (with safety to our religion) in the old
approved mode by descent, in which, if our liberties had been once
endangered, they had often, through all storms and struggles of
prerogative and privilege, been preserved. They did well. No
experience has taught us that in any other course or method than
that of an hereditary crown our liberties can be regularly perpetuated
and preserved sacred as our hereditary right. An irregular, convulsive
movement may be necessary to throw off an irregular, convulsive
disease. But the course of succession is the healthy habit of the
British constitution. Was it that the legislature wanted, at the act
for the limitation of the crown in the Hanoverian line, drawn
through the female descendants of James the First, a due sense of
the inconveniences of having two or three, or possibly more,
foreigners in succession to the British throne? No!- they had a due
sense of the evils which might happen from such foreign rule, and more
than a due sense of them. But a more decisive proof cannot be given of
the full conviction of the British nation that the principles of the
Revolution did not authorize them to elect kings at their pleasure,
and without any attention to the ancient fundamental principles of our
government, than their continuing to adopt a plan of hereditary
Protestant succession in the old line, with all the dangers and all
the inconveniences of its being a foreign line full before their
eyes and operating with the utmost force upon their minds.
A few years ago I should be ashamed to overload a matter so
capable of supporting itself by the then unnecessary support of any
argument; but this seditious, unconstitutional doctrine is now
publicly taught, avowed, and printed. The dislike I feel to
revolutions, the signals for which have so often been given from
pulpits; the spirit of change that is gone abroad; the total
contempt which prevails with you, and may come to prevail with us,
of all ancient institutions when set in opposition to a present
sense of convenience or to the bent of a present inclination: all
these considerations make it not unadvisable, in my opinion, to call
back our attention to the true principles of our own domestic laws;
that you, my French friend, should begin to know, and that we should
continue to cherish them. We ought not, on either side of the water,
to suffer ourselves to be imposed upon by the counterfeit wares
which some persons, by a double fraud, export to you in illicit
bottoms as raw commodities of British growth, though wholly alien to
our soil, in order afterwards to smuggle them back again into this
country, manufactured after the newest Paris fashion of an improved
The people of England will not ape the fashions they have never
tried, nor go back to those which they have found mischievous on
trial. They look upon the legal hereditary succession of their crown
as among their rights, not as among their wrongs; as a benefit, not as
a grievance; as a security for their liberty, not as a badge of
servitude. They look on the frame of their commonwealth, such as it
stands, to be of inestimable value, and they conceive the
undisturbed succession of the crown to be a pledge of the stability
and perpetuity of all the other members of our constitution.
I shall beg leave, before I go any further, to take notice of some
paltry artifices which the abettors of election, as the only lawful
title to the crown, are ready to employ in order to render the support
of the just principles of our constitution a task somewhat
invidious. These sophisters substitute a fictitious cause and
feigned personages, in whose favor they suppose you engaged whenever
you defend the inheritable nature of the crown. It is common with them
to dispute as if they were in a conflict with some of those exploded
fanatics of slavery, who formerly maintained what I believe no
creature now maintains, "that the crown is held by divine hereditary
and indefeasible right".- These old fanatics of single arbitrary power
dogmatized as if hereditary royalty was the only lawful government
in the world, just as our new fanatics of popular arbitrary power
maintain that a popular election is the sole lawful source of
authority. The old prerogative enthusiasts, it is true, did
speculate foolishly, and perhaps impiously too, as if monarchy had
more of a divine sanction than any other mode of government; and as if
a right to govern by inheritance were in strictness indefeasible in
every person who should be found in the succession to a throne, and
under every circumstance, which no civil or political right can be.
But an absurd opinion concerning the king's hereditary right to the
crown does not prejudice one that is rational and bottomed upon
solid principles of law and policy. If all the absurd theories of
lawyers and divines were to vitiate the objects in which they are
conversant, we should have no law and no religion left in the world.
But an absurd theory on one side of a question forms no
justification for alleging a false fact or promulgating mischievous
maxims on the other.

THE second claim of the Revolution Society is "a right of
cashiering their governors for misconduct". Perhaps the
apprehensions our ancestors entertained of forming such a precedent as
that "of cashiering for misconduct" was the cause that the declaration
of the act, which implied the abdication of King James, was, if it had
any fault, rather too guarded and too circumstantial.* But all this
guard and all this accumulation of circumstances serves to show the
spirit of caution which predominated in the national councils in a
situation in which men irritated by oppression, and elevated by a
triumph over it, are apt to abandon themselves to violent and
extreme courses; it shows the anxiety of the great men who
influenced the conduct of affairs at that great event to make the
Revolution a parent of settlement, and not a nursery of future

* "That King James the Second, having endeavored to subvert the
constitution of the kingdom by breaking the original contract
between king and people, and, by the advice of Jesuits and other
wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws, and having
withdrawn himself out of the kingdom, hath abdicated the Government,
and the throne is thereby vacant".

No government could stand a moment if it could be blown down
with anything so loose and indefinite as an opinion of "misconduct".
They who led at the Revolution grounded the virtual abdication of King
James upon no such light and uncertain principle. They charged him
with nothing less than a design, confirmed by a multitude of illegal
overt acts, to subvert the Protestant church and state, and their
fundamental, unquestionable laws and liberties; they charged him
with having broken the original contract between king and people. This
was more than misconduct. A grave and overruling necessity obliged
them to take the step they took, and took with infinite reluctance, as
under that most rigorous of all laws. Their trust for the future
preservation of the constitution was not in future revolutions. The
grand policy of all their regulations was to render it almost
impracticable for any future sovereign to compel the states of the
kingdom to have again recourse to those violent remedies. They left
the crown what, in the eye and estimation of law, it had ever
been-perfectly irresponsible. In order to lighten the crown still
further, they aggravated responsibility on ministers of state. By
the statute of the 1st of King William, sess. 2nd, called "the act for
declaring the rights and liberties of the subject, and for settling
the succession of the crown", they enacted that the ministers should
serve the crown on the terms of that declaration. They secured soon
after the frequent meetings of parliament, by which the whole
government would be under the constant inspection and active control
of the popular representative and of the magnates of the kingdom. In
the next great constitutional act, that of the 12th and 13th of King
William, for the further limitation of the crown and better securing
the rights and liberties of the subject, they provided "that no pardon
under the great seal of England should be pleadable to an
impeachment by the Commons in parliament". The rule laid down for
government in the Declaration of Right, the constant inspection of
parliament, the practical claim of impeachment, they thought
infinitely a better security, not only for their constitutional
liberty, but against the vices of administration, than the reservation
of a right so difficult in the practice, so uncertain in the issue,
and often so mischievous in the consequences, as that of "cashiering
their governors".
Dr. Price, in this sermon,* condemns very properly the practice of
gross, adulatory addresses to kings. Instead of this fulsome style, he
proposes that his Majesty should be told, on occasions of
congratulation, that "he is to consider himself as more properly the
servant than the sovereign of his people". For a compliment, this
new form of address does not seem to be very soothing. Those who are
servants in name, as well as in effect, do not like to be told of
their situation, their duty, and their obligations. The slave, in
the old play, tells his master, "Haec commemoratio est quasi
exprobatio". It is not pleasant as compliment; it is not wholesome
as instruction. After all, if the king were to bring himself to echo
this new kind of address, to adopt it in terms, and even to take the
appellation of Servant of the People as his royal style, how either he
or we should be much mended by it I cannot imagine. I have seen very
assuming letters, signed "Your most obedient, humble servant". The
proudest denomination that ever was endured on earth took a title of
still greater humility than that which is now proposed for
sovereigns by the Apostle of Liberty. Kings and nations were
trampled upon by the foot of one calling himself "the Servant of
Servants"; and mandates for deposing sovereigns were sealed with the
signet of "the Fisherman".

* Pp. 22-24.

I should have considered all this as no more than a sort of
flippant, vain discourse, in which, as in an unsavory fume, several
persons suffer the spirit of liberty to evaporate, if it were not
plainly in support of the idea and a part of the scheme of "cashiering
kings for misconduct". In that light it is worth some observation.
Kings, in one sense, are undoubtedly the servants of the people
because their power has no other rational end than that of the general
advantage; but it is not true that they are, in the ordinary sense (by
our constitution, at least), anything like servants; the essence of
whose situation is to obey the commands of some other and to be
removable at pleasure. But the king of Great Britain obeys no other
person; all other persons are individually, and collectively too,
under him and owe to him a legal obedience. The law, which knows
neither to flatter nor to insult, calls this high magistrate not our
servant, as this humble divine calls him, but "our sovereign Lord
the king"; and we, on our parts, have learned to speak only the
primitive language of the law, and not the confused jargon of their
Babylonian pulpits.
As he is not to obey us, but as we are to obey the law in him, our
constitution has made no sort of provision toward rendering him, as
a servant, in any degree responsible. Our constitution knows nothing
of a magistrate like the Justicia of Aragon, nor of any court
legally appointed, nor of any process legally settled, for
submitting the king to the responsibility belonging to all servants.
In this he is not distinguished from the Commons and the Lords, who,
in their several public capacities, can never be called to an
account for their conduct, although the Revolution Society chooses
to assert, in direct opposition to one of the wisest and most
beautiful parts of our constitution, that "a king is no more than
the first servant of the public, created by it, and responsible to it"
Ill would our ancestors at the Revolution have deserved their fame
for wisdom if they had found no security for their freedom but in
rendering their government feeble in its operations, and precarious in
its tenure; if they had been able to contrive no better remedy against
arbitrary power than civil confusion. Let these gentlemen state who
that representative public is to whom they will affirm the king, as
a servant, to be responsible. It will then be time enough for me to
produce to them the positive statute law which affirms that he is not.

The ceremony of cashiering kings, of which these gentlemen talk so
much at their ease, can rarely, if ever, be performed without force.
It then becomes a case of war, and not of constitution. Laws are
commanded to hold their tongues amongst arms, and tribunals fall to
the ground with the peace they are no longer able to uphold. The
Revolution of 1688 was obtained by a just war, in the only case in
which any war, and much more a civil war, can be just. Justa bella
quibus necessaria. The question of dethroning or, if these gentlemen
like the phrase better, "cashiering kings" will always be, as it has
always been, an extraordinary question of state, and wholly out of the
law- a question (like all other questions of state) of dispositions
and of means and of probable consequences rather than of positive
rights. As it was not made for common abuses, so it is not to be
agitated by common minds. The speculative line of demarcation where
obedience ought to end and resistance must begin is faint, obscure,
and not easily definable. It is not a single act, or a single event,
which determines it. Governments must be abused and deranged,
indeed, before it can be thought of; and the prospect of the future
must be as bad as the experience of the past. When things are in
that lamentable condition, the nature of the disease is to indicate
the remedy to those whom nature has qualified to administer in
extremities this critical, ambiguous, bitter potion to a distempered
state. Times and occasions and provocations will teach their own
lessons. The wise will determine from the gravity of the case; the
irritable, from sensibility to oppression; the high-minded, from
disdain and indignation at abusive power in unworthy hands; the
brave and bold, from the love of honorable danger in a generous cause;
but, with or without right, a revolution will be the very last
resource of the thinking and the good.

THE third head of right, asserted by the pulpit of the Old
Jewry, namely, the "right to form a government for ourselves", has, at
least, as little countenance from anything done at the Revolution,
either in precedent or principle, as the two first of their claims.
The Revolution was made to preserve our ancient, indisputable laws and
liberties and that ancient constitution of government which is our
only security for law and liberty. If you are desirous of knowing
the spirit of our constitution and the policy which predominated in
that great period which has secured it to this hour, pray look for
both in our histories, in our records, in our acts of parliament,
and journals of parliament, and not in the sermons of the Old Jewry
and the after-dinner toasts of the Revolution Society. In the former
you will find other ideas and another language. Such a claim is as
ill-suited to our temper and wishes as it is unsupported by any
appearance of authority. The very idea of the fabrication of a new
government is enough to fill us with disgust and horror. We wished
at the period of the Revolution, and do now wish, to derive all we
possess as an inheritance from our forefathers. Upon that body and
stock of inheritance we have taken care not to inoculate any cyon
alien to the nature of the original plant. All the reformations we
have hitherto made have proceeded upon the principle of reverence to
antiquity; and I hope, nay, I am persuaded, that all those which
possibly may be made hereafter will be carefully formed upon
analogical precedent, authority, and example.
Our oldest reformation is that of Magna Charta. You will see
that Sir Edward Coke, that great oracle of our law, and indeed all the
great men who follow him, to Blackstone,* are industrious to prove the
pedigree of our liberties. They endeavor to prove that the ancient
charter, the Magna Charta of King John, was connected with another
positive charter from Henry I, and that both the one and the other
were nothing more than a reaffirmance of the still more ancient
standing law of the kingdom. In the matter of fact, for the greater
part these authors appear to be in the right; perhaps not always;
but if the lawyers mistake in some particulars, it proves my
position still the more strongly, because it demonstrates the powerful
prepossession toward antiquity, with which the minds of all our
lawyers and legislators, and of all the people whom they wish to
influence, have been always filled, and the stationary policy of
this kingdom in considering their most sacred rights and franchises as
an inheritance.

* See Blackstone's Magna Charta, printed at Oxford, 1759.

In the famous law of the 3rd of Charles I, called the Petition
of Right, the parliament says to the king, "Your subjects have
inherited this freedom", claiming their franchises not on abstract
principles "as the rights of men", but as the rights of Englishmen,
and as a patrimony derived from their forefathers. Selden and the
other profoundly learned men who drew this Petition of Right were as
well acquainted, at least, with all the general theories concerning
the "rights of men" as any of the discoursers in our pulpits or on
your tribune; full as well as Dr. Price or as the Abbe Sieyes. But,
for reasons worthy of that practical wisdom which superseded their
theoretic science, they preferred this positive, recorded,
hereditary title to all which can be dear to the man and the
citizen, to that vague speculative right which exposed their sure
inheritance to be scrambled for and torn to pieces by every wild,
litigious spirit.
The same policy pervades all the laws which have since been made
for the preservation of our liberties. In the 1st of William and Mary,
in the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two
Houses utter not a syllable of "a right to frame a government for
themselves". You will see that their whole care was to secure the
religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed, and had
been lately endangered. "Taking* into their most serious consideration
the best means for making such an establishment, that their
religion, laws, and liberties might not be in danger of being again
subverted", they auspicate all their proceedings by stating as some of
those best means, "in the first place" to do "as their ancestors in
like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights
and liberties, to declare"- and then they pray the king and queen
"that it may be declared and enacted that all and singular the
rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and
indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom".

* W. and M.

You will observe that from Magna Charta to the Declaration of
Right it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim
and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from
our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity- as an
estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without
any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By
this means our constitution preserves a unity in so great a
diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown, an inheritable
peerage, and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges,
franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.
This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection,
or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom
without reflection, and above it. A spirit of innovation is
generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People
will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their
ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know that the idea of
inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation and a sure
principle of transmission, without at all excluding a principle of
improvement. It leaves acquisition free, but it secures what it
acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on
these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement,
grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional
policy, working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we
transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which
we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions
of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence are handed
down to us, and from us, in the same course and order. Our political
system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the
order of the world and with the mode of existence decreed to a
permanent body composed of transitory parts, wherein, by the
disposition of a stupendous wisdom, molding together the great
mysterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is
never old or middle-aged or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable
constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall,
renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of
nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve we are never
wholly new; in what we retain we are never wholly obsolete. By
adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we
are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the
spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance we have
given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood, binding
up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties,
adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections,
keeping inseparable and cherishing with the warmth of all their
combined and mutually reflected charities our state, our hearths,
our sepulchres, and our altars.
Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our
artificial institutions, and by calling in the aid of her unerring and
powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances
of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small,
benefits from considering our liberties in the light of an
inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized
forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and
excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal
descent inspires us with a sense of habitual native dignity which
prevents that upstart insolence almost inevitably adhering to and
disgracing those who are the first acquirers of any distinction. By
this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing
and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors.
It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of
portraits, its monumental inscriptions, its records, evidences, and
titles. We procure reverence to our civil institutions on the
principle upon which nature teaches us to revere individual men: on
account of their age and on account of those from whom they are
descended. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better
adapted to preserve a rational and manly freedom than the course
that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our
speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great
conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

YOU MIGHT, IF YOU PLEASED, have profited of our example and have
given to your recovered freedom a correspondent dignity. Your
privileges, though discontinued, were not lost to memory. Your
constitution, it is true, whilst you were out of possession,
suffered waste and dilapidation; but you possessed in some parts the
walls and in all the foundations of a noble and venerable castle.
You might have repaired those walls; you might have built on those old
foundations. Your constitution was suspended before it was
perfected, but you had the elements of a constitution very nearly as
good as could be wished. In your old states you possessed that variety
of parts corresponding with the various descriptions of which your
community was happily composed; you had all that combination and all
that opposition of interests; you had that action and counteraction
which, in the natural and in the political world, from the
reciprocal struggle of discordant powers, draws out the harmony of the
universe. These opposed and conflicting interests which you considered
as so great a blemish in your old and in our present constitution
interpose a salutary check to all precipitate resolutions. They render
deliberation a matter, not of choice, but of necessity; they make
all change a subject of compromise, which naturally begets moderation;
they produce temperaments preventing the sore evil of harsh, crude,
unqualified reformations, and rendering all the headlong exertions
of arbitrary power, in the few or in the many, for ever impracticable.
Through that diversity of members and interests, general liberty had
as many securities as there were separate views in the several orders,
whilst, by pressing down the whole by the weight of a real monarchy,
the separate parts would have been prevented from warping and starting
from their allotted places.
You had all these advantages in your ancient states, but you chose
to act as if you had never been molded into civil society and had
everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by
despising everything that belonged to you. You set up your trade
without a capital. If the last generations of your country appeared
without much luster in your eyes, you might have passed them by and
derived your claims from a more early race of ancestors. Under a pious
predilection for those ancestors, your imaginations would have
realized in them a standard of virtue and wisdom beyond the vulgar
practice of the hour; and you would have risen with the example to
whose imitation you aspired. Respecting your forefathers, you would
have been taught to respect yourselves. You would not have chosen to
consider the French as a people of yesterday, as a nation of lowborn
servile wretches until the emancipating year of 1789. In order to
furnish, at the expense of your honor, an excuse to your apologists
here for several enormities of yours, you would not have been
content to be represented as a gang of Maroon slaves suddenly broke
loose from the house of bondage, and therefore to be pardoned for your
abuse of the liberty to which you were not accustomed and ill
fitted. Would it not, my worthy friend, have been wiser to have you
thought, what I, for one, always thought you, a generous and gallant
nation, long misled to your disadvantage by your high and romantic
sentiments of fidelity, honor, and loyalty; that events had been
unfavorable to you, but that you were not enslaved through any
illiberal or servile disposition; that in your most devoted submission
you were actuated by a principle of public spirit, and that it was
your country you worshiped in the person of your king? Had you made it
to be understood that in the delusion of this amiable error you had
gone further than your wise ancestors, that you were resolved to
resume your ancient privileges, whilst you preserved the spirit of
your ancient and your recent loyalty and honor; or if, diffident of
yourselves and not clearly discerning the almost obliterated
constitution of your ancestors, you had looked to your neighbors in
this land who had kept alive the ancient principles and models of
the old common law of Europe meliorated and adapted to its present
state- by following wise examples you would have given new examples of
wisdom to the world. You would have rendered the cause of liberty
venerable in the eyes of every worthy mind in every nation. You
would have shamed despotism from the earth by showing that freedom was
not only reconcilable, but, as when well disciplined it is,
auxiliary to law. You would have had an unoppressive but a
productive revenue. You would have had a flourishing commerce to
feed it. You would have had a free constitution, a potent monarchy,
a disciplined army, a reformed and venerated clergy, a mitigated but
spirited nobility to lead your virtue, not to overlay it; you would
have had a liberal order of commons to emulate and to recruit that
nobility; you would have had a protected, satisfied, laborious, and
obedient people, taught to seek and to recognize the happiness that is
to be found by virtue in all conditions; in which consists the true
moral equality of mankind, and not in that monstrous fiction which, by
inspiring false ideas and vain expectations into men destined to
travel in the obscure walk of laborious life, serves only to aggravate
and embitter that real inequality which it never can remove, and which
the order of civil life establishes as much for the benefit of those
whom it must leave in a humble state as those whom it is able to exalt
to a condition more splendid, but not more happy. You had a smooth and
easy career of felicity and glory laid open to you, beyond anything
recorded in the history of the world, but you have shown that
difficulty is good for man.

COMPUTE your gains: see what is got by those extravagant and
presumptuous speculations which have taught your leaders to despise
all their predecessors, and all their contemporaries, and even to
despise themselves until the moment in which they become truly
despicable. By following those false lights, France has bought
undisguised calamities at a higher price than any nation has purchased
the most unequivocal blessings! France has bought poverty by crime!
France has not sacrificed her virtue to her interest, but she has
abandoned her interest, that she might prostitute her virtue. All
other nations have begun the fabric of a new government, or the
reformation of an old, by establishing originally or by enforcing with
greater exactness some rites or other of religion. All other people
have laid the foundations of civil freedom in severer manners and a
system of a more austere and masculine morality. France, when she
let loose the reins of regal authority, doubled the license of a
ferocious dissoluteness in manners and of an insolent irreligion in
opinions and practice, and has extended through all ranks of life,
as if she were communicating some privilege or laying open some
secluded benefit, all the unhappy corruptions that usually were the
disease of wealth and power. This is one of the new principles of
equality in France.
France, by the perfidy of her leaders, has utterly disgraced the
tone of lenient council in the cabinets of princes, and disarmed it of
its most potent topics. She has sanctified the dark, suspicious maxims
of tyrannous distrust, and taught kings to tremble at (what will
hereafter be called) the delusive plausibilities of moral politicians.
Sovereigns will consider those who advise them to place an unlimited
confidence in their people as subverters of their thrones, as traitors
who aim at their destruction by leading their easy good-nature,
under specious pretenses, to admit combinations of bold and
faithless men into a participation of their power. This alone (if
there were nothing else) is an irreparable calamity to you and to
mankind. Remember that your parliament of Paris told your king that,
in calling the states together, he had nothing to fear but the
prodigal excess of their zeal in providing for the support of the
throne. It is right that these men should hide their heads. It is
right that they should bear their part in the ruin which their counsel
has brought on their sovereign and their country. Such sanguine
declarations tend to lull authority asleep; to encourage it rashly
to engage in perilous adventures of untried policy; to neglect those
provisions, preparations, and precautions which distinguish
benevolence from imbecility, and without which no man can answer for
the salutary effect of any abstract plan of government or of
freedom. For want of these, they have seen the medicine of the state
corrupted into its poison. They have seen the French rebel against a
mild and lawful monarch with more fury, outrage, and insult than
ever any people has been known to rise against the most illegal
usurper or the most sanguinary tyrant. Their resistance was made to
concession, their revolt was from protection, their blow was aimed
at a hand holding out graces, favors, and immunities.
This was unnatural. The rest is in order. They have found their
punishment in their success: laws overturned; tribunals subverted;
industry without vigor; commerce expiring; the revenue unpaid, yet the
people impoverished; a church pillaged, and a state not relieved;
civil and military anarchy made the constitution of the kingdom;
everything human and divine sacrificed to the idol of public credit,
and national bankruptcy the consequence; and, to crown all, the
paper securities of new, precarious, tottering power, the
discredited paper securities of impoverished fraud and beggared
rapine, held out as a currency for the support of an empire in lieu of
the two great recognized species that represent the lasting,
conventional credit of mankind, which disappeared and hid themselves
in the earth from whence they came, when the principle of property,
whose creatures and representatives they are, was systematically
Were all these dreadful things necessary? Were they the inevitable
results of the desperate struggle of determined patriots, compelled to
wade through blood and tumult to the quiet shore of a tranquil and
prosperous liberty? No! nothing like it. The fresh ruins of France,
which shock our feelings wherever we can turn our eyes, are not the
devastation of civil war; they are the sad but instructive monuments
of rash and ignorant counsel in time of profound peace. They are the
display of inconsiderate and presumptuous, because unresisted and
irresistible, authority. The persons who have thus squandered away the
precious treasure of their crimes, the persons who have made this
prodigal and wild waste of public evils (the last stake reserved for
the ultimate ransom of the state) have met in their progress with
little or rather with no opposition at all. Their whole march was more
like a triumphal procession than the progress of a war. Their pioneers
have gone before them and demolished and laid everything level at
their feet. Not one drop of their blood have they shed in the cause of
the country they have ruined. They have made no sacrifices to their
projects of greater consequence than their shoebuckles, whilst they
were imprisoning their king, murdering their fellow citizens, and
bathing in tears and plunging in poverty and distress thousands of
worthy men and worthy families. Their cruelty has not even been the
base result of fear. It has been the effect of their sense of
perfect safety, in authorizing treasons, robberies, rapes,
assassinations, slaughters, and burnings throughout their harassed
land. But the cause of all was plain from the beginning.

THIS unforced choice, this fond election of evil, would appear
perfectly unaccountable if we did not consider the composition of
the National Assembly. I do not mean its formal constitution, which,
as it now stands, is exceptionable enough, but the materials of which,
in a great measure, it is composed, which is of ten thousand times
greater consequence than all the formalities in the world. If we
were to know nothing of this assembly but by its title and function,
no colors could paint to the imagination anything more venerable. In
that light the mind of an inquirer, subdued by such an awful image
as that of the virtue and wisdom of a whole people collected into a
focus, would pause and hesitate in condemning things even of the
very worst aspect. Instead of blamable, they would appear only
mysterious. But no name, no power, no function, no artificial
institution whatsoever can make the men of whom any system of
authority is composed any other than God, and nature, and education,
and their habits of life have made them. Capacities beyond these the
people have not to give. Virtue and wisdom may be the objects of their
choice, but their choice confers neither the one nor the other on
those upon whom they lay their ordaining hands. They have not the
engagement of nature, they have not the promise of revelation, for any
such powers.
After I had read over the list of the persons and descriptions
elected into the Tiers Etat, nothing which they afterwards did could
appear astonishing. Among them, indeed, I saw some of known rank, some
of shining talents; but of any practical experience in the state,
not one man was to be found. The best were only men of theory. But
whatever the distinguished few may have been, it is the substance
and mass of the body which constitutes its character and must
finally determine its direction. In all bodies, those who will lead
must also, in a considerable degree, follow. They must conform their
propositions to the taste, talent, and disposition of those whom
they wish to conduct; therefore, if an assembly is viciously or feebly
composed in a very great part of it, nothing but such a supreme degree
of virtue as very rarely appears in the world, and for that reason
cannot enter into calculation, will prevent the men of talent
disseminated through it from becoming only the expert instruments of
absurd projects! If, what is the more likely event, instead of that
unusual degree of virtue, they should be actuated by sinister ambition
and a lust of meretricious glory, then the feeble part of the
assembly, to whom at first they conform, becomes in its turn the
dupe and instrument of their designs. In this political traffic, the
leaders will be obliged to bow to the ignorance of their followers,
and the followers to become subservient to the worst designs of
their leaders.
To secure any degree of sobriety in the propositions made by the
leaders in any public assembly, they ought to respect, in some
degree perhaps to fear, those whom they conduct. To be led any
otherwise than blindly, the followers must be qualified, if not for
actors, at least for judges; they must also be judges of natural
weight and authority. Nothing can secure a steady and moderate conduct
in such assemblies but that the body of them should be respectably
composed, in point of condition in life or permanent property, of
education, and of such habits as enlarge and liberalize the
In the calling of the States-General of France, the first thing
that struck me was a great departure from the ancient course. I
found the representation for the Third Estate composed of six
hundred persons. They were equal in number to the representatives of
both the other orders. If the orders were to act separately, the
number would not, beyond the consideration of the expense, be of
much moment. But when it became apparent that the three orders were to
be melted down into one, the policy and necessary effect of this
numerous representation became obvious. A very small desertion from
either of the other two orders must throw the power of both into the
hands of the third. In fact, the whole power of the state was soon
resolved into that body. Its due composition became therefore of
infinitely the greater importance.
Judge, Sir, of my surprise when I found that a very great
proportion of the assembly (a majority, I believe, of the members
who attended) was composed of practitioners in the law. It was
composed, not of distinguished magistrates, who had given pledges to
their country of their science, prudence, and integrity; not of
leading advocates, the glory of the bar; not of renowned professors in
universities;- but for the far greater part, as it must in such a
number, of the inferior, unlearned, mechanical, merely instrumental
members of the profession. There were distinguished exceptions, but
the general composition was of obscure provincial advocates, of
stewards of petty local jurisdictions, country attornies, notaries,
and the whole train of the ministers of municipal litigation, the
fomenters and conductors of the petty war of village vexation. From
the moment I read the list, I saw distinctly, and very nearly as it
has happened, all that was to follow.
The degree of estimation in which any profession is held becomes
the standard of the estimation in which the professors hold
themselves. Whatever the personal merits of many individual lawyers
might have been, and in many it was undoubtedly very considerable,
in that military kingdom no part of the profession had been much
regarded except the highest of all, who often united to their
professional offices great family splendor, and were invested with
great power and authority. These certainly were highly respected,
and even with no small degree of awe. The next rank was not much
esteemed; the mechanical part was in a very low degree of repute.
Whenever the supreme authority is vested in a body so composed, it
must evidently produce the consequences of supreme authority placed in
the hands of men not taught habitually to respect themselves, who
had no previous fortune in character at stake, who could not be
expected to bear with moderation, or to conduct with discretion, a
power which they themselves, more than any others, must be surprised
to find in their hands. Who could flatter himself that these men,
suddenly and, as it were, by enchantment snatched from the humblest
rank of subordination, would not be intoxicated with their
unprepared greatness? Who could conceive that men who are habitually
meddling, daring, subtle, active, of litigious dispositions and
unquiet minds would easily fall back into their old condition of
obscure contention and laborious, low, unprofitable chicane? Who could
doubt but that, at any expense to the state, of which they
understood nothing, they must pursue their private interests, which
they understand but too well? It was not an event depending on
chance or contingency. It was inevitable; it was necessary; it was
planted in the nature of things. They must join (if their capacity did
not permit them to lead) in any project which could procure to them
a litigious constitution; which could lay open to them those
innumerable lucrative jobs which follow in the train of all great
convulsions and revolutions in the state, and particularly in all
great and violent permutations of property. Was it to be expected that
they would attend to the stability of property, whose existence had
always depended upon whatever rendered property questionable,
ambiguous, and insecure? Their objects would be enlarged with their
elevation, but their disposition and habits, and mode of accomplishing
their designs, must remain the same.
Well! but these men were to be tempered and restrained by other
descriptions, of more sober and more enlarged understandings. Were
they then to be awed by the supereminent authority and awful dignity
of a handful of country clowns who have seats in that assembly, some
of whom are said not to be able to read and write, and by not a
greater number of traders who, though somewhat more instructed and
more conspicuous in the order of society, had never known anything
beyond their counting house? No! Both these descriptions were more
formed to be overborne and swayed by the intrigues and artifices of
lawyers than to become their counterpoise. With such a dangerous
disproportion, the whole must needs be governed by them. To the
faculty of law was joined a pretty considerable proportion of the
faculty of medicine. This faculty had not, any more than that of the
law, possessed in France its just estimation. Its professors,
therefore, must have the qualities of men not habituated to sentiments
of dignity. But supposing they had ranked as they ought to do, and
as with us they do actually, the sides of sickbeds are not the
academies for forming statesmen and legislators. Then came the dealers
in stocks and funds, who must be eager, at any expense, to change
their ideal paper wealth for the more solid substance of land. To
these were joined men of other descriptions, from whom as little
knowledge of, or attention to, the interests of a great state was to
be expected, and as little regard to the stability of any institution;
men formed to be instruments, not controls. Such in general was the
composition of the Tiers Etat in the National Assembly, in which was
scarcely to be perceived the slightest traces of what we call the
natural landed interest of the country.

We know that the British House of Commons, without shutting its
doors to any merit in any class, is, by the sure operation of adequate
causes, filled with everything illustrious in rank, in descent, in
hereditary and in acquired opulence, in cultivated talents, in
military, civil, naval, and politic distinction that the country can
afford. But supposing, what hardly can be supposed as a case, that the
House of Commons should be composed in the same manner with the
Tiers Etat in France, would this dominion of chicane be borne with
patience or even conceived without horror? God forbid I should
insinuate anything derogatory to that profession which is another
priesthood, administering the rights of sacred justice. But whilst I
revere men in the functions which belong to them, and would do as much
as one man can do to prevent their exclusion from any, I cannot, to
flatter them, give the lie to nature. They are good and useful in
the composition; they must be mischievous if they preponderate so as
virtually to become the whole. Their very excellence in their peculiar
functions may be far from a qualification for others. It cannot escape
observation that when men are too much confined to professional and
faculty habits and, as it were, inveterate in the recurrent employment
of that narrow circle, they are rather disabled than qualified for
whatever depends on the knowledge of mankind, on experience in mixed
affairs, on a comprehensive, connected view of the various,
complicated, external and internal interests which go to the formation
of that multifarious thing called a state.
After all, if the House of Commons were to have a wholly
professional and faculty composition, what is the power of the House
of Commons, circumscribed and shut in by the immovable barriers of
laws, usages, positive rules of doctrine and practice, counterpoised
by the House of Lords, and every moment of its existence at the
discretion of the crown to continue, prorogue, or dissolve us? The
power of the House of Commons, direct or indirect, is indeed great;
and long may it be able to preserve its greatness and the spirit
belonging to true greatness at the full; and it will do so as long
as it can keep the breakers of law in India from becoming the makers
of law for England. The power, however, of the House of Commons,
when least diminished, is as a drop of water in the ocean, compared to
that residing in a settled majority of your National Assembly. That
assembly, since the destruction of the orders, has no fundamental law,
no strict convention, no respected usage to restrain it. Instead of
finding themselves obliged to conform to a fixed constitution, they
have a power to make a constitution which shall conform to their
designs. Nothing in heaven or upon earth can serve as a control on
them. What ought to be the heads, the hearts, the dispositions that
are qualified or that dare, not only to make laws under a fixed
constitution, but at one heat to strike out a totally new constitution
for a great kingdom, and in every part of it, from the monarch on
the throne to the vestry of a parish? But- "fools rush in where angels
fear to tread". In such a state of unbounded power for undefined and
undefinable purposes, the evil of a moral and almost physical
inaptitude of the man to the function must be the greatest we can
conceive to happen in the management of human affairs.

Having considered the composition of the Third Estate as it
stood in its original frame, I took a view of the representatives of
the clergy. There, too, it appeared that full as little regard was had
to the general security of property or to the aptitude of the deputies
for the public purposes, in the principles of their election. That
election was so contrived as to send a very large proportion of mere
country curates to the great and arduous work of new-modeling a state:
men who never had seen the state so much as in a picture- men who knew
nothing of the world beyond the bounds of an obscure village; who,
immersed in hopeless poverty, could regard all property, whether
secular or ecclesiastical, with no other eye than that of envy;
among whom must be many who, for the smallest hope of the meanest
dividend in plunder, would readily join in any attempts upon a body of
wealth in which they could hardly look to have any share except in a
general scramble. Instead of balancing the power of the active
chicaners in the other assembly, these curates must necessarily become
the active coadjutors, or at best the passive instruments, of those by
whom they had been habitually guided in their petty village
concerns. They, too, could hardly be the most conscientious of their
kind who, presuming upon their incompetent understanding, could
intrigue for a trust which led them from their natural relation to
their flocks and their natural spheres of action to undertake the
regeneration of kingdoms. This preponderating weight, being added to
the force of the body of chicane in the Tiers Etat, completed that
momentum of ignorance, rashness, presumption, and lust of plunder,
which nothing has been able to resist.
To observing men it must have appeared from the beginning that the
majority of the Third Estate, in conjunction with such a deputation
from the clergy as I have described, whilst it pursued the destruction
of the nobility, would inevitably become subservient to the worst
designs of individuals in that class. In the spoil and humiliation
of their own order these individuals would possess a sure fund for the
pay of their new followers. To squander away the objects which made
the happiness of their fellows would be to them no sacrifice at all.
Turbulent, discontented men of quality, in proportion as they are
puffed up with personal pride and arrogance, generally despise their
own order. One of the first symptoms they discover of a selfish and
mischievous ambition is a profligate disregard of a dignity which they
partake with others. To be attached to the subdivision, to love the
little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the
germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the
series by which we proceed toward a love to our country and to
mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust
in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men
would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away
for their own personal advantage.

There were in the time of our civil troubles in England (I do
not know whether you have any such in your assembly in France) several
persons, like the then Earl of Holland, who by themselves or their
families had brought an odium on the throne by the prodigal
dispensation of its bounties toward them, who afterwards joined in the
rebellions arising from the discontents of which they were
themselves the cause; men who helped to subvert that throne to which
they owed, some of them, their existence, others all that power
which they employed to ruin their benefactor. If any bounds are set to
the rapacious demands of that sort of people, or that others are
permitted to partake in the objects they would engross, revenge and
envy soon fill up the craving void that is left in their avarice.
Confounded by the complication of distempered passions, their reason
is disturbed; their views become vast and perplexed; to others
inexplicable, to themselves uncertain. They find, on all sides, bounds
to their unprincipled ambition in any fixed order of things. Both in
the fog and haze of confusion all is enlarged and appears without
any limit.
When men of rank sacrifice all ideas of dignity to an ambition
without a distinct object and work with low instruments and for low
ends, the whole composition becomes low and base. Does not something
like this now appear in France? Does it not produce something
ignoble and inglorious- a kind of meanness in all the prevalent
policy, a tendency in all that is done to lower along with individuals
all the dignity and importance of the state? Other revolutions have
been conducted by persons who, whilst they attempted or affected
changes in the commonwealth, sanctified their ambition by advancing
the dignity of the people whose peace they troubled. They had long
views. They aimed at the rule, not at the destruction, of their
country. They were men of great civil and great military talents,
and if the terror, the ornament of their age. They were not like Jew
brokers, contending with each other who could best remedy with
fraudulent circulation and depreciated paper the wretchedness and ruin
brought on their country by their degenerate councils. The
compliment made to one of the great bad men of the old stamp
(Cromwell) by his kinsman, a favorite poet of that time, shows what it
was he proposed, and what indeed to a great degree he accomplished, in
the success of his ambition:

Still as you rise, the state exalted too,
Finds no distemper whilst 'tis changed by you;
Changed like the world's great scene, when without noise
The rising sun night's vulgar lights destroys.

These disturbers were not so much like men usurping power as
asserting their natural place in society. Their rising was to
illuminate and beautify the world. Their conquest over their
competitors was by outshining them. The hand that, like a destroying
angel, smote the country communicated to it the force and energy under
which it suffered. I do not say (God forbid), I do not say that the
virtues of such men were to be taken as a balance to their crimes; but
they were some corrective to their effects. Such was, as I said, our
Cromwell. Such were your whole race of Guises, Condes, and Colignis.
Such the Richelieus, who in more quiet times acted in the spirit of
a civil war. Such, as better men, and in a less dubious cause, were
your Henry the Fourth and your Sully, though nursed in civil
confusions and not wholly without some of their taint. It is a thing
to be wondered at, to see how very soon France, when she had a
moment to respire, recovered and emerged from the longest and most
dreadful civil war that ever was known in any nation. Why? Because
among all their massacres they had not slain the mind in their
country. A conscious dignity, a noble pride, a generous sense of glory
and emulation was not extinguished. On the contrary, it was kindled
and inflamed. The organs also of the state, however shattered,
existed. All the prizes of honor and virtue, all the rewards, all
the distinctions remained. But your present confusion, like a palsy,
has attacked the fountain of life itself. Every person in your
country, in a situation to be actuated by a principle of honor, is
disgraced and degraded, and can entertain no sensation of life
except in a mortified and humiliated indignation. But this
generation will quickly pass away. The next generation of the nobility
will resemble the artificers and clowns, and money-jobbers usurers,
and Jews, who will be always their fellows, sometimes their masters.

BELIEVE ME, SIR, those who attempt to level, never equalize. In
all societies, consisting of various descriptions of citizens, some
description must be uppermost. The levelers, therefore, only change
and pervert the natural order of things; they load the edifice of
society by setting up in the air what the solidity of the structure
requires to be on the ground. The association of tailors and
carpenters, of which the republic (of Paris, for instance) is
composed, cannot be equal to the situation into which by the worst
of usurpations- an usurpation on the prerogatives of nature- you
attempt to force them.
The Chancellor of France, at the opening of the states, said, in a
tone of oratorical flourish, that all occupations were honorable. If
he meant only that no honest employment was disgraceful, he would
not have gone beyond the truth. But in asserting that anything is
honorable, we imply some distinction in its favor. The occupation of a
hairdresser or of a working tallow-chandler cannot be a matter of
honor to any person- to say nothing of a number of other more
servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer
oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression if such as
they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule. In
this you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with

* Ecclesiasticus, chap. xxxviii. verses 24, 25. "The wisdom of a
learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure; and he that hath
little business shall become wise".- "How can he get wisdom that
holdeth the plough, and that glorieth in the goad; that driveth
oxen; and is occupied in their labours; and whose talk is of
Ver. 27. "So every carpenter and work-master that laboureth
night and day", etc.
Ver. 33. "They shall not be sought for in public counsel, nor
sit high in the congregation: they shall not sit on the judge's
seat, nor understand the sentence of judgment; they cannot declare
justice and judgment, and they shall not be found where parables are
Ver. 34. "But they will maintain the state of the world".
I do not determine whether this book be canonical, as the Gallican
church (till lately) has considered it, or apocryphal, as here it is
taken. I am sure it contains a great deal of sense and truth.

I do not, my dear Sir, conceive you to be of that sophistical,
captious spirit, or of that uncandid dulness, as to require, for every
general observation or sentiment, an explicit detail of the
correctives and exceptions which reason will presume to be included in
all the general propositions which come from reasonable men. You do
not imagine that I wish to confine power, authority, and distinction
to blood and names and titles. No, Sir. There is no qualification
for government but virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive.
Wherever they are actually found, they have, in whatever state,
condition, profession, or trade, the passport of Heaven to human place
and honor. Woe to the country which would madly and impiously reject
the service of the talents and virtues, civil, military, or religious,
that are given to grace and to serve it, and would condemn to
obscurity everything formed to diffuse luster and glory around a
state. Woe to that country, too, that, passing into the opposite
extreme, considers a low education, a mean contracted view of
things, a sordid, mercenary occupation as a preferable title to
command. Everything ought to be open, but not indifferently, to
every man. No rotation; no appointment by lot; no mode of election
operating in the spirit of sortition or rotation can be generally good
in a government conversant in extensive objects. Because they have
no tendency, direct or indirect, to select the man with a view to
the duty or to accommodate the one to the other. I do not hesitate
to say that the road to eminence and power, from obscure condition,
ought not to be made too easy, nor a thing too much of course. If rare
merit be the rarest of all rare things, it ought to pass through
some sort of probation. The temple of honor ought to be seated on an
eminence. If it be opened through virtue, let it be remembered, too,
that virtue is never tried but by some difficulty and some struggle.

Nothing is a due and adequate representation of a state that
does not represent its ability as well as its property. But as ability
is a vigorous and active principle, and as property is sluggish,
inert, and timid, it never can be safe from the invasion of ability
unless it be, out of all proportion, predominant in the
representation. It must be represented, too, in great masses of
accumulation, or it is not rightly protected. The characteristic
essence of property, formed out of the combined principles of its
acquisition and conservation, is to be unequal. The great masses,
therefore, which excite envy and tempt rapacity must be put out of the
possibility of danger. Then they form a natural rampart about the
lesser properties in all their gradations. The same quantity of
property, which is by the natural course of things divided among many,
has not the same operation. Its defensive power is weakened as it is
diffused. In this diffusion each man's portion is less than what, in
the eagerness of his desires, he may flatter himself to obtain by
dissipating the accumulations of others. The plunder of the few
would indeed give but a share inconceivably small in the
distribution to the many. But the many are not capable of making
this calculation; and those who lead them to rapine never intend
this distribution.
The power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of
the most valuable and interesting circumstances belonging to it, and
that which tends the most to the perpetuation of society itself. It
makes our weakness subservient to our virtue, it grafts benevolence
even upon avarice. The possessors of family wealth, and of the
distinction which attends hereditary possession (as most concerned
in it), are the natural securities for this transmission. With us
the House of Peers is formed upon this principle. It is wholly
composed of hereditary property and hereditary distinction, and
made, therefore, the third of the legislature and, in the last
event, the sole judge of all property in all its subdivisions. The
House of Commons, too, though not necessarily, yet in fact, is
always so composed, in the far greater part. Let those large
proprietors be what they will- and they have their chance of being
amongst the best- they are, at the very worst, the ballast in the
vessel of the commonwealth. For though hereditary wealth and the
rank which goes with it are too much idolized by creeping sycophants
and the blind, abject admirers of power, they are too rashly
slighted in shallow speculations of the petulant, assuming,
short-sighted coxcombs of philosophy. Some decent, regulated
preeminence, some preference (not exclusive appropriation) given to
birth is neither unnatural, nor unjust, nor impolitic.
IT is said that twenty-four millions ought to prevail over two
hundred thousand. True; if the constitution of a kingdom be a
problem of arithmetic. This sort of discourse does well enough with
the lamp-post for its second; to men who may reason calmly, it is
ridiculous. The will of the many and their interest must very often
differ, and great will be the difference when they make an evil
choice. A government of five hundred country attornies and obscure
curates is not good for twenty-four millions of men, though it were
chosen by eight and forty millions, nor is it the better for being
guided by a dozen of persons of quality who have betrayed their
trust in order to obtain that power. At present, you seem in
everything to have strayed out of the high road of nature. The
property of France does not govern it. Of course, property is
destroyed and rational liberty has no existence. All you have got
for the present is a paper circulation and a stock-jobbing
constitution; and as to the future, do you seriously think that the
territory of France, upon the republican system of eighty-three
independent municipalities (to say nothing of the parts that compose
them), can ever be governed as one body or can ever be set in motion
by the impulse of one mind? When the National Assembly has completed
its work, it will have accomplished its ruin. These commonwealths will
not long bear a state of subjection to the republic of Paris. They
will not bear that this body should monopolize the captivity of the
king and the dominion over the assembly calling itself national.
Each will keep its own portion of the spoil of the church to itself,
and it will not suffer either that spoil, or the more just fruits of
their industry, or the natural produce of their soil to be sent to
swell the insolence or pamper the luxury of the mechanics of Paris. In
this they will see none of the equality, under the pretense of which
they have been tempted to throw off their allegiance to their
sovereign as well as the ancient constitution of their country.
There can be no capital city in such a constitution as they have
lately made. They have forgot that, when they framed democratic
governments, they had virtually dismembered their country. The
person whom they persevere in calling king has not power left to him
by the hundredth part sufficient to hold together this collection of
republics. The republic of Paris will endeavor, indeed, to complete
the debauchery of the army, and illegally to perpetuate the
assembly, without resort to its constituents, as the means of
continuing its despotism. It will make efforts, by becoming the
heart of a boundless paper circulation, to draw everything to
itself; but in vain. All this policy in the end will appear as
feeble as it is now violent.

IF this be your actual situation, compared to the situation to
which you were called, as it were, by the voice of God and man, I
cannot find it in my heart to congratulate you on the choice you
have made or the success which has attended your endeavors. I can as
little recommend to any other nation a conduct grounded on such
principles, and productive of such effects. That I must leave to those
who can see farther into your affairs than I am able to do, and who
best know how far your actions are favorable to their designs. The
gentlemen of the Revolution Society, who were so early in their
congratulations, appear to be strongly of opinion that there is some
scheme of politics relative to this country in which your
proceedings may, in some way, be useful. For your Dr. Price, who seems
to have speculated himself into no small degree of fervor upon this
subject, addresses his auditory in the following very remarkable
words: "I cannot conclude without recalling particularly to your
recollection a consideration which I have more than once alluded to,
and which probably your thoughts have been all along anticipating; a
consideration with which my mind is impressed more than I can express.
I mean the consideration of the favourableness of the present times to
all exertions in the cause of liberty."
It is plain that the mind of this political preacher was at the
time big with some extraordinary design; and it is very probable
that the thoughts of his audience, who understood him better than I
do, did all along run before him in his reflection and in the whole
train of consequences to which it led.
Before I read that sermon, I really thought I had lived in a
free country; and it was an error I cherished, because it gave me a
greater liking to the country I lived in. I was, indeed, aware that
a jealous, ever-waking vigilance to guard the treasure of our liberty,
not only from invasion, but from decay and corruption, was our best
wisdom and our first duty. However, I considered that treasure
rather as a possession to be secured than as a prize to be contended
for. I did not discern how the present time came to be so very
favorable to all exertions in the cause of freedom. The present time
differs from any other only by the circumstance of what is doing in
France. If the example of that nation is to have an influence on this,
I can easily conceive why some of their proceedings which have an
unpleasant aspect and are not quite reconcilable to humanity,
generosity, good faith, and justice are palliated with so much milky
good-nature toward the actors, and borne with so much heroic fortitude
toward the sufferers. It is certainly not prudent to discredit the
authority of an example we mean to follow. But allowing this, we are
led to a very natural question: What is that cause of liberty, and
what are those exertions in its favor to which the example of France
is so singularly auspicious? Is our monarchy to be annihilated, with
all the laws, all the tribunals, and all the ancient corporations of
the kingdom? Is every landmark of the country to be done away in favor
of a geometrical and arithmetical constitution? Is the House of
Lords to be voted useless? Is episcopacy to be abolished? Are the
church lands to be sold to Jews and jobbers or given to bribe
new-invented municipal republics into a participation in sacrilege?
Are all the taxes to be voted grievances, and the revenue reduced to a
patriotic contribution or patriotic presents? Are silver shoebuckles
to be substituted in the place of the land tax and the malt tax for
the support of the naval strength of this kingdom? Are all orders,
ranks, and distinctions to be confounded, that out of universal
anarchy, joined to national bankruptcy, three or four thousand
democracies should be formed into eighty-three, and that they may all,
by some sort of unknown attractive power, be organized into one? For
this great end, is the army to be seduced from its discipline and
its fidelity, first, by every kind of debauchery and, then, by the
terrible precedent of a donative in the increase of pay? Are the
curates to be seduced from their bishops by holding out to them the
delusive hope of a dole out of the spoils of their own order? Are
the citizens of London to be drawn from their allegiance by feeding
them at the expense of their fellow subjects? Is a compulsory paper
currency to be substituted in the place of the legal coin of this
kingdom? Is what remains of the plundered stock of public revenue to
be employed in the wild project of maintaining two armies to watch
over and to fight with each other? If these are the ends and means
of the Revolution Society, I admit that they are well assorted; and
France may furnish them for both with precedents in point.
I see that your example is held out to shame us. I know that we
are supposed a dull, sluggish race, rendered passive by finding our
situation tolerable, and prevented by a mediocrity of freedom from
ever attaining to its full perfection. Your leaders in France began by
affecting to admire, almost to adore, the British constitution; but as
they advanced, they came to look upon it with a sovereign contempt.
The friends of your National Assembly amongst us have full as mean
an opinion of what was formerly thought the glory of their country.
The Revolution Society has discovered that the English nation is not
free. They are convinced that the inequality in our representation
is a "defect in our constitution so gross and palpable as to make it
excellent chiefly in form and theory".* That a representation in the
legislature of a kingdom is not only the basis of all constitutional
liberty in it, but of "all legitimate government; that without it a
government is nothing but an usurpation";- that "when the
representation is partial, the kingdom possesses liberty only
partially; and if extremely partial, it gives only a semblance; and if
not only extremely partial, but corruptly chosen, it becomes a
nuisance". Dr. Price considers this inadequacy of representation as
our fundamental grievance; and though, as to the corruption of this
semblance of representation, he hopes it is not yet arrived to its
full perfection of depravity, he fears that "nothing will be done
towards gaining for us this essential blessing, until some great abuse
of power again provokes our resentment, or some great calamity again
alarms our fears, or perhaps till the acquisition of a pure and
equal representation by other countries, whilst we are mocked with the
shadow, kindles our shame." To this he subjoins a note in these words.
"A representation chosen chiefly by the treasury, and a few
thousands of the dregs of the people, who are generally paid for their

* Discourse on the Love of our Country, 3d ed., p. 39.

You will smile here at the consistency of those democratists
who, when they are not on their guard, treat the humbler part of the
community with the greatest contempt, whilst, at the same time, they
pretend to make them the depositories of all power. It would require a
long discourse to point out to you the many fallacies that lurk in the
generality and equivocal nature of the terms "inadequate
representation". I shall only say here, in justice to that
old-fashioned constitution under which we have long prospered, that
our representation has been found perfectly adequate to all the
purposes for which a representation of the people can be desired or
devised. I defy the enemies of our constitution to show the
contrary. To detail the particulars in which it is found so well to
promote its ends would demand a treatise on our practical
constitution. I state here the doctrine of the Revolutionists only
that you and others may see what an opinion these gentlemen
entertain of the constitution of their country, and why they seem to
think that some great abuse of power or some great calamity, as giving
a chance for the blessing of a constitution according to their
ideas, would be much palliated to their feelings; you see why they are
so much enamored of your fair and equal representation, which being
once obtained, the same effects might follow. You see they consider
our House of Commons as only "a semblance", "a form", "a theory", "a
shadow", "a mockery", perhaps "a nuisance".
These gentlemen value themselves on being systematic, and not
without reason. They must therefore look on this gross and palpable
defect of representation, this fundamental grievance (so they call it)
as a thing not only vicious in itself, but as rendering our whole
government absolutely illegitimate, and not at all better than a
downright usurpation. Another revolution, to get rid of this
illegitimate and usurped government, would of course be perfectly
justifiable, if not absolutely necessary. Indeed, their principle,
if you observe it with any attention, goes much further than to an
alteration in the election of the House of Commons; for, if popular
representation, or choice, is necessary to the legitimacy of all
government, the House of Lords is, at one stroke, bastardized and
corrupted in blood. That House is no representative of the people at
all, even in "semblance or in form". The case of the crown is
altogether as bad. In vain the crown may endeavor to screen itself
against these gentlemen by the authority of the establishment made
on the Revolution. The Revolution which is resorted to for a title, on
their system, wants a title itself. The Revolution is built, according
to their theory, upon a basis not more solid than our present
formalities, as it was made by a House of Lords, not representing
any one but themselves, and by a House of Commons exactly such as
the present, that is, as they term it, by a mere "shadow and
mockery" of representation.
Something they must destroy, or they seem to themselves to exist
for no purpose. One set is for destroying the civil power through
the ecclesiastical; another, for demolishing the ecclesiastic
through the civil. They are aware that the worst consequences might
happen to the public in accomplishing this double ruin of church and
state, but they are so heated with their theories that they give
more than hints that this ruin, with all the mischiefs that must
lead to it and attend it, and which to themselves appear quite
certain, would not be unacceptable to them or very remote from their
wishes. A man amongst them of great authority and certainly of great
talents, speaking of a supposed alliance between church and state,
says, "perhaps we must wait for the fall of the civil powers before
this most unnatural alliance be broken. Calamitous no doubt will
that time be. But what convulsion in the political world ought to be a
subject of lamentation if it be attended with so desirable an effect?"
You see with what a steady eye these gentlemen are prepared to view
the greatest calamities which can befall their country.

IT is no wonder, therefore, that with these ideas of everything in
their constitution and government at home, either in church or
state, as illegitimate and usurped, or at best as a vain mockery, they
look abroad with an eager and passionate enthusiasm. Whilst they are
possessed by these notions, it is vain to talk to them of the practice
of their ancestors, the fundamental laws of their country, the fixed
form of a constitution whose merits are confirmed by the solid test of
long experience and an increasing public strength and national
prosperity. They despise experience as the wisdom of unlettered men;
and as for the rest, they have wrought underground a mine that will
blow up, at one grand explosion, all examples of antiquity, all
precedents, charters, and acts of parliament. They have "the rights of
men". Against these there can be no prescription, against these no
agreement is binding; these admit no temperament and no compromise;
anything withheld from their full demand is so much of fraud and
injustice. Against these their rights of men let no government look
for security in the length of its continuance, or in the justice and
lenity of its administration. The objections of these speculatists, if
its forms do not quadrate with their theories, are as valid against
such an old and beneficent government as against the most violent
tyranny or the greenest usurpation. They are always at issue with
governments, not on a question of abuse, but a question of
competency and a question of title. I have nothing to say to the
clumsy subtilty of their political metaphysics. Let them be their
amusement in the schools.- "Illa se jactet in aula Aeolus, et clauso
ventorum carcere regnet".- But let them not break prison to burst like
a Levanter to sweep the earth with their hurricane and to break up the
fountains of the great deep to overwhelm us.

Far am I from denying in theory, full as far is my heart from
withholding in practice (if I were of power to give or to withhold)
the real rights of men. In denying their false claims of right, I do
not mean to injure those which are real, and are such as their
pretended rights would totally destroy. If civil society be made for
the advantage of man, all the advantages for which it is made become
his right. It is an institution of beneficence; and law itself is only
beneficence acting by a rule. Men have a right to live by that rule;
they have a right to do justice, as between their fellows, whether
their fellows are in public function or in ordinary occupation. They
have a right to the fruits of their industry and to the means of
making their industry fruitful. They have a right to the
acquisitions of their parents, to the nourishment and improvement of
their offspring, to instruction in life, and to consolation in
death. Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon
others, he has a right to do for himself; and he has a right to a fair
portion of all which society, with all its combinations of skill and
force, can do in his favor. In this partnership all men have equal
rights, but not to equal things. He that has but five shillings in the
partnership has as good a right to it as he that has five hundred
pounds has to his larger proportion. But he has not a right to an
equal dividend in the product of the joint stock; and as to the
share of power, authority, and direction which each individual ought
to have in the management of the state, that I must deny to be amongst
the direct original rights of man in civil society; for I have in my
contemplation the civil social man, and no other. It is a thing to
be settled by convention.
If civil society be the offspring of convention, that convention
must be its law. That convention must limit and modify all the
descriptions of constitution which are formed under it. Every sort
of legislative, judicial, or executory power are its creatures. They
can have no being in any other state of things; and how can any man
claim under the conventions of civil society rights which do not so
much as suppose its existence- rights which are absolutely repugnant
to it? One of the first motives to civil society, and which becomes
one of its fundamental rules, is that no man should be judge in his
own cause. By this each person has at once divested himself of the
first fundamental right of uncovenanted man, that is, to judge for
himself and to assert his own cause. He abdicates all right to be
his own governor. He inclusively, in a great measure, abandons the
right of self-defense, the first law of nature. Men cannot enjoy the
rights of an uncivil and of a civil state together. That he may obtain
justice, he gives up his right of determining what it is in points the
most essential to him. That he may secure some liberty, he makes a
surrender in trust of the whole of it.

Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may
and do exist in total independence of it, and exist in much greater
clearness and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection; but
their abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right
to everything they want everything. Government is a contrivance of
human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these
wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to
be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient
restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the
passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass
and body, as well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men
should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their
passions brought into subjection. This can only be done by a power out
of themselves, and not, in the exercise of its function, subject to
that will and to those passions which it is its office to bridle and
subdue. In this sense the restraints on men, as well as their
liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights. But as the liberties
and the restrictions vary with times and circumstances and admit to
infinite modifications, they cannot be settled upon any abstract rule;
and nothing is so foolish as to discuss them upon that principle.
The moment you abate anything from the full rights of men, each to
govern himself, and suffer any artificial, positive limitation upon
those rights, from that moment the whole organization of government
becomes a consideration of convenience. This it is which makes the
constitution of a state and the due distribution of its powers a
matter of the most delicate and complicated skill. It requires a
deep knowledge of human nature and human necessities, and of the
things which facilitate or obstruct the various ends which are to be
pursued by the mechanism of civil institutions. The state is to have
recruits to its strength, and remedies to its distempers. What is
the use of discussing a man's abstract right to food or medicine?
The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them.
In that deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the
farmer and the physician rather than the professor of metaphysics.
The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or
reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be
taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us
in that practical science, because the real effects of moral causes
are not always immediate; but that which in the first instance is
prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter operation, and its
excellence may arise even from the ill effects it produces in the
beginning. The reverse also happens: and very plausible schemes,
with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable
conclusions. In states there are often some obscure and almost
latent causes, things which appear at first view of little moment,
on which a very great part of its prosperity or adversity may most
essentially depend. The science of government being therefore so
practical in itself and intended for such practical purposes- a matter
which requires experience, and even more experience than any person
can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be-
it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling
down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages
the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without
having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.

These metaphysic rights entering into common life, like rays of
light which pierce into a dense medium, are by the laws of nature
refracted from their straight line. Indeed, in the gross and
complicated mass of human passions and concerns the primitive rights
of men undergo such a variety of refractions and reflections that it
becomes absurd to talk of them as if they continued in the
simplicity of their original direction. The nature of man is
intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible
complexity; and, therefore, no simple disposition or direction of
power can be suitable either to man's nature or to the quality of
his affairs. When I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed at and
boasted of in any new political constitutions, I am at no loss to
decide that the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade or
totally negligent of their duty. The simple governments are
fundamentally defective, to say no worse of them. If you were to
contemplate society in but one point of view, all these simple modes
of polity are infinitely captivating. In effect each would answer
its single end much more perfectly than the more complex is able to
attain all its complex purposes. But it is better that the whole
should be imperfectly and anomalously answered than that, while some
parts are provided for with great exactness, others might be totally
neglected or perhaps materially injured by the over-care of a favorite
The pretended rights of these theorists are all extremes; and in
proportion as they are metaphysically true, they are morally and
politically false. The rights of men are in a sort of middle,
incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned. The
rights of men in governments are their advantages; and these are often
in balances between differences of good, in compromises sometimes
between good and evil, and sometimes between evil and evil.
Political reason is a computing principle: adding, subtracting,
multiplying, and dividing, morally and not metaphysically or
mathematically, true moral denominations.
By these theorists the right of the people is almost always
sophistically confounded with their power. The body of the
community, whenever it can come to act, can meet with no effectual
resistance; but till power and right are the same, the whole body of
them has no right inconsistent with virtue, and the first of all
virtues, prudence. Men have no right to what is not reasonable and
to what is not for their benefit; for though a pleasant writer said,
liceat perire poetis, when one of them, in cold blood, is said to have
leaped into the flames of a volcanic revolution, ardentem frigidus
Aetnam insiluit, I consider such a frolic rather as an unjustifiable
poetic license than as one of the franchises of Parnassus; and whether
he was a poet, or divine, or politician that chose to exercise this
kind of right, I think that more wise, because more charitable,
thoughts would urge me rather to save the man than to preserve his
brazen slippers as the monuments of his folly.
The kind of anniversary sermons to which a great part of what I
write refers, if men are not shamed out of their present course in
commemorating the fact, will cheat many out of the principles, and
deprive them of the benefits, of the revolution they commemorate. I
confess to you, Sir, I never liked this continual talk of resistance
and revolution, or the practice of making the extreme medicine of
the constitution its daily bread. It renders the habit of society
dangerously valetudinary; it is taking periodical doses of mercury
sublimate and swallowing down repeated provocatives of cantharides
to our love of liberty.
This distemper of remedy, grown habitual, relaxes and wears out,
by a vulgar and prostituted use, the spring of that spirit which is to
be exerted on great occasions. It was in the most patient period of
Roman servitude that themes of tyrannicide made the ordinary
exercise of boys at school- cum perimit saevos classis numerosa
tyrannos. In the ordinary state of things, it produces in a country
like ours the worst effects, even on the cause of that liberty which
it abuses with the dissoluteness of an extravagant speculation. Almost
all the high-bred republicans of my time have, after a short space,
become the most decided, thorough-paced courtiers; they soon left
the business of a tedious, moderate, but practical resistance to those
of us whom, in the pride and intoxication of their theories, they have
slighted as not much better than Tories. Hypocrisy, of course,
delights in the most sublime speculations, for, never intending to
go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent. But
even in cases where rather levity than fraud was to be suspected in
these ranting speculations, the issue has been much the same. These
professors, finding their extreme principles not applicable to cases
which call only for a qualified or, as I may say, civil and legal
resistance, in such cases employ no resistance at all. It is with them
a war or a revolution, or it is nothing. Finding their schemes of
politics not adapted to the state of the world in which they live,
they often come to think lightly of all public principle, and are
ready, on their part, to abandon for a very trivial interest what they
find of very trivial value. Some, indeed, are of more steady and
persevering natures, but these are eager politicians out of parliament
who have little to tempt them to abandon their favorite projects. They
have some change in the church or state, or both, constantly in
their view. When that is the case, they are always bad citizens and
perfectly unsure connections. For, considering their speculative
designs as of infinite value, and the actual arrangement of the
state as of no estimation, they are at best indifferent about it. They
see no merit in the good, and no fault in the vicious, management of
public affairs; they rather rejoice in the latter, as more
propitious to revolution. They see no merit or demerit in any man,
or any action, or any political principle any further than as they may
forward or retard their design of change; they therefore take up,
one day, the most violent and stretched prerogative, and another
time the wildest democratic ideas of freedom, and pass from one to the
other without any sort of regard to cause, to person, or to party.

IN FRANCE, you are now in the crisis of a revolution and in the
transit from one form of government to another- you cannot see that
character of men exactly in the same situation in which we see it in
this country. With us it is militant; with you it is triumphant; and
you know how it can act when its power is commensurate to its will.
I would not be supposed to confine those observations to any
description of men or to comprehend all men of any description
within them- No! far from it. I am as incapable of that injustice as I
am of keeping terms with those who profess principles of extremities
and who, under the name of religion, teach little else than wild and
dangerous politics. The worst of these politics of revolution is this:
they temper and harden the breast in order to prepare it for the
desperate strokes which are sometimes used in extreme occasions. But
as these occasions may never arrive, the mind receives a gratuitous
taint; and the moral sentiments suffer not a little when no
political purpose is served by the depravation. This sort of people
are so taken up with their theories about the rights of man that
they have totally forgotten his nature. Without opening one new avenue
to the understanding, they have succeeded in stopping up those that
lead to the heart. They have perverted in themselves, and in those
that attend to them, all the well-placed sympathies of the human
This famous sermon of the Old Jewry breathes nothing but this
spirit through all the political part. Plots, massacres,
assassinations seem to some people a trivial price for obtaining a
revolution. Cheap, bloodless reformation, a guiltless liberty appear
flat and vapid to their taste. There must be a great change of
scene; there must be a magnificent stage effect; there must be a grand
spectacle to rouse the imagination grown torpid with the lazy
enjoyment of sixty years' security and the still unanimating repose of
public prosperity. The preacher found them all in the French
Revolution. This inspires a juvenile warmth through his whole frame.
His enthusiasm kindles as he advances; and when he arrives at his
peroration it is in a full blaze. Then viewing, from the Pisgah of his
pulpit, the free, moral, happy, flourishing and glorious state of
France as in a bird's-eye landscape of a promised land, he breaks
out into the following rapture: What an eventful period is this! I
am thankful that I have lived to it; I could almost say, Lord, now
lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen
thy salvation.- I have lived to see a diffusion of knowledge, which
has undermined superstition and error.- I have lived to see the rights
of men better understood than ever; and nations panting for liberty
which seemed to have lost the idea of it.- I have lived to see
thirty millions of people, indignant and resolute, spurning at
slavery, and demanding liberty with an irresistible voice. Their
king led in triumph and an arbitrary monarch surrendering himself to
his subjects.*

* Another of these reverend gentlemen, who was witness to some
of the spectacles which Paris has lately exhibited, expresses
himself thus:- "A king dragged in submissive triumph by his conquering
subjects, is one of those appearances of grandeur which seldom rise in
the prospect of human affairs, and which, during the remainder of my
life, I shall think of with wonder and gratification". These gentlemen
agree marvelously in their feelings.

Before I proceed further, I have to remark that Dr. Price seems
rather to overvalue the great acquisitions of light which he has
obtained and diffused in this age. The last century appears to me to
have been quite as much enlightened. It had, though in a different
place, a triumph as memorable as that of Dr. Price; and some of the
great preachers of that period partook of it as eagerly as he has done
in the triumph of France. On the trial of the Rev. Hugh Peters for
high treason, it was deposed that, when King Charles was brought to
London for his trial, the Apostle of Liberty in that day conducted the
triumph. "I saw", says the witness, "his Majesty in the coach with six
horses, and Peters riding before the king, triumphing". Dr. Price,
when he talks as if he had made a discovery, only follows a precedent,
for after the commencement of the king's trial this precursor, the
same Dr. Peters, concluding a long prayer at the Royal Chapel at
Whitehall (he had very triumphantly chosen his place), said, "I have
prayed and preached these twenty years; and now I may say with old
Simeon, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine
eyes have seen thy salvation".* Peters had not the fruits of his
prayer, for he neither departed so soon as he wished, nor in peace. He
became (what I heartily hope none of his followers may be in this
country) himself a sacrifice to the triumph which he led as pontiff.

* State Trials, vol. ii, pp. 360, 363.

They dealt at the Restoration, perhaps, too hardly with this
poor good man. But we owe it to his memory and his sufferings that
he had as much illumination and as much zeal, and had as effectually
undermined all the superstition and error which might impede the great
business he was engaged in, as any who follow and repeat after him
in this age, which would assume to itself an exclusive title to the
knowledge of the rights of men and all the glorious consequences of
that knowledge.

After this sally of the preacher of the Old Jewry, which differs
only in place and time, but agrees perfectly with the spirit and
letter of the rapture of 1648, the Revolution Society, the fabricators
of governments, the heroic band of cashierers of monarchs, electors of
sovereigns, and leaders of kings in triumph, strutting with a proud
consciousness of the diffusion of knowledge of which every member
had obtained so large a share in the donative, were in haste to make a
generous diffusion of the knowledge they had thus gratuitously
received. To make this bountiful communication, they adjourned from
the church in the Old Jewry to the London Tavern, where the same Dr.
Price, in whom the fumes of his oracular tripod were not entirely
evaporated, moved and carried the resolution or address of
congratulation transmitted by Lord Stanhope to the National Assembly
of France.
I find a preacher of the gospel profaning the beautiful and
prophetic ejaculation, commonly called "nunc dimittis", made on the
first presentation of our Saviour in the Temple, and applying it
with an inhuman and unnatural rapture to the most horrid, atrocious,
and afflicting spectacle that perhaps ever was exhibited to the pity
and indignation of mankind. This "leading in triumph", a thing in
its best form unmanly and irreligious, which fills our preacher with
such unhallowed transports, must shock, I believe, the moral taste
of every well-born mind. Several English were the stupefied and
indignant spectators of that triumph. It was (unless we have been
strangely deceived) a spectacle more resembling a procession of
American savages, entering into Onondaga after some of their murders
called victories and leading into hovels hung round with scalps
their captives, overpowered with the scoffs and buffets of women as
ferocious as themselves, much more than it resembled the triumphal
pomp of a civilized martial nation- if a civilized nation, or any
men who had a sense of generosity, were capable of a personal
triumph over the fallen and afflicted.

THIS, MY DEAR SIR, was not the triumph of France. I must believe
that, as a nation, it overwhelmed you with shame and horror. I must
believe that the National Assembly find themselves in a state of the
greatest humiliation in not being able to punish the authors of this
triumph or the actors in it, and that they are in a situation in which
any inquiry they may make upon the subject must be destitute even of
the appearance of liberty or impartiality. The apology of that
assembly is found in their situation; but when we approve what they
must bear, it is in us the degenerate choice of a vitiated mind.
With a compelled appearance of deliberation, they vote under the
dominion of a stern necessity. They sit in the heart, as it were, of a
foreign republic: they have their residence in a city whose
constitution has emanated neither from the charter of their king nor
from their legislative power. There they are surrounded by an army not
raised either by the authority of their crown or by their command, and
which, if they should order to dissolve itself, would instantly
dissolve them. There they sit, after a gang of assassins had driven
away some hundreds of the members, whilst those who held the same
moderate principles, with more patience or better hope, continued
every day exposed to outrageous insults and murderous threats. There a
majority, sometimes real, sometimes pretended, captive itself, compels
a captive king to issue as royal edicts, at third hand, the polluted
nonsense of their most licentious and giddy coffeehouses. It is
notorious that all their measures are decided before they are debated.
It is beyond doubt that, under the terror of the bayonet and the
lamp-post and the torch to their houses, they are obliged to adopt all
the crude and desperate measures suggested by clubs composed of a
monstrous medley of all conditions, tongues, and nations. Among
these are found persons, in comparison of whom Catiline would be
thought scrupulous and Cethegus a man of sobriety and moderation.
Nor is it in these clubs alone that the public measures are deformed
into monsters. They undergo a previous distortion in academies,
intended as so many seminaries for these clubs, which are set up in
all the places of public resort. In these meetings of all sorts
every counsel, in proportion as it is daring and violent and
perfidious, is taken for the mark of superior genius. Humanity and
compassion are ridiculed as the fruits of superstition and
ignorance. Tenderness to individuals is considered as treason to the
public. Liberty is always to be estimated perfect, as property is
rendered insecure. Amidst assassination, massacre, and confiscation,
perpetrated or meditated, they are forming plans for the good order of
future society. Embracing in their arms the carcasses of base
criminals and promoting their relations on the title of their
offences, they drive hundreds of virtuous persons to the same end,
by forcing them to subsist by beggary or by crime.
The Assembly, their organ, acts before them the farce of
deliberation with as little decency as liberty. They act like the
comedians of a fair before a riotous audience; they act amidst the
tumultuous cries of a mixed mob of ferocious men, and of women lost to
shame, who, according to their insolent fancies, direct, control,
applaud, explode them, and sometimes mix and take their seats
amongst them, domineering over them with a strange mixture of
servile petulance and proud, presumptuous authority. As they have
inverted order in all things, the gallery is in the place of the
house. This assembly, which overthrows kings and kingdoms, has not
even the physiognomy and aspect of a grave legislative body- nec color
imperii, nec frons ulla senatus. They have a power given to them, like
that of the evil principle, to subvert and destroy, but none to
construct, except such machines as may be fitted for further
subversion and further destruction.

WHO is it that admires, and from the heart is attached to,
national representative assemblies, but must turn with horror and
disgust from such a profane burlesque, and abominable perversion of
that sacred institute? Lovers of monarchy, lovers of republics must
alike abhor it. The members of your assembly must themselves groan
under the tyranny of which they have all the shame, none of the
direction, and little of the profit. I am sure many of the members who
compose even the majority of that body must feel as I do,
notwithstanding the applauses of the Revolution Society. Miserable
king! miserable assembly! How must that assembly be silently
scandalized with those of their members who could call a day which
seemed to blot the sun out of heaven "un beau jour!"* How must they be
inwardly indignant at hearing others who thought fit to declare to
them "that the vessel of the state would fly forward in her course
toward regeneration with more speed than ever", from the stiff gale of
treason and murder which preceded our preacher's triumph! What must
they have felt whilst, with outward patience and inward indignation,
they heard, of the slaughter of innocent gentlemen in their houses,
that "the blood spilled was not the most pure!" What must they have
felt, when they were besieged by complaints of disorders which shook
their country to its foundations, at being compelled coolly to tell
the complainants that they were under the protection of the law, and
that they would address the king (the captive king) to cause the
laws to be enforced for their protection; when the enslaved
ministers of that captive king had formally notified to them that
there were neither law nor authority nor power left to protect? What
must they have felt at being obliged, as a felicitation on the present
new year, to request their captive king to forget the stormy period of
the last, on account of the great good which he was likely to
produce to his people; to the complete attainment of which good they
adjourned the practical demonstrations of their loyalty, assuring
him of their obedience when he should no longer possess any
authority to command?

* 6th of October, 1789.

This address was made with much good nature and affection, to be
sure. But among the revolutions in France must be reckoned a
considerable revolution in their ideas of politeness. In England we
are said to learn manners at second-hand from your side of the
water, and that we dress our behavior in the frippery of France. If
so, we are still in the old cut and have not so far conformed to the
new Parisian mode of good breeding as to think it quite in the most
refined strain of delicate compliment (whether in condolence or
congratulation) to say, to the most humiliated creature that crawls
upon the earth, that great public benefits are derived from the murder
of his servants, the attempted assassination of himself and of his
wife, and the mortification, disgrace, and degradation that he has
personally suffered. It is a topic of consolation which our ordinary
of Newgate would be too humane to use to a criminal at the foot of the
gallows. I should have thought that the hangman of Paris, now that
he is liberalized by the vote of the National Assembly and is
allowed his rank and arms in the herald's college of the rights of
men, would be too generous, too gallant a man, too full of the sense
of his new dignity to employ that cutting consolation to any of the
persons whom the lese nation might bring under the administration of
his executive power.
A man is fallen indeed when he is thus flattered. The anodyne
draught of oblivion, thus drugged, is well calculated to preserve a
galling wakefulness and to feed the living ulcer of a corroding
memory. Thus to administer the opiate potion of amnesty, powdered with
all the ingredients of scorn and contempt, is to hold to his lips,
instead of "the balm of hurt minds", the cup of human misery full to
the brim and to force him to drink it to the dregs.
Yielding to reasons at least as forcible as those which were so
delicately urged in the compliment on the new year, the king of France
will probably endeavor to forget these events and that compliment. But
history, who keeps a durable record of all our acts and exercises
her awful censure over the proceedings of all sorts of sovereigns,
will not forget either those events or the era of this liberal
refinement in the intercourse of mankind. History will record that
on the morning of the 6th of October, 1789, the king and queen of
France, after a day of confusion, alarm, dismay, and slaughter, lay
down, under the pledged security of public faith, to indulge nature in
a few hours of respite and troubled, melancholy repose. From this
sleep the queen was first startled by the sentinel at her door, who
cried out to her to save herself by flight- that this was the last
proof of fidelity he could give- that they were upon him, and he was
dead. Instantly he was cut down. A band of cruel ruffians and
assassins, reeking with his blood, rushed into the chamber of the
queen and pierced with a hundred strokes of bayonets and poniards
the bed, from whence this persecuted woman had but just time to fly
almost naked, and, through ways unknown to the murderers, had
escaped to seek refuge at the feet of a king and husband not secure of
his own life for a moment.
This king, to say no more of him, and this queen, and their infant
children (who once would have been the pride and hope of a great and
generous people) were then forced to abandon the sanctuary of the most
splendid palace in the world, which they left swimming in blood,
polluted by massacre and strewed with scattered limbs and mutilated
carcasses. Thence they were conducted into the capital of their
Two had been selected from the unprovoked, unresisted, promiscuous
slaughter, which was made of the gentlemen of birth and family who
composed the king's body guard. These two gentlemen, with all the
parade of an execution of justice, were cruelly and publicly dragged
to the block and beheaded in the great court of the palace. Their
heads were stuck upon spears and led the procession, whilst the
royal captives who followed in the train were slowly moved along,
amidst the horrid yells, and shrilling screams, and frantic dances,
and infamous contumelies, and all the unutterable abominations of
the furies of hell in the abused shape of the vilest of women. After
they had been made to taste, drop by drop, more than the bitterness of
death in the slow torture of a journey of twelve miles, protracted
to six hours, they were, under a guard composed of those very soldiers
who had thus conducted them through this famous triumph, lodged in one
of the old palaces of Paris, now converted into a bastille for kings.
Is this a triumph to be consecrated at altars? to be
commemorated with grateful thanksgiving? to be offered to the divine
humanity with fervent prayer and enthusiastic ejaculation?- These
Theban and Thracian orgies, acted in France and applauded only in
the Old Jewry, I assure you, kindle prophetic enthusiasm in the
minds but of very few people in this kingdom, although a saint and
apostle, who may have revelations of his own and who has so completely
vanquished all the mean superstitions of the heart, may incline to
think it pious and decorous to compare it with the entrance into the
world of the Prince of Peace, proclaimed in a holy temple by a
venerable sage, and not long before not worse announced by the voice
of angels to the quiet innocence of shepherds.
At first I was at a loss to account for this fit of unguarded
transport. I knew, indeed, that the sufferings of monarchs make a
delicious repast to some sort of palates. There were reflections which
might serve to keep this appetite within some bounds of temperance.
But when I took one circumstance into my consideration, I was
obliged to confess that much allowance ought to be made for the
Society, and that the temptation was too strong for common discretion-
I mean, the circumstance of the Io Paean of the triumph, the animating
cry which called "for all the BISHOPS to be hanged on the lampposts",*
might well have brought forth a burst of enthusiasm on the foreseen
consequences of this happy day. I allow to so much enthusiasm some
little deviation from prudence. I allow this prophet to break forth
into hymns of joy and thanksgiving on an event which appears like
the precursor of the Millennium and the projected fifth monarchy in
the destruction of all church establishments.

* "Tous les Eveques a la lanterne".

There was, however, (as in all human affairs there is) in the
midst of this joy something to exercise the patience of these worthy
gentlemen and to try the long-suffering of their faith. The actual
murder of the king and queen, and their child, was wanting to the
other auspicious circumstances of this "beautiful day". The actual
murder of the bishops, though called for by so many holy ejaculations,
was also wanting. A group of regicide and sacrilegious slaughter was
indeed boldly sketched, but it was only sketched. It unhappily was
left unfinished in this great history-piece of the massacre of
innocents. What hardy pencil of a great master from the school of
the rights of man will finish it is to be seen hereafter. The age
has not yet the complete benefit of that diffusion of knowledge that
has undermined superstition and error; and the king of France wants
another object or two to consign to oblivion, in consideration of
all the good which is to arise from his own sufferings and the
patriotic crimes of an enlightened age.*

* It is proper here to refer to a letter written upon this subject
by an eye witness. That eye witness was one of the most honest,
intelligent, and eloquent members of the National Assembly, one of the
most active and zealous reformers of the state. He was obliged to
secede from the Assembly; and he afterwards became a voluntary
exile, on account of the horrors of this pious triumph and the
dispositions of men who, profiting of crimes, if not causing them,
have taken the lead in public affairs.
EXTRACT of M. de Lally Tollendal's Second Letter to a Friend.

"Parlons du parti que j'ai pris; il est bien justifie dans ma
conscience.- Ni cette ville coupable, ni cette assemblee plus coupable
encore, ne meritoient que je me justifie; mais j'ai a coeur que
vous, et les personnes qui pensent comme vous, ne me condamnent
pas.- Ma sante, je vous jure, me rendoit mes fonctions impossibles;
mais meme en les mettant de cote il a ete au-dessus de mes forces de
supporter plus long-tems l'horreur que me causoit ce sang,- ces tetes-
cette reine presque egorgee,- ce roi,- amene esclave,- entrant a
Paris, au milieu de ses assassins, et precede des tetes de ses
malheureux gardes.- Ces perfides jannissaires, ces assassins, ces
femmes cannibales, ce cri de, TOUS LES EVEQUES A LA LANTERNE, dans
le moment ou le roi entre sa capitale avec deux eveques de son conseil
dans sa voiture. Un coup de fusil, que j'ai vu tirer dans un des
carosses de la reine. M. Bailly appellant cela un beau jour.
L'assemblee ayant declare froidement le matin, qu'il n'etoit pas de sa
dignite d'aller toute entiere environner le roi. M. Mirabeau disant
impunement dans cette assemblee, que le vaisseau de l'etat, loin
d'etre arrete dans sa course, s'elanceroit avec plus de rapidite que
jamais vers sa regeneration. M. Barnave, riant avec lui, quand des
flots de sang couloient autour de nous. Le vertueux Mounier(*)
echappant par miracle a vingt assassins, qui avoient voulu faire de sa
tete un trophee de plus.
"Voila ce qui me fit jurer de ne plus mettre le pied dans cette
caverne d'Antropophages ou je n'avois plus de force d'elever la
voix, ou depuis six semaines je l'avois elevee en vain. Moi,
Mounier, et tous les honnetes gens, ont le dernier effort a faire pour
le bien etoit (sic) d'en sortir. Aucune idee de crainte ne s'est
approchee de moi. Je rougirois de m'en defendre. J'avois encore recu
sur la route de la part de ce peuple, moins coupable que ceux qui
l'ont enivre de fureur, des acclamations, et des applaudissements,
dont d'autres auroient ete flattes, et qui m'ont fait fremir. C'est
a l'indignation, c'est a l'horreur, c'est aux convulsions physiques,
que se seul aspect du sang me fait eprouver que j'ai cede. On brave
une seule mort; on la brave plusieurs fois, quand elle peut etre
utile. Mais aucune puissance sous le Ciel, mais aucune opinion
publique ou privee n'ont le droit de me condamner a souffrir
inutilement mille supplices par minute, et a perir de desespoir, de
rage, au milieu des triomphes, du crime que je n'ai pu arreter. Ils me
proscriront, ils confisqueront mes biens. Je labourerai la terre, et
je ne les verrai plus.- Voila ma justification. Vous pouvez la lire,
la montrer, la laisser copier; tant pis pour ceux qui ne la
comprendront pas; ce ne sera alors moi qui auroit eu tort de la leur

This military man had not so good nerves as the peaceable
gentleman of the Old Jewry.- See Mons. Mounier's narrative of these
transactions; a man also of honour and virtue, and talents, and
therefore a fugitive.

(*) N.B. Mr. Mounier was then speaker of the National Assembly. He
has since been obliged to live in exile, though one of the firmest
assertors of liberty.

Although this work of our new light and knowledge did not go to
the length that in all probability it was intended it should be
carried, yet I must think that such treatment of any human creatures
must be shocking to any but those who are made for accomplishing
revolutions. But I cannot stop here. Influenced by the inborn feelings
of my nature, and not being illuminated by a single ray of this
new-sprung modern light, I confess to you, Sir, that the exalted
rank of the persons suffering, and particularly the sex, the beauty,
and the amiable qualities of the descendant of so many kings and
emperors, with the tender age of royal infants, insensible only
through infancy and innocence of the cruel outrages to which their
parents were exposed, instead of being a subject of exultation, adds
not a little to any sensibility on that most melancholy occasion.
I hear that the august person who was the principal object of
our preacher's triumph, though he supported himself, felt much on that
shameful occasion. As a man, it became him to feel for his wife and
his children, and the faithful guards of his person that were
massacred in cold blood about him; as a prince, it became him to
feel for the strange and frightful transformation of his civilized
subjects, and to be more grieved for them than solicitous for himself.
It derogates little from his fortitude, while it adds infinitely to
the honor of his humanity. I am very sorry to say it, very sorry
indeed, that such personages are in a situation in which it is not
unbecoming in us to praise the virtues of the great.
I hear, and I rejoice to hear, that the great lady, the other
object of the triumph, has borne that day (one is interested that
beings made for suffering should suffer well), and that she bears
all the succeeding days, that she bears the imprisonment of her
husband, and her own captivity, and the exile of her friends, and
the insulting adulation of addresses, and the whole weight of her
accumulated wrongs, with a serene patience, in a manner suited to
her rank and race, and becoming the offspring of a sovereign
distinguished for her piety and her courage; that, like her, she has
lofty sentiments; that she feels with the dignity of a Roman matron;
that in the last extremity she will save herself from the last
disgrace; and that, if she must fall, she will fall by no ignoble
It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of
France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles, and surely never lighted
on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful
vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering
the elevated sphere she just began to move in- glittering like the
morning star, full of life and splendor and joy. Oh! what a
revolution! and what a heart must I have to contemplate without
emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream when she
added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant,
respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp
antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I
dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her
in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of
cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their
scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But
the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists; and
calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished
forever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to
rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that
subordination of the heart which kept alive, even in servitude itself,
the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the
cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic
enterprise, is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that
chastity of honor which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired
courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it
touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil by losing
all its grossness.

THIS mixed system of opinion and sentiment had its origin in the
ancient chivalry; and the principle, though varied in its appearance
by the varying state of human affairs, subsisted and influenced
through a long succession of generations even to the time we live
in. If it should ever be totally extinguished, the loss I fear will be
great. It is this which has given its character to modern Europe. It
is this which has distinguished it under all its forms of
government, and distinguished it to its advantage, from the states
of Asia and possibly from those states which flourished in the most
brilliant periods of the antique world. It was this which, without
confounding ranks, had produced a noble equality and handed it down
through all the gradations of social life. It was this opinion which
mitigated kings into companions and raised private men to be fellows
with kings. Without force or opposition, it subdued the fierceness
of pride and power, it obliged sovereigns to submit to the soft collar
of social esteem, compelled stern authority to submit to elegance, and
gave a domination, vanquisher of laws, to be subdued by manners.
But now all is to be changed. All the pleasing illusions which
made power gentle and obedience liberal, which harmonized the
different shades of life, and which, by a bland assimilation,
incorporated into politics the sentiments which beautify and soften
private society, are to be dissolved by this new conquering empire
of light and reason. All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely
torn off. All the super-added ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of
a moral imagination, which the heart owns and the understanding
ratifies as necessary to cover the defects of our naked, shivering
nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be
exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion.
On this scheme of things, a king is but a man, a queen is but a
woman; a woman is but an animal, and an animal not of the highest
order. All homage paid to the sex in general as such, and without
distinct views, is to be regarded as romance and folly. Regicide,
and parricide, and sacrilege are but fictions of superstition,
corrupting jurisprudence by destroying its simplicity. The murder of a
king, or a queen, or a bishop, or a father are only common homicide;
and if the people are by any chance or in any way gainers by it, a
sort of homicide much the most pardonable, and into which we ought not
to make too severe a scrutiny.
On the scheme of this barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring
of cold hearts and muddy understandings, and which is as void of solid
wisdom as it is destitute of all taste and elegance, laws are to be
supported only by their own terrors and by the concern which each
individual may find in them from his own private speculations or can
spare to them from his own private interests. In the groves of their
academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.
Nothing is left which engages the affections on the part of the
commonwealth. On the principles of this mechanic philosophy, our
institutions can never be embodied, if I may use the expression, in
persons, so as to create in us love, veneration, admiration, or
attachment. But that sort of reason which banishes the affections is
incapable of filling their place. These public affections, combined
with manners, are required sometimes as supplements, sometimes as
correctives, always as aids to law. The precept given by a wise man,
as well as a great critic, for the construction of poems is equally
true as to states:- Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia
sunto. There ought to be a system of manners in every nation which a
well-informed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our
country, our country ought to be lovely.

But power, of some kind or other, will survive the shock in
which manners and opinions perish; and it will find other and worse
means for its support. The usurpation which, in order to subvert
ancient institutions, has destroyed ancient principles will hold power
by arts similar to those by which it has acquired it. When the old
feudal and chivalrous spirit of fealty, which, by freeing kings from
fear, freed both kings and subjects from the precautions of tyranny,
shall be extinct in the minds of men, plots and assassinations will be
anticipated by preventive murder and preventive confiscation, and that
long roll of grim and bloody maxims which form the political code of
all power not standing on its own honor and the honor of those who are
to obey it. Kings will be tyrants from policy when subjects are rebels
from principle.
When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss
cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment we have no compass to
govern us; nor can we know distinctly to what port we steer. Europe,
undoubtedly, taken in a mass, was in a flourishing condition the day
on which your revolution was completed. How much of that prosperous
state was owing to the spirit of our old manners and opinions is not
easy to say; but as such causes cannot be indifferent in their
operation, we must presume that on the whole their operation was
We are but too apt to consider things in the state in which we
find them, without sufficiently adverting to the causes by which
they have been produced and possibly may be upheld. Nothing is more
certain than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good
things which are connected with manners and with civilization have, in
this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles and
were, indeed, the result of both combined: I mean the spirit of a
gentleman and the spirit of religion. The nobility and the clergy, the
one by profession, the other by patronage, kept learning in existence,
even in the midst of arms and confusions, and whilst governments
were rather in their causes than formed. Learning paid back what it
received to nobility and to priesthood, and paid it with usury, by
enlarging their ideas and by furnishing their minds. Happy if they had
all continued to know their indissoluble union and their proper place!
Happy if learning, not debauched by ambition, had been satisfied to
continue the instructor, and not aspired to be the master! Along
with its natural protectors and guardians, learning will be cast
into the mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish*

* See the fate of Bailly and Condorcet, supposed to be here
particularly alluded to. Compare the circumstances of the trial and
execution of the former with this prediction.

If, as I suspect, modern letters owe more than they are always
willing to own to ancient manners, so do other interests which we
value full as much as they are worth. Even commerce and trade and
manufacture, the gods of our economical politicians, are themselves
perhaps but creatures, are themselves but effects which, as first
causes, we choose to worship. They certainly grew under the same shade
in which learning flourished. They, too, may decay with their
natural protecting principles. With you, for the present at least,
they all threaten to disappear together. Where trade and
manufactures are wanting to a people, and the spirit of nobility and
religion remains, sentiment supplies, and not always ill supplies,
their place; but if commerce and the arts should be lost in an
experiment to try how well a state may stand without these old
fundamental principles, what sort of a thing must be a nation of
gross, stupid, ferocious, and, at the same time, poor and sordid
barbarians, destitute of religion, honor, or manly pride, possessing
nothing at present, and hoping for nothing hereafter?

I wish you may not be going fast, and by the shortest cut, to that
horrible and disgustful situation. Already there appears a poverty
of conception, a coarseness, and a vulgarity in all the proceedings of
the Assembly and of all their instructors. Their liberty is not
liberal. Their science is presumptuous ignorance. Their humanity is
savage and brutal.
It is not clear whether in England we learned those grand and
decorous principles and manners, of which considerable traces yet
remain, from you or whether you took them from us. But to you, I
think, we trace them best. You seem to me to be gentis incunabula
nostrae. France has always more or less influenced manners in England;
and when your fountain is choked up and polluted, the stream will
not run long, or not run clear, with us or perhaps with any nation.
This gives all Europe, in my opinion, but too close and connected a
concern in what is done in France. Excuse me, therefore, if I have
dwelt too long on the atrocious spectacle of the 6th of October, 1789,
or have given too much scope to the reflections which have arisen in
my mind on occasion of the most important of all revolutions, which
may be dated from that day- I mean a revolution in sentiments,
manners, and moral opinions. As things now stand, with everything
respectable destroyed without us, and an attempt to destroy within
us every principle of respect, one is almost forced to apologize for
harboring the common feelings of men.

WHY do I feel so differently from the Reverend Dr. Price and those
of his lay flock who will choose to adopt the sentiments of his
discourse?- For this plain reason: because it is natural I should;
because we are so made as to be affected at such spectacles with
melancholy sentiments upon the unstable condition of mortal prosperity
and the tremendous uncertainty of human greatness; because in those
natural feelings we learn great lessons; because in events like
these our passions instruct our reason; because when kings are
hurled from their thrones by the Supreme Director of this great
drama and become the objects of insult to the base and of pity to
the good, we behold such disasters in the moral as we should behold
a miracle in the physical order of things. We are alarmed into
reflection; our minds (as it has long since been observed) are
purified by terror and pity, our weak, unthinking pride is humbled
under the dispensations of a mysterious wisdom. Some tears might be
drawn from me if such a spectacle were exhibited on the stage. I
should be truly ashamed of finding in myself that superficial,
theatric sense of painted distress whilst I could exult over it in
real life. With such a perverted mind I could never venture to show my
face at a tragedy. People would think the tears that Garrick formerly,
or that Siddons not long since, have extorted from me were the tears
of hypocrisy; I should know them to be the tears of folly.
Indeed, the theatre is a better school of moral sentiments than
churches, where the feelings of humanity are thus outraged. Poets
who have to deal with an audience not yet graduated in the school of
the rights of men and who must apply themselves to the moral
constitution of the heart would not dare to produce such a triumph
as a matter of exultation. There, where men follow their natural
impulses, they would not bear the odious maxims of a Machiavellian
policy, whether applied to the attainments of monarchical or
democratic tyranny. They would reject them on the modern as they
once did on the ancient stage, where they could not bear even the
hypothetical proposition of such wickedness in the mouth of a
personated tyrant, though suitable to the character he sustained. No
theatric audience in Athens would bear what has been borne in the
midst of the real tragedy of this triumphal day: a principal actor
weighing, as it were, in scales hung in a shop of horrors, so much
actual crime against so much contingent advantage; and after putting
in and out weights, declaring that the balance was on the side of
the advantages. They would not bear to see the crimes of new democracy
posted as in a ledger against the crimes of old despotism, and the
book-keepers of politics finding democracy still in debt, but by no
means unable or unwilling to pay the balance. In the theater, the
first intuitive glance, without any elaborate process of reasoning,
will show that this method of political computation would justify
every extent of crime. They would see that on these principles, even
where the very worst acts were not perpetrated, it was owing rather to
the fortune of the conspirators than to their parsimony in the
expenditure of treachery and blood. They would soon see that
criminal means once tolerated are soon preferred. They present a
shorter cut to the object than through the highway of the moral
virtues. Justifying perfidy and murder for public benefit, public
benefit would soon become the pretext, and perfidy and murder the end,
until rapacity, malice, revenge, and fear more dreadful than revenge
could satiate their insatiable appetites. Such must be the
consequences of losing, in the splendor of these triumphs of the
rights of men, all natural sense of wrong and right.

But the reverend pastor exults in this "leading in triumph",
because truly Louis the Sixteenth was "an arbitrary monarch"; that is,
in other words, neither more nor less than because he was Louis the
Sixteenth, and because he had the misfortune to be born king of
France, with the prerogatives of which a long line of ancestors and
a long acquiescence of the people, without any act of his, had put him
in possession. A misfortune it has indeed turned out to him that he
was born king of France. But misfortune is not crime, nor is
indiscretion always the greatest guilt. I shall never think that a
prince the acts of whose whole reign was a series of concessions to
his subjects, who was willing to relax his authority, to remit his
prerogatives, to call his people to a share of freedom not known,
perhaps not desired, by their ancestors- such a prince, though he
should be subjected to the common frailties attached to men and to
princes, though he should have once thought it necessary to provide
force against the desperate designs manifestly carrying on against his
person and the remnants of his authority- though all this should be
taken into consideration, I shall be led with great difficulty to
think he deserves the cruel and insulting triumph of Paris and of
Dr. Price. I tremble for the cause of liberty from such an example
to kings. I tremble for the cause of humanity in the unpunished
outrages of the most wicked of mankind. But there are some people of
that low and degenerate fashion of mind, that they look up with a sort
of complacent awe and admiration to kings who know to keep firm in
their seat, to hold a strict hand over their subjects, to assert their
prerogative, and, by the awakened vigilance of a severe despotism,
to guard against the very first approaches to freedom. Against such as
these they never elevate their voice. Deserters from principle, listed
with fortune, they never see any good in suffering virtue, nor any
crime in prosperous usurpation.
If it could have been made clear to me that the king and queen
of France (those I mean who were such before the triumph) were
inexorable and cruel tyrants, that they had formed a deliberate scheme
for massacring the National Assembly (I think I have seen something
like the latter insinuated in certain publications), I should think
their captivity just. If this be true, much more ought to have been
done, but done, in my opinion, in another manner. The punishment of
real tyrants is a noble and awful act of justice; and it has with
truth been said to be consolatory to the human mind. But if I were
to punish a wicked king, I should regard the dignity in avenging the
crime. Justice is grave and decorous, and in its punishments rather
seems to submit to a necessity than to make a choice. Had Nero, or
Agrippina, or Louis the Eleventh, or Charles the Ninth been the
subject; if Charles the Twelfth of Sweden, after the murder of Patkul,
or his predecessor Christina, after the murder of Monaldeschi, had
fallen into your hands, Sir, or into mine, I am sure our conduct would
have been different.
If the French king, or king of the French (or by whatever name
he is known in the new vocabulary of your constitution), has in his
own person and that of his queen really deserved these unavowed, but
unavenged, murderous attempts and those frequent indignities more
cruel than murder, such a person would ill deserve even that
subordinate executory trust which I understand is to be placed in him,
nor is he fit to be called chief in a nation which he has outraged and
oppressed. A worse choice for such an office in a new commonwealth
than that of a deposed tyrant could not possibly be made. But to
degrade and insult a man as the worst of criminals and afterwards to
trust him in your highest concerns as a faithful, honest, and
zealous servant is not consistent to reasoning, nor prudent in policy,
nor safe in practice. Those who could make such an appointment must be
guilty of a more flagrant breach of trust than any they have yet
committed against the people. As this is the only crime in which
your leading politicians could have acted inconsistently, I conclude
that there is no sort of ground for these horrid insinuations. I think
no better of all the other calumnies.

IN ENGLAND, we give no credit to them. We are generous enemies; we
are faithful allies. We spurn from us with disgust and indignation the
slanders of those who bring us their anecdotes with the attestation of
the flower-de-luce on their shoulder. We have Lord George Gordon
fast in Newgate; and neither his being a public proselyte to
Judaism, nor his having, in his zeal against Catholic priests and
all sorts of ecclesiastics, raised a mob (excuse the term, it is still
in use here) which pulled down all our prisons, have preserved to
him a liberty of which he did not render himself worthy by a
virtuous use of it. We have rebuilt Newgate and tenanted the
mansion. We have prisons almost as strong as the Bastille for those
who dare to libel the queens of France. In this spiritual retreat, let
the noble libeller remain. Let him there meditate on his Talmud
until he learns a conduct more becoming his birth and parts, and not
so disgraceful to the ancient religion to which he has become a
proselyte; or until some persons from your side of the water, to
please your new Hebrew brethren, shall ransom him. He may then be
enabled to purchase with the old boards of the synagogue and a very
small poundage on the long compound interest of the thirty pieces of
silver (Dr. Price has shown us what miracles compound interest will
perform in 1790 years,), the lands which are lately discovered to have
been usurped by the Gallican church. Send us your Popish archbishop of
Paris, and we will send you our Protestant Rabbin. We shall treat
the person you send us in exchange like a gentleman and an honest man,
as he is; but pray let him bring with him the fund of his hospitality,
bounty, and charity, and, depend upon it, we shall never confiscate
a shilling of that honorable and pious fund, nor think of enriching
the treasury with the spoils of the poor-box.
To tell you the truth, my dear Sir, I think the honor of our
nation to be somewhat concerned in the disclaimer of the proceedings
of this society of the Old Jewry and the London Tavern. I have no
man's proxy. I speak only for myself when I disclaim, as I do with all
possible earnestness, all communion with the actors in that triumph or
with the admirers of it. When I assert anything else as concerning the
people of England, I speak from observation, not from authority, but I
speak from the experience I have had in a pretty extensive and mixed
communication with the inhabitants of this kingdom, of all
descriptions and ranks, and after a course of attentive observations
begun early in life and continued for nearly forty years. I have often
been astonished, considering that we are divided from you but by a
slender dyke of about twenty-four miles, and that the mutual
intercourse between the two countries has lately been very great, to
find how little you seem to know of us. I suspect that this is owing
to your forming a judgment of this nation from certain publications
which do very erroneously, if they do at all, represent the opinions
and dispositions generally prevalent in England. The vanity,
restlessness, petulance, and spirit of intrigue, of several petty
cabals, who attempt to hide their total want of consequence in
bustle and noise, and puffing, and mutual quotation of each other,
makes you imagine that our contemptuous neglect of their abilities
is a mark of general acquiescence in their opinions. No such thing,
I assure you. Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make
the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great
cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud
and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise
are the only inhabitants of the field; that, of course, they are
many in number, or that, after all, they are other than the little,
shrivelled, meager, hopping, though loud and troublesome, insects of
the hour.
I almost venture to affirm that not one in a hundred amongst us
participates in the "triumph" of the Revolution Society. If the king
and queen of France, and their children, were to fall into our hands
by the chance of war, in the most acrimonious of all hostilities (I
deprecate such an event, I deprecate such hostility), they would be
treated with another sort of triumphal entry into London. We
formerly have had a king of France in that situation; you have read
how he was treated by the victor in the field, and in what manner he
was afterwards received in England. Four hundred years have gone
over us, but I believe we are not materially changed since that
period. Thanks to our sullen resistance to innovation, thanks to the
cold sluggishness of our national character, we still bear the stamp
of our forefathers. We have not (as I conceive) lost the generosity
and dignity of thinking of the fourteenth century, nor as yet have
we subtilized ourselves into savages. We are not the converts of
Rousseau; we are not the disciples of Voltaire; Helvetius has made
no progress amongst us. Atheists are not our preachers; madmen are not
our lawgivers. We know that we have made no discoveries, and we
think that no discoveries are to be made in morality, nor many in
the great principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty, which
were understood long before we were born, altogether as well as they
will be after the grace has heaped its mold upon our presumption and
the silent tomb shall have imposed its law on our pert loquacity. In
England we have not yet been completely embowelled of our natural
entrails; we still feel within us, and we cherish and cultivate, those
inbred sentiments which are the faithful guardians, the active
monitors of our duty, the true supporters of all liberal and manly
morals. We have not been drawn and trussed, in order that we may be
filled, like stuffed birds in a museum, with chaff and rags and paltry
blurred shreds of paper about the rights of men. We preserve the whole
of our feelings still native and entire, unsophisticated by pedantry
and infidelity. We have real hearts of flesh and blood beating in
our bosoms. We fear God; we look up with awe to kings, with
affection to parliaments, with duty to magistrates, with reverence
to priests, and with respect to nobility.* Why? Because when such
ideas are brought before our minds, it is natural to be so affected;
because all other feelings are false and spurious and tend to
corrupt our minds, to vitiate our primary morals, to render us unfit
for rational liberty, and, by teaching us a servile, licentious, and
abandoned insolence, to be our low sport for a few holidays, to make
us perfectly fit for, and justly deserving of, slavery through the
whole course of our lives.

* The English are, I conceive, misrepresented in a letter
published in one of the papers, by a gentleman thought to be a
dissenting minister.- When writing to Dr. Price of the spirit which
prevails at Paris, he says: "The spirit of the people in this place
has abolished all the proud distinctions which the king and nobles had
usurped in their minds; whether they talk of the king, the noble, or
the priest, their whole language is that of the most enlightened and
liberal amongst the English". If this gentleman means to confine the
terms "enlightened" and "liberal" to one set of men in England, it may
be true. It is not generally so.

YOU see, Sir, that in this enlightened age I am bold enough to
confess that we are generally men of untaught feelings, that,
instead of casting away all our old prejudices, we cherish them to a
very considerable degree, and, to take more shame to ourselves, we
cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have
lasted and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish
them. We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own
private stock of reason, because we suspect that this stock in each
man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail
themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.
Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general
prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom
which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom
fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the
reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice and to
leave nothing but the naked reason; because prejudice, with its
reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection
which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application in
the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of
wisdom and virtue and does not leave the man hesitating in the
moment of decision skeptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice
renders a man's virtue his habit, and not a series of unconnected
acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.

Your literary men and your politicians, and so do the whole clan
of the enlightened among us, essentially differ in these points.
They have no respect for the wisdom of others, but they pay it off
by a very full measure of confidence in their own. With them it is a
sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme of things because it is
an old one. As to the new, they are in no sort of fear with regard
to the duration of a building run up in haste, because duration is
no object to those who think little or nothing has been done before
their time, and who place all their hopes in discovery. They conceive,
very systematically, that all things which give perpetuity are
mischievous, and therefore they are at inexpiable war with all
establishments. They think that government may vary like modes of
dress, and with as little ill effect; that there needs no principle of
attachment, except a sense of present convenience, to any constitution
of the state. They always speak as if they were of opinion that
there is a singular species of compact between them and their
magistrates which binds the magistrate, but which has nothing
reciprocal in it, but that the majesty of the people has a right to
dissolve it without any reason but its will. Their attachment to their
country itself is only so far as it agrees with some of their fleeting
projects; it begins and ends with that scheme of polity which falls in
with their momentary opinion.
These doctrines, or rather sentiments, seem prevalent with your
new statesmen. But they are wholly different from those on which we
have always acted in this country.
I hear it is sometimes given out in France that what is doing
among you is after the example of England. I beg leave to affirm
that scarcely anything done with you has originated from the
practice or the prevalent opinions of this people, either in the act
or in the spirit of the proceeding. Let me add that we are as
unwilling to learn these lessons from France as we are sure that we
never taught them to that nation. The cabals here who take a sort of
share of your transactions as yet consist of but a handful of
people. If, unfortunately, by their intrigues, their sermons, their
publications, and by a confidence derived from an expected union
with the counsels and forces of the French nation, they should draw
considerable numbers into their faction, and in consequence should
seriously attempt anything here in imitation of what has been done
with you, the event, I dare venture to prophesy, will be that, with
some trouble to their country, they will soon accomplish their own
destruction. This people refused to change their law in remote ages
from respect to the infallibility of popes, and they will not now
alter it from a pious implicit faith in the dogmatism of philosophers,
though the former was armed with the anathema and crusade, and
though the latter should act with the libel and the lamp-iron.

Formerly, your affairs were your own concern only. We felt for
them as men, but we kept aloof from them because we were not
citizens of France. But when we see the model held up to ourselves, we
must feel as Englishmen, and feeling, we must provide as Englishmen.
Your affairs, in spite of us, are made a part of our interest, so
far at least as to keep at a distance your panacea, or your plague. If
it be a panacea, we do not want it. We know the consequences of
unnecessary physic. If it be a plague, it is such a plague that the
precautions of the most severe quarantine ought to be established
against it.
I hear on all hands that a cabal calling itself philosophic
receives the glory of many of the late proceedings, and that their
opinions and systems are the true actuating spirit of the whole of
them. I have heard of no party in England, literary or political, at
any time, known by such a description. It is not with you composed
of those men, is it, whom the vulgar in their blunt, homely style
commonly call atheists and infidels? If it be, I admit that we, too,
have had writers of that description who made some noise in their day.
At present they repose in lasting oblivion. Who, born within the
last forty years, has read one word of Collins, and Toland, and
Tindal, and Chubb, and Morgan, and that whole race who called
themselves Freethinkers? Who now reads Bolingbroke? Who ever read
him through? Ask the booksellers of London what is become of all these
lights of the world. In as few years their few successors will go to
the family vault of "all the Capulets". But whatever they were, or
are, with us, they were and are wholly unconnected individuals. With
us they kept the common nature of their kind and were not
gregarious. They never acted in corps or were known as a faction in
the state, nor presumed to influence in that name or character, or for
the purposes of such a faction, on any of our public concerns. Whether
they ought so to exist and so be permitted to act is another question.
As such cabals have not existed in England, so neither has the
spirit of them had any influence in establishing the original frame of
our constitution or in any one of the several reparations and
improvements it has undergone. The whole has been done under the
auspices, and is confirmed by the sanctions, of religion and piety.
The whole has emanated from the simplicity of our national character
and from a sort of native plainness and directness of understanding,
which for a long time characterized those men who have successively
obtained authority amongst us. This disposition still remains, at
least in the great body of the people.

WE KNOW, AND WHAT IS BETTER, we feel inwardly, that religion is
the basis of civil society and the source of all good and of all
comfort.* In England we are so convinced of this, that there is no
rust of superstition with which the accumulated absurdity of the human
mind might have crusted it over in the course of ages, that
ninety-nine in a hundred of the people of England would not prefer
to impiety. We shall never be such fools as to call in an enemy to the
substance of any system to remove its corruptions, to supply its
defects, or to perfect its construction. If our religious tenets
should ever want a further elucidation, we shall not call on atheism
to explain them. We shall not light up our temple from that unhallowed
fire. It will be illuminated with other lights. It will be perfumed
with other incense than the infectious stuff which is imported by
the smugglers of adulterated metaphysics. If our ecclesiastical
establishment should want a revision, it is not avarice or rapacity,
public or private, that we shall employ for the audit, or receipt,
or application of its consecrated revenue. Violently condemning
neither the Greek nor the Armenian, nor, since heats are subsided, the
Roman system of religion, we prefer the Protestant, not because we
think it has less of the Christian religion in it, but because, in our
judgment, it has more. We are Protestants, not from indifference,
but from zeal.

* Sit igitur hoc ab initio persuasum civibus, dominos esse
omnium rerum ac moderatores, deos; eaque, quae gerantur, eorum geri
vi, ditione, ac numine; eosdemque optime de genere hominum mereri;
et qualis quisque sit, quid agat, quid in se admittat, qua mente,
qua pietate colat religiones intueri; piorum et impiorum habere
rationem. His enim rebus imbutae mentes haud sane abhorrebunt ab utili
et a vera sententia. Cic. de Legibus, 1. 2.

We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his
constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our
reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long. But if, in
the moment of riot and in a drunken delirium from the hot spirit drawn
out of the alembic of hell, which in France is now so furiously
boiling, we should uncover our nakedness by throwing off that
Christian religion which has hitherto been our boast and comfort,
and one great source of civilization amongst us and amongst many other
nations, we are apprehensive (being well aware that the mind will
not endure a void) that some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading
superstition might take place of it.
For that reason, before we take from our establishment the
natural, human means of estimation and give it up to contempt, as
you have done, and in doing it have incurred the penalties you well
deserve to suffer, we desire that some other may be presented to us in
the place of it. We shall then form our judgment.
On these ideas, instead of quarrelling with establishments, as
some do who have made a philosophy and a religion of their hostility
to such institutions, we cleave closely to them. We are resolved to
keep an established church, an established monarchy, an established
aristocracy, and an established democracy, each in the degree it
exists, and in no greater. I shall show you presently how much of each
of these we possess.
It has been the misfortune (not, as these gentlemen think it,
the glory) of this age that everything is to be discussed as if the
constitution of our country were to be always a subject rather of
altercation than enjoyment. For this reason, as well as for the
satisfaction of those among you (if any such you have among you) who
may wish to profit of examples, I venture to trouble you with a few
thoughts upon each of these establishments. I do not think they were
unwise in ancient Rome who, when they wished to new-model their
laws, set commissioners to examine the best constituted republics
within their reach.

First, I beg leave to speak of our church establishment, which
is the first of our prejudices, not a prejudice destitute of reason,
but involving in it profound and extensive wisdom. I speak of it
first. It is first and last and midst in our minds. For, taking ground
on that religious system of which we are now in possession, we
continue to act on the early received and uniformly continued sense of
mankind. That sense not only, like a wise architect, hath built up the
august fabric of states, but, like a provident proprietor, to preserve
the structure from profanation and ruin, as a sacred temple purged
from all the impurities of fraud and violence and injustice and
tyranny, hath solemnly and forever consecrated the commonwealth and
all that officiate in it. This consecration is made that all who
administer the government of men, in which they stand in the person of
God himself, should have high and worthy notions of their function and
destination, that their hope should be full of immortality, that
they should not look to the paltry pelf of the moment nor to the
temporary and transient praise of the vulgar, but to a solid,
permanent existence in the permanent part of their nature, and to a
permanent fame and glory in the example they leave as a rich
inheritance to the world.
Such sublime principles ought to be infused into persons of
exalted situations, and religious establishments provided that may
continually revive and enforce them. Every sort of moral, every sort
of civil, every sort of politic institution, aiding the rational and
natural ties that connect the human understanding and affections to
the divine, are not more than necessary in order to build up that
wonderful structure Man, whose prerogative it is to be in a great
degree a creature of his own making, and who, when made as he ought to
be made, is destined to hold no trivial place in the creation. But
whenever man is put over men, as the better nature ought ever to
preside, in that case more particularly, he should as nearly as
possible be approximated to his perfection.
The consecration of the state by a state religious establishment
is necessary, also, to operate with a wholesome awe upon free
citizens, because, in order to secure their freedom, they must enjoy
some determinate portion of power. To them, therefore, a religion
connected with the state, and with their duty toward it, becomes
even more necessary than in such societies where the people, by the
terms of their subjection, are confined to private sentiments and
the management of their own family concerns. All persons possessing
any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with
an idea that they act in trust, and that they are to account for their
conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder
of society.

This principle ought even to be more strongly impressed upon the
minds of those who compose the collective sovereignty than upon
those of single princes. Without instruments, these princes can do
nothing. Whoever uses instruments, in finding helps, finds also
impediments. Their power is, therefore, by no means complete, nor
are they safe in extreme abuse. Such persons, however elevated by
flattery, arrogance, and self-opinion, must be sensible that,
whether covered or not by positive law, in some way or other they
are accountable even here for the abuse of their trust. If they are
not cut off by a rebellion of their people, they may be strangled by
the very janissaries kept for their security against all other
rebellion. Thus we have seen the king of France sold by his soldiers
for an increase of pay. But where popular authority is absolute and
unrestrained, the people have an infinitely greater, because a far
better founded, confidence in their own power. They are themselves, in
a great measure, their own instruments. They are nearer to their
objects. Besides, they are less under responsibility to one of the
greatest controlling powers on the earth, the sense of fame and
estimation. The share of infamy that is likely to fall to the lot of
each individual in public acts is small indeed, the operation of
opinion being in the inverse ratio to the number of those who abuse
power. Their own approbation of their own acts has to them the
appearance of a public judgment in their favor. A perfect democracy
is, therefore, the most shameless thing in the world. As it is the
most shameless, it is also the most fearless. No man apprehends in his
person that he can be made subject to punishment. Certainly the people
at large never ought, for as all punishments are for example toward
the conservation of the people at large, the people at large can never
become the subject of punishment by any human hand.* It is therefore
of infinite importance that they should not be suffered to imagine
that their will, any more than that of kings, is the standard of right
and wrong. They ought to be persuaded that they are full as little
entitled, and far less qualified with safety to themselves, to use any
arbitrary power whatsoever; that therefore they are not, under a false
show of liberty, but in truth to exercise an unnatural, inverted
domination, tyrannically to exact from those who officiate in the
state not an entire devotion to their interest, which is their
right, but an abject submission to their occasional will,
extinguishing thereby in all those who serve them all moral principle,
all sense of dignity, all use of judgment, and all consistency of
character; whilst by the very same process they give themselves up a
proper, a suitable, but a most contemptible prey to the servile
ambition of popular sycophants or courtly flatterers.

* Quicquid multis peccatur inultum.

When the people have emptied themselves of all the lust of selfish
will, which without religion it is utterly impossible they ever
should, when they are conscious that they exercise, and exercise
perhaps in a higher link of the order of delegation, the power,
which to be legitimate must be according to that eternal, immutable
law in which will and reason are the same, they will be more careful
how they place power in base and incapable hands. In their
nomination to office, they will not appoint to the exercise of
authority as to a pitiful job, but as to a holy function, not
according to their sordid, selfish interest, nor to their wanton
caprice, nor to their arbitrary will, but they will confer that
power (which any man may well tremble to give or to receive) on
those only in whom they may discern that predominant proportion of
active virtue and wisdom, taken together and fitted to the charge,
such as in the great and inevitable mixed mass of human
imperfections and infirmities is to be found.
When they are habitually convinced that no evil can be acceptable,
either in the act or the permission, to him whose essence is good,
they will be better able to extirpate out of the minds of all
magistrates, civil, ecclesiastical, or military, anything that bears
the least resemblance to a proud and lawless domination.
But one of the first and most leading principles on which the
commonwealth and the laws are consecrated is, lest the temporary
possessors and life-renters in it, unmindful of what they have
received from their ancestors or of what is due to their posterity,
should act as if they were the entire masters, that they should not
think it among their rights to cut off the entail or commit waste on
the inheritance by destroying at their pleasure the whole original
fabric of their society, hazarding to leave to those who come after
them a ruin instead of an habitation- and teaching these successors as
little to respect their contrivances as they had themselves
respected the institutions of their forefathers. By this
unprincipled facility of changing the state as often, and as much, and
in as many ways as there are floating fancies or fashions, the whole
chain and continuity of the commonwealth would be broken. No one
generation could link with the other. Men would become little better
than the flies of a summer.
And first of all, the science of jurisprudence, the pride of the
human intellect, which with all its defects, redundancies, and
errors is the collected reason of ages, combining the principles of
original justice with the infinite variety of human concerns, as a
heap of old exploded errors, would be no longer studied. Personal
self-sufficiency and arrogance (the certain attendants upon all
those who have never experienced a wisdom greater than their own)
would usurp the tribunal. Of course, no certain laws, establishing
invariable grounds of hope and fear, would keep the actions of men
in a certain course or direct them to a certain end. Nothing stable in
the modes of holding property or exercising function could form a
solid ground on which any parent could speculate in the education of
his offspring or in a choice for their future establishment in the
world. No principles would be early worked into the habits. As soon as
the most able instructor had completed his laborious course of
institution, instead of sending forth his pupil, accomplished in a
virtuous discipline, fitted to procure him attention and respect in
his place in society, he would find everything altered, and that he
had turned out a poor creature to the contempt and derision of the
world, ignorant of the true grounds of estimation. Who would insure
a tender and delicate sense of honor to beat almost with the first
pulses of the heart when no man could know what would be the test of
honor in a nation continually varying the standard of its coin? No
part of life would retain its acquisitions. Barbarism with regard to
science and literature, unskilfulness with regard to arts and
manufactures, would infallibly succeed to the want of a steady
education and settled principle; and thus the commonwealth itself
would, in a few generations, crumble away, be disconnected into the
dust and powder of individuality, and at length dispersed to all the
winds of heaven.

To avoid, therefore, the evils of inconstancy and versatility, ten
thousand times worse than those of obstinacy and the blindest
prejudice, we have consecrated the state, that no man should
approach to look into its defects or corruptions but with due caution,
that he should never dream of beginning its reformation by its
subversion, that he should approach to the faults of the state as to
the wounds of a father, with pious awe and trembling solicitude. By
this wise prejudice we are taught to look with horror on those
children of their country who are prompt rashly to hack that aged
parent in pieces and put him into the kettle of magicians, in hopes
that by their poisonous weeds and wild incantations they may
regenerate the paternal constitution and renovate their father's life.

SOCIETY is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of
mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure- but the state
ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership
agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico, or tobacco, or some
other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary
interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be
looked on with other reverence, because it is not a partnership in
things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary
and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a
partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue and in all
perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in
many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those
who are living, but between those who are living, those who are
dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular
state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal
society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the
visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned
by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures,
each in their appointed place. This law is not subject to the will
of those who by an obligation above them, and infinitely superior, are
bound to submit their will to that law. The municipal corporations
of that universal kingdom are not morally at liberty at their
pleasure, and on their speculations of a contingent improvement,
wholly to separate and tear asunder the bands of their subordinate
community and to dissolve it into an unsocial, uncivil, unconnected
chaos of elementary principles. It is the first and supreme
necessity only, a necessity that is not chosen but chooses, a
necessity paramount to deliberation, that admits no discussion and
demands no evidence, which alone can justify a resort to anarchy. This
necessity is no exception to the rule, because this necessity itself
is a part, too, of that moral and physical disposition of things to
which man must be obedient by consent or force; but if that which is
only submission to necessity should be made the object of choice,
the law is broken, nature is disobeyed, and the rebellious are
outlawed, cast forth, and exiled from this world of reason, and order,
and peace, and virtue, and fruitful penitence, into the antagonist
world of madness, discord, vice, confusion, and unavailing sorrow.

These, my dear Sir, are, were, and, I think, long will be the
sentiments of not the least learned and reflecting part of this
kingdom. They who are included in this description form their opinions
on such grounds as such persons ought to form them. The less inquiring
receive them from an authority which those whom Providence dooms to
live on trust need not be ashamed to rely on. These two sorts of men
move in the same direction, though in a different place. They both
move with the order of the universe. They all know or feel this
great ancient truth: Quod illi principi et praepotenti Deo qui omnem
hunc mundum regit, nihil eorum quae quidem fiant in terris acceptius
quam concilia et coetus hominum jure sociati quae civitates
appellantur. They take this tenet of the head and heart, not from
the great name which it immediately bears, nor from the greater from
whence it is derived, but from that which alone can give true weight
and sanction to any learned opinion, the common nature and common
relation of men. Persuaded that all things ought to be done with
reference, and referring all to the point of reference to which all
should be directed, they think themselves bound, not only as
individuals in the sanctuary of the heart or as congregated in that
personal capacity, to renew the memory of their high origin and
cast, but also in their corporate character to perform their
national homage to the institutor and author and protector of civil
society; without which civil society man could not by any
possibility arrive at the perfection of which his nature is capable,
nor even make a remote and faint approach to it. They conceive that He
who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue willed also the
necessary means of its perfection. He willed therefore the state- He
willed its connection with the source and original archetype of all
perfection. They who are convinced of this His will, which is the
law of laws and the sovereign of sovereigns, cannot think it
reprehensible that this our corporate fealty and homage, that this our
recognition of a seigniory paramount, I had almost said this
oblation of the state itself as a worthy offering on the high altar of
universal praise, should be performed as all public, solemn acts are
performed, in buildings, in music, in decoration, in speech, in the
dignity of persons, according to the customs of mankind taught by
their nature; that is, with modest splendor and unassuming state, with
mild majesty and sober pomp. For those purposes they think some part
of the wealth of the country is as usefully employed as it can be in
fomenting the luxury of individuals. It is the public ornament. It
is the public consolation. It nourishes the public hope. The poorest
man finds his own importance and dignity in it, whilst the wealth
and pride of individuals at every moment makes the man of humble
rank and fortune sensible of his inferiority and degrades and vilifies
his condition. It is for the man in humble life, and to raise his
nature and to put him in mind of a state in which the privileges of
opulence will cease, when he will be equal by nature, and may be
more than equal by virtue, that this portion of the general wealth
of his country is employed and sanctified.
I assure you I do not aim at singularity. I give you opinions
which have been accepted amongst us, from very early times to this
moment, with a continued and general approbation, and which indeed are
worked into my mind that I am unable to distinguish what I have
learned from others from the results of my own meditation.
It is on some such principles that the majority of the people of
England, far from thinking a religious national establishment
unlawful, hardly think it lawful to be without one. In France you
are wholly mistaken if you do not believe us above all other things
attached to it, and beyond all other nations; and when this people has
acted unwisely and unjustifiably in its favor (as in some instances
they have done most certainly), in their very errors you will at least
discover their zeal.
This principle runs through the whole system of their polity. They
do not consider their church establishment as convenient, but as
essential to their state, not as a thing heterogeneous and
separable, something added for accommodation, what they may either
keep or lay aside according to their temporary ideas of convenience.
They consider it as the foundation of their whole constitution, with
which, and with every part of which, it holds an indissoluble union.
Church and state are ideas inseparable in their minds, and scarcely is
the one ever mentioned without mentioning the other.

Our education is so formed as to confirm and fix this
impression. Our education is in a manner wholly in the hands of
ecclesiastics, and in all stages from infancy to manhood. Even when
our youth, leaving schools and universities, enter that most important
period of life which begins to link experience and study together, and
when with that view they visit other countries, instead of old
domestics whom we have seen as governors to principal men from other
parts, three-fourths of those who go abroad with our young nobility
and gentlemen are ecclesiastics, not as austere masters, nor as mere
followers, but as friends and companions of a graver character, and
not seldom persons as well-born as themselves. With them, as
relations, they most constantly keep a close connection through
life. By this connection we conceive that we attach our gentlemen to
the church, and we liberalize the church by an intercourse with the
leading characters of the country.
So tenacious are we of the old ecclesiastical modes and fashions
of institution that very little alteration has been made in them since
the fourteenth or fifteenth century; adhering in this particular, as
in all things else, to our old settled maxim, never entirely nor at
once to depart from antiquity. We found these old institutions, on the
whole, favorable to morality and discipline, and we thought they
were susceptible of amendment without altering the ground. We
thought that they were capable of receiving and meliorating, and above
all of preserving, the accessions of science and literature, as the
order of Providence should successively produce them. And after all,
with this Gothic and monkish education (for such it is in the
groundwork) we may put in our claim to as ample and as early a share
in all the improvements in science, in arts, and in literature which
have illuminated and adorned the modern world, as any other nation
in Europe. We think one main cause of this improvement was our not
despising the patrimony of knowledge which was left us by our
It is from our attachment to a church establishment that the
English nation did not think it wise to entrust that great,
fundamental interest of the whole to what they trust no part of
their civil or military public service, that is, to the unsteady and
precarious contribution of individuals. They go further. They
certainly never have suffered, and never will suffer, the fixed estate
of the church to be converted into a pension, to depend on the
treasury and to be delayed, withheld, or perhaps to be extinguished by
fiscal difficulties, which difficulties may sometimes be pretended for
political purposes, and are in fact often brought on by the
extravagance, negligence, and rapacity of politicians. The people of
England think that they have constitutional motives, as well as
religious, against any project of turning their independent clergy
into ecclesiastical pensioners of state. They tremble for their
liberty, from the influence of a clergy dependent on the crown; they
tremble for the public tranquillity from the disorders of a factious
clergy, if it were made to depend upon any other than the crown.
They therefore made their church, like their king and their
nobility, independent.
From the united considerations of religion and constitutional
policy, from their opinion of a duty to make sure provision for the
consolation of the feeble and the instruction of the ignorant, they
have incorporated and identified the estate of the church with the
mass of private property, of which the state is not the proprietor,
either for use or dominion, but the guardian only and the regulator.
They have ordained that the provision of this establishment might be
as stable as the earth on which it stands, and should not fluctuate
with the Euripus of funds and actions.

The men of England, the men, I mean, of light and leading in
England, whose wisdom (if they have any) is open and direct, would
be ashamed, as of a silly deceitful trick, to profess any religion
in name which, by their proceedings, they appear to contemn. If by
their conduct (the only language that rarely lies) they seemed to
regard the great ruling principle of the moral and the natural world
as a mere invention to keep the vulgar in obedience, they apprehend
that by such a conduct they would defeat the politic purpose they have
in view. They would find it difficult to make others believe in a
system to which they manifestly give no credit themselves. The
Christian statesmen of this land would indeed first provide for the
multitude, because it is the multitude, and is therefore, as such, the
first object in the ecclesiastical institution, and in all
institutions. They have been taught that the circumstance of the
gospel's being preached to the poor was one of the great tests of
its true mission. They think, therefore, that those do not believe
it who do not take care it should be preached to the poor. But as they
know that charity is not confined to any one description, but ought to
apply itself to all men who have wants, they are not deprived of a due
and anxious sensation of pity to the distresses of the miserable
great. They are not repelled through a fastidious delicacy, at the
stench of their arrogance and presumption, from a medicinal
attention to their mental blotches and running sores. They are
sensible that religious instruction is of more consequence to them
than to any others- from the greatness of the temptation to which they
are exposed; from the important consequences that attend their faults;
from the contagion of their ill example; from the necessity of
bowing down the stubborn neck of their pride and ambition to the
yoke of moderation and virtue; from a consideration of the fat
stupidity and gross ignorance concerning what imports men most to
know, which prevails at courts, and at the head of armies, and in
senates as much as at the loom and in the field.
The English people are satisfied that to the great the
consolations of religion are as necessary as its instructions. They,
too, are among the unhappy. They feel personal pain and domestic
sorrow. In these they have no privilege, but are subject to pay
their full contingent to the contributions levied on mortality. They
want this sovereign balm under their gnawing cares and anxieties,
which, being less conversant about the limited wants of animal life,
range without limit, and are diversified by infinite combinations,
in the wild and unbounded regions of imagination. Some charitable dole
is wanting to these our often very unhappy brethren to fill the gloomy
void that reigns in minds which have nothing on earth to hope or fear;
something to relieve in the killing languor and overlabored
lassitude of those who have nothing to do; something to excite an
appetite to existence in the palled satiety which attends on all
pleasures which may be bought where nature is not left to her own
process, where even desire is anticipated, and therefore fruition
defeated by meditated schemes and contrivances of delight; and no
interval, no obstacle, is interposed between the wish and the

The people of England know how little influence the teachers of
religion are likely to have with the wealthy and powerful of long
standing, and how much less with the newly fortunate, if they appear
in a manner no way assorted to those with whom they must associate,
and over whom they must even exercise, in some cases, something like
an authority. What must they think of that body of teachers if they
see it in no part above the establishment of their domestic
servants? If the poverty were voluntary, there might be some
difference. Strong instances of self-denial operate powerfully on
our minds, and a man who has no wants has obtained great freedom and
firmness and even dignity. But as the mass of any description of men
are but men, and their poverty cannot be voluntary, that disrespect
which attends upon all lay poverty will not depart from the
ecclesiastical. Our provident constitution has therefore taken care
that those who are to instruct presumptuous ignorance, those who are
to be censors over insolent vice, should neither incur their
contempt nor live upon their alms, nor will it tempt the rich to a
neglect of the true medicine of their minds. For these reasons, whilst
we provide first for the poor, and with a parental solicitude, we have
not relegated religion (like something we were ashamed to show) to
obscure municipalities or rustic villages. No! we will have her to
exalt her mitred front in courts and parliaments. We will have her
mixed throughout the whole mass of life and blended with all the
classes of society. The people of England will show to the haughty
potentates of the world, and to their talking sophisters, that a free,
a generous, an informed nation honors the high magistrates of its
church; that it will not suffer the insolence of wealth and titles, or
any other species of proud pretension, to look down with scorn upon
what they looked up to with reverence; nor presume to trample on
that acquired personal nobility which they intend always to be, and
which often is, the fruit, not the reward (for what can be the
reward?) of learning, piety, and virtue. They can see, without pain or
grudging, an archbishop precede a duke. They can see a bishop of
Durham, or a bishop of Winchester, in possession of ten thousand
pounds a year, and cannot conceive why it is in worse hands than
estates to the like amount in the hands of this earl or that squire,
although it may be true that so many dogs and horses are not kept by
the former and fed with the victuals which ought to nourish the
children of the people. It is true, the whole church revenue is not
always employed, and to every shilling, in charity, nor perhaps
ought it, but something is generally employed. It is better to cherish
virtue and humanity by leaving much to free will, even with some
loss to the object, than to attempt to make men mere machines and
instruments of a political benevolence. The world on the whole will
gain by a liberty without which virtue cannot exist.
When once the commonwealth has established the estates of the
church as property, it can, consistently, hear nothing of the more
or the less. "Too much" and "too little" are treason against property.
What evil can arise from the quantity in any hand whilst the supreme
authority has the full, sovereign superintendence over this, as over
all property, to prevent every species of abuse, and, whenever it
notably deviates, to give to it a direction agreeable to the
purposes of its institution?
In England most of us conceive that it is envy and malignity
toward those who are often the beginners of their own fortune, and not
a love of the self-denial and mortification of the ancient church,
that makes some look askance at the distinctions, and honors, and
revenues which, taken from no person, are set apart for virtue. The
ears of the people of England are distinguishing. They hear these
men speak broad. Their tongue betrays them. Their language is in the
patois of fraud, in the cant and gibberish of hypocrisy. The people of
England must think so when these praters affect to carry back the
clergy to that primitive, evangelic poverty which, in the spirit,
ought always to exist in them (and in us, too, however we may like
it), but in the thing must be varied when the relation of that body to
the state is altered- when manners, when modes of life, when indeed
the whole order of human affairs has undergone a total revolution.
We shall believe those reformers, then, to be honest enthusiasts, not,
as now we think them, cheats and deceivers, when we see them
throwing their own goods into common and submitting their own
persons to the austere discipline of the early church.
With these ideas rooted in their minds, the commons of Great
Britain, in the national emergencies, will never seek their resource
from the confiscation of the estates of the church and poor. Sacrilege
and proscription are not among the ways and means of our committee
of supply. The Jews in Change Alley have not yet dared to hint their
hopes of a mortgage on the revenues belonging to the see of
Canterbury. I am not afraid that I shall be disavowed when I assure
you that there is not one public man in this kingdom whom you would
wish to quote, no, not one, of any party or description, who does
not reprobate the dishonest, perfidious, and cruel confiscation
which the National Assembly has been compelled to make of that
property which it was their first duty to protect.
It is with the exultation of a little national pride I tell you
that those amongst us who have wished to pledge the societies of Paris
in the cup of their abominations have been disappointed. The robbery
of your church has proved a security to the possession of ours. It has
roused the people. They see with horror and alarm that enormous and
shameless act of proscription. It has opened, and will more and more
open, their eyes upon the selfish enlargement of mind and the narrow
liberality of sentiment of insidious men, which, commencing in close
hypocrisy and fraud, have ended in open violence and rapine. At home
we behold similar beginnings. We are on our guard against similar

I HOPE WE SHALL NEVER be so totally lost to all sense of the
duties imposed upon us by the law of social union as, upon any pretext
of public service, to confiscate the goods of a single unoffending
citizen. Who but a tyrant (a name expressive of everything which can
vitiate and degrade human nature) could think of seizing on the
property of men unaccused, unheard, untried, by whole descriptions, by
hundreds and thousands together? Who that had not lost every trace
of humanity could think of casting down men of exalted rank and sacred
function, some of them of an age to call at once for reverence and
compassion, of casting them down from the highest situation in the
commonwealth, wherein they were maintained by their own landed
property, to a state of indigence, depression, and contempt?
The confiscators truly have made some allowance to their victims
from the scraps and fragments of their own tables from which they have
been so harshly driven, and which have been so bountifully spread
for a feast to the harpies of usury. But to drive men from
independence to live on alms is itself great cruelty. That which might
be a tolerable condition to men in one state of life, and not
habituated to other things, may, when all these circumstances are
altered, be a dreadful revolution, and one to which a virtuous mind
would feel pain in condemning any guilt except that which would demand
the life of the offender. But to many minds this punishment of
degradation and infamy is worse than death. Undoubtedly it is an
infinite aggravation of this cruel suffering that the persons who were
taught a double prejudice in favor of religion, by education and by
the place they held in the administration of its functions, are to
receive the remnants of their property as alms from the profane and
impious hands of those who had plundered them of all the rest; to
receive (if they are at all to receive), not from the charitable
contributions of the faithful but from the insolent tenderness of
known and avowed atheism, the maintenance of religion measured out
to them on the standard of the contempt in which it is held, and for
the purpose of rendering those who receive the allowance vile and of
no estimation in the eyes of mankind.
But this act of seizure of property, it seems, is a judgment in
law, and not a confiscation. They have, it seems, found out in the
academies of the Palais Royal and the Jacobins that certain men had no
right to the possessions which they held under law, usage, the
decisions of courts, and the accumulated prescription of a thousand
years. They say that ecclesiastics are fictitious persons, creatures
of the state, whom at pleasure they may destroy, and of course limit
and modify in every particular; that the goods they possess are not
properly theirs but belong to the state which created the fiction; and
we are therefore not to trouble ourselves with what they may suffer in
their natural feelings and natural persons on account of what is
done toward them in this their constructive character. Of what
import is it under what names you injure men and deprive them of the
just emoluments of a profession, in which they were not only permitted
but encouraged by the state to engage, and upon the supposed certainty
of which emoluments they had formed the plan of their lives,
contracted debts, and led multitudes to an entire dependence upon
You do not imagine, Sir, that I am going to compliment this
miserable distinction of persons with any long discussion. The
arguments of tyranny are as contemptible as its force is dreadful. Had
not your confiscators, by their early crimes, obtained a power which
secures indemnity to all the crimes of which they have since been
guilty or that they can commit, it is not the syllogism of the
logician, but the lash of the executioner, that would have refuted a
sophistry which becomes an accomplice of theft and murder. The
sophistic tyrants of Paris are loud in their declamations against
the departed regal tyrants, who in former ages have vexed the world.
They are thus bold, because they are safe from the dungeons and iron
cages of their old masters. Shall we be more tender of the tyrants
of our own time, when we see them acting worse tragedies under our
eyes? Shall we not use the same liberty that they do, when we can
use it with the same safety- when to speak honest truth only
requires a contempt of the opinions of those whose actions we abhor?
This outrage on all the rights of property was at first covered
with what, on the system of their conduct, was the most astonishing of
all pretexts- a regard to national faith. The enemies to property at
first pretended a most tender, delicate, and scrupulous anxiety for
keeping the king's engagements with the public creditor. These
professors of the rights of men are so busy in teaching others that
they have not leisure to learn anything themselves; otherwise they
would have known that it is to the property of the citizen, and not to
the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and
original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen
is prior in time, paramount in title, superior in equity. The fortunes
of individuals, whether possessed by acquisition or by descent or in
virtue of a participation in the goods of some community, were no part
of the creditor's security, expressed or implied. They never so much
as entered into his head when he made his bargain. He well knew that
the public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can
pledge nothing but the public estate; and it can have no public estate
except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon
the citizens at large. This was engaged, and nothing else could be
engaged, to the public creditor. No man can mortgage his injustice
as a pawn for his fidelity.

It is impossible to avoid some observation on the contradictions
caused by the extreme rigor and the extreme laxity of this new
public faith which influenced in this transaction, and which
influenced not according to the nature of the obligation, but to the
description of the persons to whom it was engaged. No acts of the
old government of the kings of France are held valid in the National
Assembly except its pecuniary engagements: acts of all others of the
most ambiguous legality. The rest of the acts of that royal government
are considered in so odious a light that to have a claim under its
authority is looked on as a sort of crime. A pension, given as a
reward for service to the state, is surely as good a ground of
property as any security for money advanced to the state. It is
better; for money is paid, and well paid, to obtain that service. We
have, however, seen multitudes of people under this description in
France who never had been deprived of their allowances by the most
arbitrary ministers in the most arbitrary times, by this assembly of
the rights of men robbed without mercy. They were told, in answer to
their claim to the bread earned with their blood, that their
services had not been rendered to the country that now exists.
This laxity of public faith is not confined to those unfortunate
persons. The Assembly, with perfect consistency it must be owned, is
engaged in a respectable deliberation how far it is bound by the
treaties made with other nations under the former government, and
their committee is to report which of them they ought to ratify, and
which not. By this means they have put the external fidelity of this
virgin state on a par with its internal.
It is not easy to conceive upon what rational principle the
royal government should not, of the two, rather have possessed the
power of rewarding service and making treaties, in virtue of its
prerogative, than that of pledging to creditors the revenue of the
state, actual and possible. The treasure of the nation, of all things,
has been the least allowed to the prerogative of the king of France or
to the prerogative of any king in Europe. To mortgage the public
revenue implies the sovereign dominion, in the fullest sense, over the
public purse. It goes far beyond the trust even of a temporary and
occasional taxation. The acts, however, of that dangerous power (the
distinctive mark of a boundless despotism) have been alone held
sacred. Whence arose this preference given by a democratic assembly to
a body of property deriving its title from the most critical and
obnoxious of all the exertions of monarchical authority? Reason can
furnish nothing to reconcile inconsistency, nor can partial favor be
accounted for upon equitable principles. But the contradiction and
partiality which admit no justification are not the less without an
adequate cause; and that cause I do not think it difficult to

By the vast debt of France a great monied interest had
insensibly grown up, and with it a great power. By the ancient
usages which prevailed in that kingdom, the general circulation of
property, and in particular the mutual convertibility of land into
money, and of money into land, had always been a matter of difficulty.
Family settlements, rather more general and more strict than they
are in England, the jus retractus, the great mass of landed property
held by the crown, and, by a maxim of the French law, held
unalienably, the vast estates of the ecclesiastical corporations-
all these had kept the landed and monied interests more separated in
France, less miscible, and the owners of the two distinct species of
property not so well disposed to each other as they are in this
The monied property was long looked on with rather an evil eye
by the people. They saw it connected with their distresses, and
aggravating them. It was no less envied by the old landed interests,
partly for the same reasons that rendered it obnoxious to the
people, but much more so as it eclipsed, by the splendor of an
ostentatious luxury, the unendowed pedigrees and naked titles of
several among the nobility. Even when the nobility which represented
the more permanent landed interest united themselves by marriage
(which sometimes was the case) with the other description, the
wealth which saved the family from ruin was supposed to contaminate
and degrade it. Thus the enmities and heartburnings of these parties
were increased even by the usual means by which discord is made to
cease and quarrels are turned into friendship. In the meantime, the
pride of the wealthy men, not noble or newly noble, increased with its
cause. They felt with resentment an inferiority, the grounds of
which they did not acknowledge. There was no measure to which they
were not willing to lend themselves in order to be revenged of the
outrages of this rival pride and to exalt their wealth to what they
considered as its natural rank and estimation. They struck at the
nobility through the crown and the church. They attacked them
particularly on the side on which they thought them the most
vulnerable, that is, the possessions of the church, which, through the
patronage of the crown, generally devolved upon the nobility. The
bishoprics and the great commendatory abbeys were, with few
exceptions, held by that order.
In this state of real, though not always perceived, warfare
between the noble ancient landed interest and the new monied interest,
the greatest, because the most applicable, strength was in the hands
of the latter. The monied interest is in its nature more ready for any
adventure, and its possessors more disposed to new enterprises of
any kind. Being of a recent acquisition, it falls in more naturally
with any novelties. It is therefore the kind of wealth which will be
resorted to by all who wish for change.

Along with the monied interest, a new description of men had grown
up with whom that interest soon formed a close and marked union- I
mean the political men of letters. Men of letters, fond of
distinguishing themselves, are rarely averse to innovation. Since
the decline of the life and greatness of Louis the Fourteenth, they
were not so much cultivated, either by him or by the regent or the
successors to the crown, nor were they engaged to the court by
favors and emoluments so systematically as during the splendid
period of that ostentatious and not impolitic reign. What they lost in
the old court protection, they endeavored to make up by joining in a
sort of incorporation of their own; to which the two academies of
France, and afterwards the vast undertaking of the Encyclopedia,
carried on by a society of these gentlemen, did not a little
The literary cabal had some years ago formed something like a
regular plan for the destruction of the Christian religion. This
object they pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been
discovered only in the propagators of some system of piety. They
were possessed with a spirit of proselytism in the most fanatical
degree; and from thence, by an easy progress, with the spirit of
persecution according to their means.* What was not to be done
toward their great end by any direct or immediate act might be wrought
by a longer process through the medium of opinion. To command that
opinion, the first step is to establish a dominion over those who
direct it. They contrived to possess themselves, with great method and
perseverance, of all the avenues to literary fame. Many of them indeed
stood high in the ranks of literature and science. The world had
done them justice and in favor of general talents forgave the evil
tendency of their peculiar principles. This was true liberality, which
they returned by endeavoring to confine the reputation of sense,
learning, and taste to themselves or their followers. I will venture
to say that this narrow, exclusive spirit has not been less
prejudicial to literature and to taste than to morals and true
philosophy. These atheistical fathers have a bigotry of their own, and
they have learned to talk against monks with the spirit of a monk. But
in some things they are men of the world. The resources of intrigue
are called in to supply the defects of argument and wit. To this
system of literary monopoly was joined an unremitting industry to
blacken and discredit in every way, and by every means, all those
who did not hold to their faction. To those who have observed the
spirit of their conduct it has long been clear that nothing was wanted
but the power of carrying the intolerance of the tongue and of the pen
into a persecution which would strike at property, liberty, and life.

* This (down to the end of the first sentence in the next
paragraph) and some other parts here and there were inserted, on his
reading the manuscript, by my lost Son.

The desultory and faint persecution carried on against them,
more from compliance with form and decency than with serious
resentment, neither weakened their strength nor relaxed their efforts.
The issue of the whole was that, what with opposition, and what with
success, a violent and malignant zeal, of a kind hitherto unknown in
the world, had taken an entire possession of their minds and
rendered their whole conversation, which otherwise would have been
pleasing and instructive, perfectly disgusting. A spirit of cabal,
intrigue, and proselytism pervaded all their thoughts, words, and
actions. And as controversial zeal soon turns its thoughts on force,
they began to insinuate themselves into a correspondence with
foreign princes, in hopes through their authority, which at first they
flattered, they might bring about the changes they had in view. To
them it was indifferent whether these changes were to be
accomplished by the thunderbolt of despotism or by the earthquake of
popular commotion. The correspondence between this cabal and the
late king of Prussia will throw no small light upon the spirit of
all their proceedings.* For the same purpose for which they
intrigued with princes, they cultivated, in a distinguished manner,
the monied interest of France; and partly through the means
furnished by those whose peculiar offices gave them the most extensive
and certain means of communication, they carefully occupied all the
avenues to opinion.

* I do not choose to shock the feeling of the moral reader with
any quotation of their vulgar, base, and profane language.

Writers, especially when they act in a body and with one
direction, have great influence on the public mind; the alliance,
therefore, of these writers with the monied interest* had no small
effect in removing the popular odium and envy which attended that
species of wealth. These writers, like the propagators of all
novelties, pretended to a great zeal for the poor and the lower
orders, whilst in their satires they rendered hateful, by every
exaggeration, the faults of courts, of nobility, and of priesthood.
They became a sort of demagogues. They served as a link to unite, in
favor of one object, obnoxious wealth to restless and desperate

* Their connection with Turgot and almost all the people of the

As these two kinds of men appear principal leaders in all the late
transactions, their junction and politics will serve to account, not
upon any principles of law or of policy, but as a cause, for the
general fury with which all the landed property of ecclesiastical
corporations has been attacked; and the great care which, contrary
to their pretended principles, has been taken of a monied interest
originating from the authority of the crown. All the envy against
wealth and power was artificially directed against other
descriptions of riches. On what other principle than that which I have
stated can we account for an appearance so extraordinary and unnatural
as that of the ecclesiastical possessions, which had stood so many
successions of ages and shocks of civil violences, and were girded
at once by justice and by prejudice, being applied to the payment of
debts comparatively recent, invidious, and contracted by a decried and
subverted government?

WAS the public estate a sufficient stake for the public debts?
Assume that it was not, and that a loss must be incurred somewhere.-
When the only estate lawfully possessed, and which the contracting
parties had in contemplation at the time in which their bargain was
made, happens to fail, who according to the principles of natural
and legal equity ought to be the sufferer? Certainly it ought to be
either the party who trusted or the party who persuaded him to
trust, or both, and not third parties who had no concern with the
transaction. Upon any insolvency they ought to suffer who are weak
enough to lend upon bad security, or they who fraudulently held out
a security that was not valid. Laws are acquainted with no other rules
of decision. But by the new institute of the rights of men, the only
persons who in equity ought to suffer are the only persons who are
to be saved harmless: those are to answer the debt who neither were
lenders nor borrowers, mortgagers nor mortgagees.
What had the clergy to do with these transactions? What had they
to do with any public engagement further than the extent of their
own debt? To that, to be sure, their estates were bound to the last
acre. Nothing can lead more to the true spirit of the Assembly,
which sits for public confiscation, with its new equity and its new
morality, than an attention to their proceeding with regard to this
debt of the clergy. The body of confiscators, true to that monied
interest for which they were false to every other, have found the
clergy competent to incur a legal debt. Of course, they declared
them legally entitled to the property which their power of incurring
the debt and mortgaging the estate implied, recognizing the rights
of those persecuted citizens in the very act in which they were thus
grossly violated.
If, as I said, any persons are to make good deficiencies to the
public creditor, besides the public at large, they must be those who
managed the agreement. Why, therefore, are not the estates of all
the comptrollers-general confiscated?* Why not those of the long
succession of ministers, financiers, and bankers who have been
enriched whilst the nation was impoverished by their dealings and
their counsels? Why is not the estate of M. Laborde declared forfeited
rather than of the archbishop of Paris, who has had nothing to do in
the creation or in the jobbing of the public funds? Or, if you must
confiscate old landed estates in favor of the money-jobbers, why is
the penalty confined to one description? I do not know whether the
expenses of the Duke de Choiseul have left anything of the infinite
sums which he had derived from the bounty of his master during the
transactions of a reign which contributed largely by every species
of prodigality in war and peace to the present debt of France. If
any such remains, why is not this confiscated? I remember to have been
in Paris during the time of the old government. I was there just after
the Duke d'Aiguillon had been snatched (as it was generally thought)
from the block by the hand of a protecting despotism. He was a
minister and had some concern in the affairs of that prodigal
period. Why do I not see his estate delivered up to the municipalities
in which it is situated? The noble family of Noailles have long been
servants (meritorious servants I admit) to the crown of France, and
have had, of course, some share in its bounties. Why do I hear nothing
of the application of their estates to the public debt? Why is the
estate of the Duke de Rochefoucault more sacred than that of the
Cardinal de Rochefoucault? The former is, I doubt not, a worthy
person, and (if it were not a sort of profaneness to talk of the
use, as affecting the title to the property) he makes a good use of
his revenues; but it is no disrespect to him to say, what authentic
information well warrants me in saying, that the use made of a
property equally valid by his brother,*(2) the cardinal archbishop
of Rouen, was far more laudable and far more public-spirited. Can
one hear of the proscription of such persons and the confiscation of
their effects without indignation and horror? He is not a man who does
not feel such emotions on such occasions. He does not deserve the name
of a freeman who will not express them.

* All have been confiscated in their turn.
*(2) Not his brother nor any near relation; but this mistake
does not affect the argument.

Few barbarous conquerors have ever made so terrible a revolution
in property. None of the heads of the Roman factions, when they
established crudelem illam hastam in all their auctions of rapine,
have ever set up to sale the goods of the conquered citizen to such an
enormous amount. It must be allowed in favor of those tyrants of
antiquity that what was done by them could hardly be said to be done
in cold blood. Their passions were inflamed, their tempers soured,
their understandings confused with the spirit of revenge, with the
innumerable reciprocated and recent inflictions and retaliations of
blood and rapine. They were driven beyond all bounds of moderation
by the apprehension of the return of power, with the return of
property, to the families of those they had injured beyond all hope of
These Roman confiscators, who were yet only in the elements of
tyranny, and were not instructed in the rights of men to exercise
all sorts of cruelties on each other without provocation, thought it
necessary to spread a sort of color over their injustice. They
considered the vanquished party as composed of traitors who had
borne arms, or otherwise had acted with hostility, against the
commonwealth. They regarded them as persons who had forfeited their
property by their crimes. With you, in your improved state of the
human mind, there was no such formality. You seized upon five millions
sterling of annual rent and turned forty or fifty thousand human
creatures out of their houses, because "such was your pleasure". The
tyrant Harry the Eighth of England, as he was not better enlightened
than the Roman Mariuses and Sullas, and had not studied in your new
schools, did not know what an effectual instrument of despotism was to
be found in that grand magazine of offensive weapons, the rights of
men. When he resolved to rob the abbeys, as the club of the Jacobins
have robbed all the ecclesiastics, he began by setting on foot a
commission to examine into the crimes and abuses which prevailed in
those communities. As it might be expected, his commission reported
truths, exaggerations, and falsehoods. But truly or falsely, it
reported abuses and offenses. However, as abuses might be corrected,
as every crime of persons does not infer a forfeiture with regard to
communities, and as property, in that dark age, was not discovered
to be a creature of prejudice, all those abuses (and there were enough
of them) were hardly thought sufficient ground for such a confiscation
as it was for his purpose to make. He, therefore, procured the
formal surrender of these estates. All these operose proceedings
were adopted by one of the most decided tyrants in the rolls of
history as necessary preliminaries before he could venture, by bribing
the members of his two servile houses with a share of the spoil and
holding out to them an eternal immunity from taxation, to demand a
confirmation of his iniquitous proceedings by an act of Parliament.
Had fate reserved him to our times, four technical terms would have
done his business and saved him all this trouble; he needed nothing
more than one short form of incantation- "Philosophy, Light,
Liberality, the Rights of Men".
I can say nothing in praise of those acts of tyranny which no
voice has hitherto ever commended under any of their false colors, yet
in these false colors an homage was paid by despotism to justice.
The power which was above all fear and all remorse was not set above
all shame. Whilst shame keeps its watch, virtue is not wholly
extinguished in the heart, nor will moderation be utterly exiled
from the minds of tyrants.
I believe every honest man sympathizes in his reflections with our
political poet on that occasion, and will pray to avert the omen
whenever these acts of rapacious despotism present themselves to his
view or his imagination:

- May no such storm
Fall on our times, where ruin must reform.
Tell me (my Muse) what monstrous dire offense,
What crimes could any Christian king incense
To such a rage? Was't luxury, or lust?
Was he so temperate, so chaste, so just?
Were these their crimes? they were his own much more,
But wealth is crime enough to him that's poor.*

* The rest of the passage is this-

"Who having spent the treasures of his crown,
Condemns their luxury to feed his own.
And yet this act, to varnish o'er the shame
Of sacrilege, must bear devotion's name.
No crime so bold, but would be understood
A real, or at least a seeming good;
Who fears not to do ill, yet fears the name,
And, free from conscience, is a slave to fame.
Thus he the church at once protects, and spoils;
But princes' swords are sharper than their styles.
And thus to th' ages past he makes amends,
Their charity destroys, their faith defends.
Then did religion in a lazy cell,
In empty aery contemplation dwell;
And, like the block, unmoved lay; but ours,
As much too active, like the stork devours.
Is there no temperate region can be known,
Betwixt their frigid and our torrid zone?
Could we not wake from that lethargic dream,
But to be restless in a worse extreme?
And for that lethargy was there no cure,
But to be cast into a calenture?
Can knowledge have no bound, but must advance
So far, to make us wish for ignorance?
And rather in the dark to grope our way,
Than, led by a false guide, to err by day?
Who sees these dismal heaps, but would demand,
What barbarous invader sacked the land?
But when he hears, no Goth, no Turk did bring
This desolation, but a Christian king;
When nothing, but the name of zeal, appears
'Twixt our best actions and the worst of theirs,
What does he think our sacrilege would spare,
When such th' effects of our devotion are?"

This same wealth, which is at all times treason and lese nation to
indigent and rapacious despotism, under all modes of polity, was
your temptation to violate property, law, and religion, united in
one object. But was the state of France so wretched and undone that no
other recourse but rapine remained to preserve its existence? On
this point I wish to receive some information. When the states met,
was the condition of the finances of France such that, after
economizing on principles of justice and mercy through all
departments, no fair repartition of burdens upon all the orders
could possibly restore them? If such an equal imposition would have
been sufficient, you well know it might easily have been made. M.
Necker, in the budget which he laid before the orders assembled at
Versailles, made a detailed exposition of the state of the French

* Rapport de Mons. le Directeur-General des Finances, fait par
ordre du Roi a Versailles, Mai 5, 1789.

If we give credit to him, it was not necessary to have recourse to
any new impositions whatsoever to put the receipts of France on a
balance with its expenses. He stated the permanent charges of all
descriptions, including the interest of a new loan of four hundred
millions, at 531,444,000 livres; the fixed revenue at 475,294,000,
making the deficiency 56,150,000, or short of L2,200,000 sterling. But
to balance it, he brought forward savings and improvements of
revenue (considered as entirely certain) to rather more than the
amount of that deficiency; and he concludes with these emphatical
words (p. 39), "Quel pays, Messieurs, que celui, ou, sans impots et
avec de simples objets inappercus, on peut faire disparoitre un
deficit qui a fait tant de bruit en Europe". As to the
reimbursement, the sinking of debt, and the other great objects of
public credit and political arrangement indicated in Mons. Necker's
speech, no doubt could be entertained but that a very moderate and
proportioned assessment on the citizens without distinction would have
provided for all of them to the fullest extent of their demand.
If this representation of Mons. Necker was false, then the
Assembly are in the highest degree culpable for having forced the king
to accept as his minister and, since the king's deposition, for having
employed as their minister a man who had been capable of abusing so
notoriously the confidence of his master and their own, in a matter,
too, of the highest moment and directly appertaining to his particular
office. But if the representation was exact (as having always, along
with you, conceived a high degree of respect for M. Necker, I make
no doubt it was), then what can be said in favor of those who, instead
of moderate, reasonable, and general contribution, have in cold blood,
and impelled by no necessity, had recourse to a partial and cruel
Was that contribution refused on a pretext of privilege, either on
the part of the clergy or on that of the nobility? No, certainly. As
to the clergy, they even ran before the wishes of the third order.
Previous to the meeting of the states, they had in all their
instructions expressly directed their deputies to renounce every
immunity which put them upon a footing distinct from the condition
of their fellow subjects. In this renunciation the clergy were even
more explicit than the nobility.
But let us suppose that the deficiency had remained at the
fifty-six millions (or L2,200,000 sterling), as at first stated by
M. Necker. Let us allow that all the resources he opposed to that
deficiency were impudent and groundless fictions, and that the
Assembly (or their lords of articles* at the Jacobins) were from
thence justified in laying the whole burden of that deficiency on
the clergy- yet allowing all this, a necessity of L2,200,000
sterling will not support a confiscation to the amount of five
millions. The imposition of L2,200,000 on the clergy, as partial,
would have been oppressive and unjust, but it would not have been
altogether ruinous to those on whom it was imposed, and therefore it
would not have answered the real purpose of the managers.

* In the constitution of Scotland, during the Stuart reigns, a
committee sat for preparing bills; and none could pass but those
previously approved by them. The committee was called "Lords of

Perhaps persons unacquainted with the state of France, on
hearing the clergy and the noblesse were privileged in point of
taxation, may be led to imagine that, previous to the Revolution,
these bodies had contributed nothing to the state. This is a great
mistake. They certainly did not contribute equally with each other,
nor either of them equally with the commons. They both, however,
contributed largely. Neither nobility nor clergy enjoyed any exemption
from the excise on consumable commodities, from duties of custom, or
from any of the other numerous indirect impositions, which in
France, as well as here, make so very large a proportion of all
payments to the public. The noblesse paid the capitation. They paid
also a land-tax, called the twentieth penny, to the height sometimes
of three, sometimes of four, shillings in the pound- both of them
direct impositions of no light nature and no trivial produce. The
clergy of the provinces annexed by conquest to France (which in extent
make about an eighth part of the whole, but in wealth a much larger
proportion) paid likewise to the capitation and the twentieth penny,
at the rate paid by the nobility. The clergy in the old provinces
did not pay the capitation, but they had redeemed themselves at the
expense of about 24 millions, or a little more than a million
sterling. They were exempted from the twentieths; but then they made
free gifts, they contracted debts for the state, and they were subject
to some other charges, the whole computed at about a thirteenth part
of their clear income. They ought to have paid annually about forty
thousand pounds more to put them on a par with the contribution of the

When the terrors of this tremendous proscription hung over the
clergy, they made an offer of a contribution through the archbishop of
Aix, which, for its extravagance, ought not to have been accepted. But
it was evidently and obviously more advantageous to the public
creditor than anything which could rationally be promised by the
confiscation. Why was it not accepted? The reason is plain: there
was no desire that the church should be brought to serve the state.
The service of the state was made a pretext to destroy the church.
In their way to the destruction of the church they would not scruple
to destroy their country; and they have destroyed it. One great end in
the project would have been defeated if the plan of extortion had been
adopted in lieu of the scheme of confiscation. The new landed interest
connected with the new republic, and connected with it for its very
being, could not have been created. This was among the reasons why
that extravagant ransom was not accepted.

THE madness of the project of confiscation, on the plan that was
first pretended, soon became apparent. To bring this unwieldy mass
of landed property, enlarged by the confiscation of all the vast
landed domain of the crown, at once into market was obviously to
defeat the profits proposed by the confiscation by depreciating the
value of those lands and, indeed, of all the landed estates throughout
France. Such a sudden diversion of all its circulating money from
trade to land must be an additional mischief What step was taken?
Did the Assembly, on becoming sensible of the inevitable ill effects
of their projected sale, revert to the offers of the clergy? No
distress could oblige them to travel in a course which was disgraced
by any appearance of justice. Giving over all hopes from a general
immediate sale, another project seems to have succeeded. They proposed
to take stock in exchange for the church lands. In that project
great difficulties arose in equalizing the objects to be exchanged.
Other obstacles also presented themselves, which threw them back again
upon some project of sale. The municipalities had taken an alarm. They
would not hear of transferring the whole plunder of the kingdom to the
stockholders in Paris. Many of those municipalities had been (upon
system) reduced to the most deplorable indigence. Money was nowhere to
be seen. They were, therefore, led to the point that was so ardently
desired. They panted for a currency of any kind which might revive
their perishing industry. The municipalities were then to be
admitted to a share in the spoil, which evidently rendered the first
scheme (if ever it had been seriously entertained) altogether
impracticable. Public exigencies pressed upon all sides. The
minister of finance reiterated his call for supply with a most urgent,
anxious, and boding voice. Thus pressed on all sides, instead of the
first plan of converting their bankers into bishops and abbots,
instead of paying the old debt, they contracted a new debt at 3 per
cent, creating a new paper currency founded on an eventual sale of the
church lands. They issued this paper currency to satisfy in the
first instance chiefly the demands made upon them by the bank of
discount, the great machine, or paper-mill, of their fictitious
The spoil of the church was now become the only resource of all
their operations in finance, the vital principle of all their
politics, the sole security for the existence of their power. It was
necessary by all, even the most violent means, to put every individual
on the same bottom, and to bind the nation in one guilty interest to
uphold this act and the authority of those by whom it was done. In
order to force the most reluctant into a participation of their
pillage, they rendered their paper circulation compulsory in all
payments. Those who consider the general tendency of their schemes
to this one object as a center, and a center from which afterwards all
their measures radiate, will not think that I dwell too long upon this
part of the proceedings of the National Assembly.
To cut off all appearance of connection between the crown and
public justice, and to bring the whole under implicit obedience to the
dictators in Paris, the old independent judicature of the parliaments,
with all its merits and all its faults, was wholly abolished. Whilst
the parliaments existed, it was evident that the people might some
time or other come to resort to them and rally under the standard of
their ancient laws. It became, however, a matter of consideration that
the magistrates and officers, in the courts now abolished, had
purchased their places at a very high rate, for which, as well as
for the duty they performed, they received but a very low return of
interest. Simple confiscation is a boon only for the clergy; to the
lawyers some appearances of equity are to be observed, and they are to
receive compensation to an immense amount. Their compensation
becomes part of the national debt, for the liquidation of which
there is the one exhaustless fund. The lawyers are to obtain their
compensation in the new church paper, which is to march with the new
principles of judicature and legislature. The dismissed magistrates
are to take their share of martyrdom with the ecclesiastics, or to
receive their own property from such a fund, and in such a manner,
as all those who have been seasoned with the ancient principles of
jurisprudence and had been the sworn guardians of property must look
upon with horror. Even the clergy are to receive their miserable
allowance out of the depreciated paper, which is stamped with the
indelible character of sacrilege and with the symbols of their own
ruin, or they must starve. So violent an outrage upon credit,
property, and liberty as this compulsory paper currency has seldom
been exhibited by the alliance of bankruptcy and tyranny, at any
time or in any nation.

In the course of all these operations, at length comes out the
grand arcanum- that in reality, and in a fair sense, the lands of
the church (so far as anything certain can be gathered from their
proceedings) are not to be sold at all. By the late resolutions of the
National Assembly, they are, indeed, to be delivered to the highest
bidder. But it is to be observed that a certain portion only of the
purchase money is to be laid down. A period of twelve years is to be
given for the payment of the rest. The philosophic purchasers are
therefore, on payment of a sort of fine, to be put instantly into
possession of the estate. It becomes in some respects a sort of gift
to them- to be held on the feudal tenure of zeal to the new
establishment. This project is evidently to let in a body of
purchasers without money. The consequence will be that these
purchasers, or rather grantees, will pay, not only from the rents as
they accrue, which might as well be received by the state, but from
the spoil of the materials of buildings, from waste in woods, and from
whatever money, by hands habituated to the gripings of usury, they can
wring from the miserable peasant. He is to be delivered over to the
mercenary and arbitrary discretion of men who will be stimulated to
every species of extortion by the growing demands on the growing
profits of an estate held under the precarious settlement of a new
political system.

When all the frauds, impostures, violences, rapines, burnings,
murders, confiscations, compulsory paper currencies, and every
description of tyranny and cruelty employed to bring about and to
uphold this Revolution have their natural effect, that is, to shock
the moral sentiments of all virtuous and sober minds, the abettors
of this philosophic system immediately strain their throats in a
declamation against the old monarchical government of France. When
they have rendered that deposed power sufficiently black, they then
proceed in argument as if all those who disapprove of their new abuses
must of course be partisans of the old, that those who reprobate their
crude and violent schemes of liberty ought to be treated as
advocates for servitude. I admit that their necessities do compel them
to this base and contemptible fraud. Nothing can reconcile men to
their proceedings and projects but the supposition that there is no
third option between them and some tyranny as odious as can be
furnished by the records of history, or by the invention of poets.
This prattling of theirs hardly deserves the name of sophistry. It
is nothing but plain impudence. Have these gentlemen never heard, in
the whole circle of the worlds of theory and practice, of anything
between the despotism of the monarch and the despotism of the
multitude? Have they never heard of a monarchy directed by laws,
controlled and balanced by the great hereditary wealth and
hereditary dignity of a nation, and both again controlled by a
judicious check from the reason and feeling of the people at large
acting by a suitable and permanent organ? Is it then impossible that a
man may be found who, without criminal ill intention or pitiable
absurdity, shall prefer such a mixed and tempered government to either
of the extremes, and who may repute that nation to be destitute of all
wisdom and of all virtue which, having in its choice to obtain such
a government with ease, or rather to confirm it when actually
possessed, thought proper to commit a thousand crimes and to subject
their country to a thousand evils in order to avoid it? Is it then a
truth so universally acknowledged that a pure democracy is the only
tolerable form into which human society can be thrown, that a man is
not permitted to hesitate about its merits without the suspicion of
being a friend to tyranny, that is, of being a foe to mankind?

I do not know under what description to class the present ruling
authority in France. It affects to be a pure democracy, though I think
it in a direct train of becoming shortly a mischievous and ignoble
oligarchy. But for the present I admit it to be a contrivance of the
nature and effect of what it pretends to. I reprobate no form of
government merely upon abstract principles. There may be situations in
which the purely democratic form will become necessary. There may be
some (very few, and very particularly circumstanced) where it would be
clearly desirable. This I do not take to be the case of France or of
any other great country. Until now, we have seen no examples of
considerable democracies. The ancients were better acquainted with
them. Not being wholly unread in the authors who had seen the most
of those constitutions, and who best understood them, I cannot help
concurring with their opinion that an absolute democracy, no more than
absolute monarchy, is to be reckoned among the legitimate forms of
government. They think it rather the corruption and degeneracy than
the sound constitution of a republic. If I recollect rightly,
Aristotle observes that a democracy has many striking points of
resemblance with a tyranny.* Of this I am certain, that in a democracy
the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel
oppressions upon the minority whenever strong divisions prevail in
that kind of polity, as they often must; and that oppression of the
minority will extend to far greater numbers and will be carried on
with much greater fury than can almost ever be apprehended from the
dominion of a single scepter. In such a popular persecution,
individual sufferers are in a much more deplorable condition than in
any other. Under a cruel prince they have the balmy compassion of
mankind to assuage the smart of their wounds; they have the plaudits
of the people to animate their generous constancy under their
sufferings; but those who are subjected to wrong under multitudes
are deprived of all external consolation. They seem deserted by
mankind, overpowered by a conspiracy of their whole species.

* When I wrote this I quoted from memory, after many years had
elapsed from my reading the passage. A learned friend has found it,
and it is as follows:
To ethos to auto, kai ampho despotika ton beltionon, kai ta
psephismata, osper ekei ta epitagmata kai o demagogos kai o kolax,
oi autoi kai analogoi kai malista ekateroi par ekaterois ischuousin,
oi men kolakes para turannois, oi de demagogoi para tois demois tois
"The ethical character is the same; both exercise despotism over
the better class of citizens; and decrees are in the one, what
ordinances and arrets are in the other: the demagogue, too, and the
court favorite are not unfrequently the same identical men, and always
bear a close analogy; and these have the principal power, each in
their respective forms of government, favorites with the absolute
monarch, and demagogues with a people such as I have described".
Arist. Politic. lib. iv. cap. 4.

BUT ADMITTING DEMOCRACY not to have that inevitable tendency to
party tyranny, which I suppose it to have, and admitting it to possess
as much good in it when unmixed as I am sure it possesses when
compounded with other forms, does monarchy, on its part, contain
nothing at all to recommend it? I do not often quote Bolingbroke,
nor have his works in general left any permanent impression on my
mind. He is a presumptuous and a superficial writer. But he has one
observation which, in my opinion, is not without depth and solidity.
He says that he prefers a monarchy to other governments because you
can better ingraft any description of republic on a monarchy than
anything of monarchy upon the republican forms. I think him
perfectly in the right. The fact is so historically, and it agrees
well with the speculation.
I know how easy a topic it is to dwell on the faults of departed
greatness. By a revolution in the state, the fawning sycophant of
yesterday is converted into the austere critic of the present hour.
But steady, independent minds, when they have an object of so
serious a concern to mankind as government under their
contemplation, will disdain to assume the part of satirists and
declaimers. They will judge of human institutions as they do of
human characters. They will sort out the good from the evil, which
is mixed in mortal institutions, as it is in mortal men.

YOUR government in France, though usually, and I think justly,
reputed the best of the unqualified or ill-qualified monarchies, was
still full of abuses. These abuses accumulated in a length of time, as
they must accumulate in every monarchy not under the constant
inspection of a popular representative. I am no stranger to the faults
and defects of the subverted government of France, and I think I am
not inclined by nature or policy to make a panegyric upon anything
which is a just and natural object of censure. But the question is not
now of the vices of that monarchy, but of its existence. Is it,
then, true that the French government was such as to be incapable or
undeserving of reform, so that it was of absolute necessity that the
whole fabric should be at once pulled down and the area cleared for
the erection of a theoretic, experimental edifice in its place? All
France was of a different opinion in the beginning of the year 1789.
The instructions to the representatives to the States-General, from
every district in that kingdom, were filled with projects for the
reformation of that government without the remotest suggestion of a
design to destroy it. Had such a design been even insinuated, I
believe there would have been but one voice, and that voice for
rejecting it with scorn and horror. Men have been sometimes led by
degrees, sometimes hurried, into things of which, if they could have
seen the whole together, they never would have permitted the most
remote approach. When those instructions were given, there was no
question but that abuses existed, and that they demanded a reform; nor
is there now. In the interval between the instructions and the
revolution things changed their shape; and in consequence of that
change, the true question at present is, Whether those who would
have reformed or those who have destroyed are in the right?
To hear some men speak of the late monarchy of France, you would
imagine that they were talking of Persia bleeding under the
ferocious sword of Tahmas Kouli Khan, or at least describing the
barbarous anarchic despotism of Turkey, where the finest countries
in the most genial climates in the world are wasted by peace more than
any countries have been worried by war, where arts are unknown,
where manufactures languish, where science is extinguished, where
agriculture decays, where the human race itself melts away and
perishes under the eye of the observer. Was this the case of France? I
have no way of determining the question but by reference to facts.
Facts do not support this resemblance. Along with much evil there is
some good in monarchy itself, and some corrective to its evil from
religion, from laws, from manners, from opinions the French monarchy
must have received, which rendered it (though by no means a free,
and therefore by no means a good, constitution) a despotism rather
in appearance than in reality.

AMONG the standards upon which the effects of government on any
country are to be estimated, I must consider the state of its
population as not the least certain. No country in which population
flourishes and is in progressive improvement can be under a very
mischievous government. About sixty years ago, the Intendants of the
generalities of France made, with other matters, a report of the
population of their several districts. I have not the books, which are
very voluminous, by me, nor do I know where to procure them (I am
obliged to speak by memory, and therefore the less positively), but
I think the population of France was by them, even at that period,
estimated at twenty-two millions of souls. At the end of the last
century it had been generally calculated at eighteen. On either of
these estimations, France was not ill peopled. M. Necker, who is an
authority for his own time, at least equal to the Intendants for
theirs, reckons, and upon apparently sure principles, the people of
France in the year 1780 at twenty-four millions six hundred and
seventy thousand. But was this the probable ultimate term under the
old establishment? Dr. Price is of opinion that the growth of
population in France was by no means at its acme in that year. I
certainly defer to Dr. Price's authority a good deal more in these
speculations than I do in his general politics. This gentleman, taking
ground on M. Necker's data, is very confident that since the period of
that minister's calculation the French population has increased
rapidly- so rapidly that in the year 1789 he will not consent to
rate the people of that kingdom at a lower number than thirty
millions. After abating much (and much I think ought to be abated)
from the sanguine calculation of Dr. Price, I have no doubt that the
population of France did increase considerably during this later
period; but supposing that it increased to nothing more than will be
sufficient to complete the twenty-four millions six hundred and
seventy thousand to twenty-five millions, still a population of
twenty-five millions, and that in an increasing progress, on a space
of about twenty-seven thousand square leagues is immense. It is, for
instance, a good deal more than the proportionable population of
this island, or even than that of England, the best peopled part of
the United Kingdom.
It is not universally true that France is a fertile country.
Considerable tracts of it are barren and labor under other natural
disadvantages. In the portions of that territory where things are more
favorable, as far as I am able to discover, the numbers of the
people correspond to the indulgence of nature.* The Generality of
Lisle (this I admit is the strongest example) upon an extent of four
hundred and four leagues and a half, about ten years ago, contained
seven hundred and thirty-four thousand six hundred souls, which is one
thousand seven hundred and seventy-two inhabitants to each square
league. The middle term for the rest of France is about nine hundred
inhabitants to the same admeasurement.

* De l'Administration des Finances de la France, par Mons. Necker,
vol. I, p. 288.

I do not attribute this population to the deposed government,
because I do not like to compliment the contrivances of men with
what is due in a great degree to the bounty of Providence. But that
decried government could not have obstructed, most probably it
favored, the operation of those causes (whatever they were), whether
of nature in the soil or habits of industry among the people, which
has produced so large a number of the species throughout that whole
kingdom and exhibited in some particular places such prodigies of
population. I never will suppose that fabric of a state to be the
worst of all political institutions which, by experience, is found
to contain a principle favorable (however latent it may be) to the
increase of mankind.

The wealth of a country is another, and no contemptible,
standard by which we may judge whether, on the whole, a government
be protecting or destructive. France far exceeds England in the
multitude of her people, but I apprehend that her comparative wealth
is much inferior to ours, that it is not so equal in the distribution,
nor so ready in the circulation. I believe the difference in the
form of the two governments to be amongst the causes of this advantage
on the side of England. I speak of England, not of the whole British
dominions, which, if compared with those of France, will, in some
degree, weaken the comparative rate of wealth upon our side. But
that wealth, which will not endure a comparison with the riches of
England, may constitute a very respectable degree of opulence. M.
Necker's book, published in 1785,* contains an accurate and
interesting collection of facts relative to public economy and to
political arithmetic; and his speculations on the subject are in
general wise and liberal. In that work he gives an idea of the state
of France very remote from the portrait of a country whose
government was a perfect grievance, an absolute evil, admitting no
cure but through the violent and uncertain remedy of a total
revolution. He affirms that from the year 1726 to the year 1784
there was coined at the mint of France, in the species of gold and
silver, to the amount of about one hundred millions of pounds

* De l'administration des Finances de la France, par M. Necker.
*(2) Ibid., Vol. III. chap. 8 and chap. 9.

It is impossible that M. Necker should be mistaken in the amount
of the bullion which has been coined in the mint. It is a matter of
official record. The reasonings of this able financier, concerning the
quantity of gold and silver which remained for circulation, when he
wrote in 1785, that is, about four years before the deposition and
imprisonment of the French king, are not of equal certainty, but
they are laid on grounds so apparently solid that it is not easy to
refuse a considerable degree of assent to his calculation. He
calculates the numeraire, or what we call "specie", then actually
existing in France at about eighty-eight millions of the same
English money. A great accumulation of wealth for one country, large
as that country is! M. Necker was so far from considering this
influx of wealth as likely to cease, when he wrote in 1785, that he
presumes upon a future annual increase of two per cent upon the
money brought into France during the periods from which he computed.

Some adequate cause must have originally introduced all the
money coined at its mint into that kingdom, and some cause as
operative must have kept at home, or returned into its bosom, such a
vast flood of treasure as M. Necker calculates to remain for
domestic circulation. Suppose any reasonable deductions from M.
Necker's computation, the remainder must still amount to an immense
sum. Causes thus powerful to acquire, and to retain, cannot be found
in discouraged industry, insecure property, and a positively
destructive government. Indeed, when I consider the face of the
kingdom of France, the multitude and opulence of her cities, the
useful magnificence of her spacious high roads and bridges, the
opportunity of her artificial canals and navigations opening the
conveniences of maritime communication through a solid continent of so
immense an extent; when I turn my eyes to the stupendous works of
her ports and harbors, and to her whole naval apparatus, whether for
war or trade; when I bring before my view the number of her
fortifications, constructed with so bold and masterly a skill and made
and maintained at so prodigious a charge, presenting an armed front
and impenetrable barrier to her enemies upon every side; when I
recollect how very small a part of that extensive region is without
cultivation, and to what complete perfection the culture of many of
the best productions of the earth have been brought in France; when
I reflect on the excellence of her manufactures and fabrics, second to
none but ours, and in some particulars not second; when I
contemplate the grand foundations of charity, public and private; when
I survey the state of all the arts that beautify and polish life; when
I reckon the men she has bred for extending her fame in war, her
able statesmen, the multitude of her profound lawyers and theologians,
her philosophers, her critics, her historians and antiquaries, her
poets and her orators, sacred and profane- I behold in all this
something which awes and commands the imagination, which checks the
mind on the brink of precipitate and indiscriminate censure, and which
demands that we should very seriously examine what and how great are
the latent vices that could authorize us at once to level so
spacious a fabric with the ground. I do not recognize in this view
of things the despotism of Turkey. Nor do I discern the character of a
government that has been, on the whole, so oppressive or so corrupt or
so negligent as to be utterly unfit for all reformation. I must
think such a government well deserved to have its excellence
heightened, its faults corrected, and its capacities improved into a
British constitution.

Whoever has examined into the proceedings of that deposed
government for several years back cannot fail to have observed, amidst
the inconstancy and fluctuation natural to courts, an earnest endeavor
toward the prosperity and improvement of the country; he must admit
that it had long been employed, in some instances wholly to remove, in
many considerably to correct, the abusive practices and usages that
had prevailed in the state, and that even the unlimited power of the
sovereign over the persons of his subjects, inconsistent, as
undoubtedly it was, with law and liberty, had yet been every day
growing more mitigated in the exercise. So far from refusing itself to
reformation, that government was open, with a censurable degree of
facility, to all sorts of projects and projectors on the subject.
Rather too much countenance was given to the spirit of innovation,
which soon was turned against those who fostered it, and ended in
their ruin. It is but cold, and no very flattering, justice to that
fallen monarchy to say that, for many years, it trespassed more by
levity and want of judgment in several of its schemes than from any
defect in diligence or in public spirit. To compare the government
of France for the last fifteen or sixteen years with wise and
well-constituted establishments during that, or during any period,
is not to act with fairness. But if in point of prodigality in the
expenditure of money, or in point of rigor in the exercise of power,
it be compared with any of the former reigns, I believe candid
judges will give little credit to the good intentions of those who
dwell perpetually on the donations to favorites, or on the expenses of
the court, or on the horrors of the Bastille in the reign of Louis the

* The world is obliged to M. de Calonne for the pains he has taken
to refute the scandalous exaggerations relative to some of the royal
expenses, and to detect the fallacious account given of pensions,
for the wicked purpose of provoking the populace to all sorts of

WHETHER the system, if it deserves such a name, now built on the
ruins of that ancient monarchy will be able to give a better account
of the population and wealth of the country which it has taken under
its care, is a matter very doubtful. Instead of improving by the
change, I apprehend that a long series of years must be told before it
can recover in any degree the effects of this philosophic
revolution, and before the nation can be replaced on its former
footing. If Dr. Price should think fit, a few years hence, to favor us
with an estimate of the population of France, he will hardly be able
to make up his tale of thirty millions of souls, as computed in
1789, or the Assembly's computation of twenty-six millions of that
year, or even M. Necker's twenty-five millions in 1780. I hear that
there are considerable emigrations from France, and that many,
quitting that voluptuous climate and that seductive Circean liberty,
have taken refuge in the frozen regions, and under the British
despotism, of Canada.
In the present disappearance of coin, no person could think it the
same country in which the present minister of the finances has been
able to discover fourscore millions sterling in specie. From its
general aspect one would conclude that it had been for some time
past under the special direction of the learned academicians of Laputa
and Balnibarbi.* Already the population of Paris has so declined
that M. Necker stated to the National Assembly the provision to be
made for its subsistence at a fifth less than what had formerly been
found requisite.*(2) It is said (and I have never heard it
contradicted) that a hundred thousand people are out of employment
in that city, though it is become the seat of the imprisoned court and
National Assembly. Nothing, I am credibly informed, can exceed the
shocking and disgusting spectacle of mendicancy displayed in that
capital. Indeed the votes of the National Assembly leave no doubt of
the fact. They have lately appointed a standing committee of
mendicancy. They are contriving at once a vigorous police on this
subject and, for the first time, the imposition of a tax to maintain
the poor, for whose present relief great sums appear on the face of
the public accounts of the year.*(3) In the meantime the leaders of
the legislative clubs and coffee-houses are intoxicated with
admiration at their own wisdom and ability. They speak with the most
sovereign contempt of the rest of the world. They tell the people,
to comfort them in the rags with which they have clothed them, that
they are a nation of philosophers; and sometimes by all the arts of
quackish parade, by show, tumult, and bustle, sometimes by the
alarms of plots and invasions, they attempt to drown the cries of
indigence and to divert the eyes of the observer from the ruin and
wretchedness of the state. A brave people will certainly prefer
liberty accompanied with a virtuous poverty to a depraved and
wealthy servitude. But before the price of comfort and opulence is
paid, one ought to be pretty sure it is real liberty which is
purchased, and that she is to be purchased at no other price. I
shall always, however, consider that liberty as very equivocal in
her appearance which has not wisdom and justice for her companions and
does not lead prosperity and plenty in her train.

* See Gulliver's Travels for the idea of countries governed by
*(2) M. de Calonne states the falling off of the population of
Paris as far more considerable; and it may be so, since the period
of M. Necker's calculation.
Travaux de charite pour subvenir au Livres L s. d.
manque de travail a Paris et dans les
provinces............................. 3,866,920= 161,121 13 4
Destruction de vagabondage et de la
mendicite............................ 1,671,417= 69,642 7 6
Primes pour l'importation de grains 5,671,907= 236,329 9 2
Depenses relatives aux subsistances,
deduction fait des recouvrements qui
ont eu lieu........................... 39,871,790= 1,661,324 11 8
Total Liv. 51,082,034= L2,128,418 1 8
When I sent this book to the press, I entertained some doubt
concerning the nature and extent of the last article in the above
accounts, which is only under a general head, without any detail.
Since then I have seen M. de Calonne's work. I must think it a great
loss to me that I had not that advantage earlier. M. de Calonne thinks
this article to be on account of general subsistence; but as he is not
able to comprehend how so great a loss as upwards of L1,661,000
sterling could be sustained on the difference between the price and
the sale of grain, he seems to attribute this enormous head of
charge to secret expenses of the Revolution. I cannot say anything
positively on that subject. The reader is capable of judging, by the
aggregate of these immense charges, on the state and condition of
France; and the system of public economy adopted in that nation. These
articles of account produced no inquiry or discussion in the
National Assembly.

THE advocates for this Revolution, not satisfied with exaggerating
the vices of their ancient government, strike at the fame of their
country itself by painting almost all that could have attracted the
attention of strangers, I mean their nobility and their clergy, as
objects of horror. If this were only a libel, there had not been
much in it. But it has practical consequences. Had your nobility and
gentry, who formed the great body of your landed men and the whole
of your military officers, resembled those of Germany at the period
when the Hansetowns were necessitated to confederate against the
nobles in defense of their property; had they been like the Orsini and
Vitelli in Italy, who used to sally from their fortified dens to rob
the trader and traveller; had they been such as the Mamelukes in Egypt
or the Nayres on the coast of Malabar, I do admit that too critical an
inquiry might not be advisable into the means of freeing the world
from such a nuisance. The statues of Equity and Mercy might be
veiled for a moment. The tenderest minds, confounded with the dreadful
exigency in which morality submits to the suspension of its own
rules in favor of its own principles, might turn aside whilst fraud
and violence were accomplishing the destruction of a pretended
nobility which disgraced, whilst it persecuted, human nature. The
persons most abhorrent from blood, and treason, and arbitrary
confiscation might remain silent spectators of this civil war
between the vices.
But did the privileged nobility who met under the king's precept
at Versailles, in 1789, or their constituents, deserve to be looked on
as the Nayres or Mamelukes of this age, or as the Orsini and Vitelli
of ancient times? If I had then asked the question I should have
passed for a madman. What have they since done that they were to be
driven into exile, that their persons should be hunted about, mangled,
and tortured, their families dispersed, their houses laid in ashes,
and that their order should be abolished and the memory of it, if
possible, extinguished by ordaining them to change the very names by
which they were usually known? Read their instructions to their
representatives. They breathe the spirit of liberty as warmly and they
recommend reformation as strongly as any other order. Their privileges
relative to contribution were voluntarily surrendered, as the king,
from the beginning, surrendered all pretense to a right of taxation.
Upon a free constitution there was but one opinion in France. The
absolute monarchy was at an end. It breathed its last, without a
groan, without struggle, without convulsion. All the struggle, all the
dissension arose afterwards upon the preference of a despotic
democracy to a government of reciprocal control. The triumph of the
victorious party was over the principles of a British constitution.
I have observed the affectation which for many years past has
prevailed in Paris, even to a degree perfectly childish, of
idolizing the memory of your Henry the Fourth. If anything could put
one out of humor with that ornament to the kingly character, it
would be this overdone style of insidious panegyric. The persons who
have worked this engine the most busily are those who have ended their
panegyrics in dethroning his successor and descendant, a man as
good-natured, at the least, as Henry the Fourth, altogether as fond of
his people, and who has done infinitely more to correct the ancient
vices of the state than that great monarch did, or we are sure he ever
meant to do. Well it is for his panegyrists that they have not him
to deal with. For Henry of Navarre was a resolute, active, and politic
prince. He possessed, indeed, great humanity and mildness, but a
humanity and mildness that never stood in the way of his interests. He
never sought to be loved without putting himself first in a
condition to be feared. He used soft language with determined conduct.
He asserted and maintained his authority in the gross, and distributed
his acts of concession only in the detail. He spent the income of
his prerogative nobly, but he took care not to break in upon the
capital, never abandoning for a moment any of the claims which he made
under the fundamental laws, nor sparing to shed the blood of those who
opposed him, often in the field, sometimes upon the scaffold.
Because he knew how to make his virtues respected by the ungrateful,
he has merited the praises of those whom, if they had lived in his
time, he would have shut up in the Bastille and brought to
punishment along with the regicides whom he hanged after he had
famished Paris into a surrender.
If these panegyrists are in earnest in their admiration of Henry
the Fourth, they must remember that they cannot think more highly of
him than he did of the noblesse of France, whose virtue, honor,
courage, patriotism, and loyalty were his constant theme.
But the nobility of France are degenerated since the days of Henry
the Fourth. This is possible. But it is more than I can believe to
be true in any great degree. I do not pretend to know France as
correctly as some others, but I have endeavored through my whole
life to make myself acquainted with human nature, otherwise I should
be unfit to take even my humble part in the service of mankind. In
that study I could not pass by a vast portion of our nature as it
appeared modified in a country but twenty-four miles from the shore of
this island. On my best observation, compared with my best
inquiries, I found your nobility for the greater part composed of
men of high spirit and of a delicate sense of honor, both with
regard to themselves individually and with regard to their whole
corps, over whom they kept, beyond what is common in other
countries, a censorial eye. They were tolerably well bred, very
officious, humane, and hospitable; in their conversation frank and
open; with a good military tone, and reasonably tinctured with
literature, particularly of the authors in their own language. Many
had pretensions far above this description. I speak of those who
were generally met with.
As to their behavior to the inferior classes, they appeared to
me to comport themselves toward them with good nature and with
something more nearly approaching to familiarity than is generally
practiced with us in the intercourse between the higher and lower
ranks of life. To strike any person, even in the most abject
condition, was a thing in a manner unknown and would be highly
disgraceful. Instances of other ill-treatment of the humble part of
the community were rare; and as to attacks made upon the property or
the personal liberty of the commons, I never heard of any whatsoever
from them; nor, whilst the laws were in vigor under the ancient
government, would such tyranny in subjects have been permitted. As men
of landed estates, I had no fault to find with their conduct, though
much to reprehend and much to wish changed in many of the old tenures.
Where the letting of their land was by rent, I could not discover that
their agreements with their farmers were oppressive; nor when they
were in partnership with the farmer, as often was the case, have I
heard that they had taken the lion's share. The proportions seemed not
inequitable. There might be exceptions, but certainly they were
exceptions only. I have no reason to believe that in these respects
the landed noblesse of France were worse than the landed gentry of
this country, certainly in no respect more vexatious than the
landholders, not noble, of their own nation. In cities the nobility
had no manner of power, in the country very little. You know, Sir,
that much of the civil government, and the police in the most
essential parts, was not in the hands of that nobility which
presents itself first to our consideration. The revenue, the system
and collection of which were the most grievous parts of the French
government, was not administered by the men of the sword, nor were
they answerable for the vices of its principle or the vexations, where
any such existed, in its management.
Denying, as I am well warranted to do, that the nobility had any
considerable share in the oppression of the people in cases in which
real oppression existed, I am ready to admit that they were not
without considerable faults and errors. A foolish imitation of the
worst part of the manners of England, which impaired their natural
character without substituting in its place what, perhaps, they
meant to copy, has certainly rendered them worse than formerly they
were. Habitual dissoluteness of manners, continued beyond the
pardonable period of life, was more common amongst them than it is
with us; and it reigned with the less hope of remedy, though
possibly with something of less mischief by being covered with more
exterior decorum. They countenanced too much that licentious
philosophy which has helped to bring on their ruin. There was
another error amongst them more fatal. Those of the commons who
approached to or exceeded many of the nobility in point of wealth were
not fully admitted to the rank and estimation which wealth, in
reason and good policy, ought to bestow in every country, though I
think not equally with that of other nobility. The two kinds of
aristocracy were too punctiliously kept asunder, less so, however,
than in Germany and some other nations.
This separation, as I have already taken the liberty of suggesting
to you, I conceive to be one principal cause of the destruction of the
old nobility. The military, particularly, was too exclusively reserved
for men of family. But, after all, this was an error of opinion, which
a conflicting opinion would have rectified. A permanent assembly in
which the commons had their share of power would soon abolish whatever
was too invidious and insulting in these distinctions, and even the
faults in the morals of the nobility would have been probably
corrected by the greater varieties of occupation and pursuit to
which a constitution by orders would have given rise.
All this violent cry against the nobility I take to be a mere work
of art. To be honored and even privileged by the laws, opinions, and
inveterate usages of our country, growing out of the prejudice of
ages, has nothing to provoke horror and indignation in any man. Even
to be too tenacious of those privileges is not absolutely a crime. The
strong struggle in every individual to preserve possession of what
he has found to belong to him and to distinguish him is one of the
securities against injustice and despotism implanted in our nature. It
operates as an instinct to secure property and to preserve communities
in a settled state. What is there to shock in this? Nobility is a
graceful ornament to the civil order. It is the Corinthian capital
of polished society. Omnes boni nobilitati semper favemus, was the
saying of a wise and good man. It is indeed one sign of a liberal
and benevolent mind to incline to it with some sort of partial
propensity. He feels no ennobling principle in his own heart who
wishes to level all the artificial institutions which have been
adopted for giving a body to opinion, and permanence to fugitive
esteem. It is a sour, malignant, envious disposition, without taste
for the reality or for any image or representation of virtue, that
sees with joy the unmerited fall of what had long flourished in
splendor and in honor. I do not like to see anything destroyed, any
void produced in society, any ruin on the face of the land. It was,
therefore, with no disappointment or dissatisfaction that my inquiries
and observations did not present to me any incorrigible vices in the
noblesse of France, or any abuse which could not be removed by a
reform very short of abolition. Your noblesse did not deserve
punishment; but to degrade is to punish.

IT WAS WITH THE SAME SATISFACTION I found that the result of my
inquiry concerning your clergy was not dissimilar. It is no soothing
news to my ears that great bodies of men are incurably corrupt. It
is not with much credulity I listen to any when they speak evil of
those whom they are going to plunder. I rather suspect that vices
are feigned or exaggerated when profit is looked for in their
punishment. An enemy is a bad witness; a robber is a worse. Vices
and abuses there were undoubtedly in that order, and must be. It was
an old establishment, and not frequently revised. But I saw no
crimes in the individuals that merited confiscation of their
substance, nor those cruel insults and degradations, and that
unnatural persecution which have been substituted in the place of
meliorating regulation.
If there had been any just cause for this new religious
persecution, the atheistic libellers, who act as trumpeters to animate
the populace to plunder, do not love anybody so much as not to dwell
with complacency on the vices of the existing clergy. This they have
not done. They find themselves obliged to rake into the histories of
former ages (which they have ransacked with a malignant and profligate
industry) for every instance of oppression and persecution which has
been made by that body or in its favor in order to justify, upon
very iniquitous, because very illogical, principles of retaliation,
their own persecutions and their own cruelties. After destroying all
other genealogies and family distinctions, they invent a sort of
pedigree of crimes. It is not very just to chastise men for the
offenses of their natural ancestors, but to take the fiction of
ancestry in a corporate succession as a ground for punishing men who
have no relation to guilty acts, except in names and general
descriptions, is a sort of refinement in injustice belonging to the
philosophy of this enlightened age. The Assembly punishes men, many,
if not most, of whom abhor the violent conduct of ecclesiastics in
former times as much as their present persecutors can do, and who
would be as loud and as strong in the expression of that sense, if
they were not well aware of the purposes for which all this
declamation is employed.
Corporate bodies are immortal for the good of the members, but not
for their punishment. Nations themselves are such corporations. As
well might we in England think of waging inexpiable war upon all
Frenchmen for the evils which they have brought upon us in the several
periods of our mutual hostilities. You might, on your part, think
yourselves justified in falling upon all Englishmen on account of
the unparalleled calamities brought on the people of France by the
unjust invasions of our Henries and our Edwards. Indeed, we should
be mutually justified in this exterminatory war upon each other,
full as much as you are in the unprovoked persecution of your
present countrymen, on account of the conduct of men of the same
name in other times.

We do not draw the moral lessons we might from history. On the
contrary, without care it may be used to vitiate our minds and to
destroy our happiness. In history a great volume is unrolled for our
instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past
errors and infirmities of mankind. It may, in the perversion, serve
for a magazine furnishing offensive and defensive weapons for
parties in church and state, and supplying the means of keeping
alive or reviving dissensions and animosities, and adding fuel to
civil fury. History consists for the greater part of the miseries
brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust,
sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of
disorderly appetites which shake the public with the same

- troublous storms that toss
The private state, and render life unsweet.

These vices are the causes of those storms. Religion, morals, laws,
prerogatives, privileges, liberties, rights of men are the pretexts.
The pretexts are always found in some specious appearance of a real
good. You would not secure men from tyranny and sedition by rooting
out of the mind the principles to which these fraudulent pretexts
apply? If you did, you would root out everything that is valuable in
the human breast. As these are the pretexts, so the ordinary actors
and instruments in great public evils are kings, priests, magistrates,
senates, parliaments, national assemblies, judges, and captains. You
would not cure the evil by resolving that there should be no more
monarchs, nor ministers of state, nor of the gospel; no interpreters
of law; no general officers; no public councils. You might change
the names. The things in some shape must remain. A certain quantum
of power must always exist in the community in some hands and under
some appellation. Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not
to names; to the causes of evil which are permanent, not to the
occasional organs by which they act, and the transitory modes in which
they appear. Otherwise you will be wise historically, a fool in
practice. Seldom have two ages the same fashion in their pretexts
and the same modes of mischief. Wickedness is a little more inventive.
Whilst you are discussing fashion, the fashion is gone by. The very
same vice assumes a new body. The spirit transmigrates, and, far
from losing its principle of life by the change of its appearance,
it is renovated in its new organs with a fresh vigor of a juvenile
activity. It walks abroad, it continues its ravages, whilst you are
gibbeting the carcass or demolishing the tomb. You are terrifying
yourselves with ghosts and apparitions, whilst your house is the haunt
of robbers. It is thus with all those who, attending only to the shell
and husk of history, think they are waging war with intolerance,
pride, and cruelty, whilst, under color of abhorring the ill
principles of antiquated parties, they are authorizing and feeding the
same odious vices in different factions, and perhaps in worse.

Your citizens of Paris formerly had lent themselves as the ready
instruments to slaughter the followers of Calvin, at the infamous
massacre of St. Bartholomew. What should we say to those who could
think of retaliating on the Parisians of this day the abominations and
horrors of that time? They are indeed brought to abhor that
massacre. Ferocious as they are, it is not difficult to make them
dislike it, because the politicians and fashionable teachers have no
interest in giving their passions exactly the same direction. Still,
however, they find it their interest to keep the same savage
dispositions alive. It was but the other day that they caused this
very massacre to be acted on the stage for the diversion of the
descendants of those who committed it. In this tragic farce they
produced the cardinal of Lorraine in his robes of function, ordering
general slaughter. Was this spectacle intended to make the Parisians
abhor persecution and loathe the effusion of blood?- No; it was to
teach them to persecute their own pastors; it was to excite them, by
raising a disgust and horror of their clergy, to an alacrity in
hunting down to destruction an order which, if it ought to exist at
all, ought to exist not only in safety, but in reverence. It was to
stimulate their cannibal appetites (which one would think had been
gorged sufficiently) by variety and seasoning; and to quicken them
to an alertness in new murders and massacres, if it should suit the
purpose of the Guises of the day. An assembly, in which sat a
multitude of priests and prelates, was obliged to suffer this
indignity at its door. The author was not sent to the galleys, nor the
players to the house of correction. Not long after this exhibition,
those players came forward to the Assembly to claim the rites of
that very religion which they had dared to expose, and to show their
prostituted faces in the senate, whilst the archbishop of Paris, whose
function was known to his people only by his prayers and benedictions,
and his wealth only by his alms, is forced to abandon his house and to
fly from his flock (as from ravenous wolves) because, truly, in the
sixteenth century, the cardinal of Lorraine was a rebel and a

* This is on the supposition of the truth of the story, but he was
not in France at the time. One name serves as well as another.

Such is the effect of the perversion of history by those who,
for the same nefarious purposes, have perverted every other part of
learning. But those who will stand upon that elevation of reason which
places centuries under our eye and brings things to the true point
of comparison, which obscures little names and effaces the colors of
little parties, and to which nothing can ascend but the spirit and
moral quality of human actions, will say to the teachers of the Palais
Royal: The cardinal of Lorraine was the murderer of the sixteenth
century, you have the glory of being the murderers in the
eighteenth, and this is the only difference between you. But history
in the nineteenth century, better understood and better employed,
will, I trust, teach a civilized posterity to abhor the misdeeds of
both these barbarous ages. It will teach future priests and
magistrates not to retaliate upon the speculative and inactive
atheists of future times the enormities committed by the present
practical zealots and furious fanatics of that wretched error,
which, in its quiescent state, is more than punished whenever it is
embraced. It will teach posterity not to make war upon either religion
or philosophy for the abuse which the hypocrites of both have made
of the two most valuable blessings conferred upon us by the bounty
of the universal Patron, who in all things eminently favors and
protects the race of man.

If your clergy, or any clergy, should show themselves vicious
beyond the fair bounds allowed to human infirmity, and to those
professional faults which can hardly be separated from professional
virtues, though their vices never can countenance the exercise of
oppression, I do admit that they would naturally have the effect of
abating very much of our indignation against the tyrants who exceed
measure and justice in their punishment. I can allow in clergymen,
through all their divisions, some tenaciousness of their own
opinion, some overflowings of zeal for its propagation, some
predilection to their own state and office, some attachment to the
interests of their own corps, some preference to those who listen with
docility to their doctrines, beyond those who scorn and deride them. I
allow all this, because I am a man who has to deal with men, and who
would not, through a violence of toleration, run into the greatest
of all intolerance. I must bear with infirmities until they fester
into crimes.
Undoubtedly, the natural progress of the passions, from frailty to
vice, ought to be prevented by a watchful eye and a firm hand. But
is it true that the body of your clergy had passed those limits of a
just allowance? From the general style of your late publications of
all sorts one would be led to believe that your clergy in France
were a sort of monsters, a horrible composition of superstition,
ignorance, sloth, fraud, avarice, and tyranny. But is this true? Is it
true that the lapse of time, the cessation of conflicting interests,
the woeful experience of the evils resulting from party rage have
had no sort of influence gradually to meliorate their minds? Is it
true that they were daily renewing invasions on the civil power,
troubling the domestic quiet of their country, and rendering the
operations of its government feeble and precarious? Is it true that
the clergy of our times have pressed down the laity with an iron
hand and were in all places lighting up the fires of a savage
persecution? Did they by every fraud endeavor to increase their
estates? Did they use to exceed the due demands on estates that were
their own? Or, rigidly screwing up right into wrong, did they
convert a legal claim into a vexatious extortion? When not possessed
of power, were they filled with the vices of those who envy it? Were
they inflamed with a violent, litigious spirit of controversy?
Goaded on with the ambition of intellectual sovereignty, were they
ready to fly in the face of all magistracy, to fire churches, to
massacre the priests of other descriptions, to pull down altars, and
to make their way over the ruins of subverted governments to an empire
of doctrine, sometimes flattering, sometimes forcing the consciences
of men from the jurisdiction of public institutions into a
submission of their personal authority, beginning with a claim of
liberty and ending with an abuse of power?
These, or some of these, were the vices objected, and not wholly
without foundation, to several of the churchmen of former times who
belonged to the two great parties which then divided and distracted
If there was in France, as in other countries there visibly is,
a great abatement rather than any increase of these vices, instead
of loading the present clergy with the crimes of other men and the
odious character of other times, in common equity they ought to be
praised, encouraged, and supported in their departure from a spirit
which disgraced their predecessors, and for having assumed a temper of
mind and manners more suitable to their sacred function.

When my occasions took me into France, toward the close of the
late reign, the clergy, under all their forms, engaged a
considerable part of my curiosity. So far from finding (except from
one set of men, not then very numerous, though very active) the
complaints and discontents against that body, which some
publications had given me reason to expect, I perceived little or no
public or private uneasiness on their account. On further examination,
I found the clergy, in general, persons of moderate minds and decorous
manners; I include the seculars and the regulars of both sexes. I
had not the good fortune to know a great many of the parochial clergy,
but in general I received a perfectly good account of their morals and
of their attention to their duties. With some of the higher clergy I
had a personal acquaintance, and of the rest in that class a very good
means of information. They were, almost all of them, persons of
noble birth. They resembled others of their own rank; and where
there was any difference, it was in their favor. They were more
fully educated than the military noblesse, so as by no means to
disgrace their profession by ignorance or by want of fitness for the
exercise of their authority. They seemed to me, beyond the clerical
character, liberal and open, with the hearts of gentlemen and men of
honor, neither insolent nor servile in their manners and conduct. They
seemed to me rather a superior class, a set of men amongst whom you
would not be surprised to find a Fenelon. I saw among the clergy in
Paris (many of the description are not to be met with anywhere) men of
great learning and candor; and I had reason to believe that this
description was not confined to Paris. What I found in other places
I know was accidental, and therefore to be presumed a fair example.
I spent a few days in a provincial town where, in the absence of the
bishop, I passed my evenings with three clergymen, his vicars-general,
persons who would have done honor to any church. They were all well
informed; two of them of deep, general, and extensive erudition,
ancient and modern, oriental and western, particularly in their own
profession. They had a more extensive knowledge of our English divines
than I expected, and they entered into the genius of those writers
with a critical accuracy. One of these gentlemen is since dead, the
Abbe Morangis. I pay this tribute, without reluctance, to the memory
of that noble, reverend, learned, and excellent person; and I should
do the same with equal cheerfulness to the merits of the others who, I
believe, are still living, if I did not fear to hurt those whom I am
unable to serve.
Some of these ecclesiastics of rank are by all titles persons
deserving of general respect. They are deserving of gratitude from
me and from many English. If this letter should ever come into their
hands, I hope they will believe there are those of our nation who feel
for their unmerited fall and for the cruel confiscation of their
fortunes with no common sensibility. What I say of them is a
testimony, as far as one feeble voice can go, which I owe to truth.
Whenever the question of this unnatural persecution is concerned, I
will pay it. No one shall prevent me from being just and grateful. The
time is fitted for the duty, and it is particularly becoming to show
our justice and gratitude when those who have deserved well of us
and of mankind are laboring under popular obloquy and the persecutions
of oppressive power.

You had before your Revolution about a hundred and twenty bishops.
A few of them were men of eminent sanctity, and charity without limit.
When we talk of the heroic, of course we talk of rare virtue. I
believe the instances of eminent depravity may be as rare amongst them
as those of transcendent goodness. Examples of avarice and of
licentiousness may be picked out, I do not question it, by those who
delight in the investigation which leads to such discoveries. A man as
old as I am will not be astonished that several, in every description,
do not lead that perfect life of self-denial, with regard to wealth or
to pleasure, which is wished for by all, by some expected, but by none
exacted with more rigor than by those who are the most attentive to
their own interests, or the most indulgent to their own passions. When
I was in France, I am certain that the number of vicious prelates
was not great. Certain individuals among them, not distinguishable for
the regularity of their lives, made some amends for their want of
the severe virtues in their possession of the liberal, and were
endowed with qualities which made them useful in the church and state.
I am told that, with few exceptions, Louis the Sixteenth had been more
attentive to character, in his promotions to that rank, than his
immediate predecessor; and I believe (as some spirit of reform has
prevailed through the whole reign) that it may be true. But the
present ruling power has shown a disposition only to plunder the
church. It has punished all prelates, which is to favor the vicious,
at least in point of reputation. It has made a degrading pensionary
establishment to which no man of liberal ideas or liberal condition
will destine his children. It must settle into the lowest classes of
the people. As with you the inferior clergy are not numerous enough
for their duties; as these duties are, beyond measure, minute and
toilsome; as you have left no middle classes of clergy at their
ease, in future nothing of science or erudition can exist in the
Gallican church. To complete the project without the least attention
to the rights of patrons, the Assembly has provided in future an
elective clergy, an arrangement which will drive out of the clerical
profession all men of sobriety, all who can pretend to independence in
their function or their conduct, and which will throw the whole
direction of the public mind into the hands of a set of licentious,
bold, crafty, factious, flattering wretches, of such condition and
such habits of life as will make their contemptible pensions (in
comparison of which the stipend of an exciseman is lucrative and
honorable) an object of low and illiberal intrigue. Those officers
whom they still call bishops are to be elected to a provision
comparatively mean, through the same arts (that is, electioneering
arts), by men of all religious tenets that are known or can be
invented. The new lawgivers have not ascertained anything whatsoever
concerning their qualifications relative either to doctrine or to
morals, no more than they have done with regard to the subordinate
clergy; nor does it appear but that both the higher and the lower may,
at their discretion, practice or preach any mode of religion or
irreligion that they please. I do not yet see what the jurisdiction of
bishops over their subordinates is to be, or whether they are to
have any jurisdiction at all.
In short, Sir, it seems to me that this new ecclesiastical
establishment is intended only to be temporary and preparatory to
the utter abolition, under any of its forms, of the Christian
religion, whenever the minds of men are prepared for this last
stroke against it, by the accomplishment of the plan for bringing
its ministers into universal contempt. They who will not believe
that the philosophical fanatics who guide in these matters have long
entertained such a design are utterly ignorant of their character
and proceedings. These enthusiasts do not scruple to avow their
opinion that a state can subsist without any religion better than with
one, and that they are able to supply the place of any good which
may be in it by a project of their own- namely, by a sort of
eduction they have imagined, founded in a knowledge of the physical
wants of men, progressively carried to an enlightened self-interest
which, when well understood, they tell us, will identify with an
interest more enlarged and public. The scheme of this education has
been long known. Of late they distinguish it (as they have got an
entirely new nomenclature of technical terms) by the name of a Civic
I hope their partisans in England (to whom I rather attribute very
inconsiderate conduct than the ultimate object in this detestable
design) will succeed neither in the pillage of the ecclesiastics,
nor in the introduction of a principle of popular election to our
bishoprics and parochial cures. This, in the present condition of
the world, would be the last corruption of the church, the utter
ruin of the clerical character, the most dangerous shock that the
state ever received through a misunderstood arrangement of religion. I
know well enough that the bishoprics and cures under kingly and
seignioral patronage, as now they are in England, and as they have
been lately in France, are sometimes acquired by unworthy methods; but
the other mode of ecclesiastical canvass subjects them infinitely more
surely and more generally to all the evil arts of low ambition, which,
operating on and through greater numbers, will produce mischief in
Those of you who have robbed the clergy think that they shall
easily reconcile their conduct to all Protestant nations, because
the clergy, whom they have thus plundered, degraded, and given over to
mockery and scorn, are of the Roman Catholic, that is, of their own
pretended persuasion. I have no doubt that some miserable bigots
will be found here, as well as elsewhere, who hate sects and parties
different from their own more than they love the substance of
religion, and who are more angry with those who differ from them in
their particular plans and systems than displeased with those who
attack the foundation of our common hope. These men will write and
speak on the subject in the manner that is to be expected from their
temper and character. Burnet says that when he was in France, in the
year 1683, "the method which carried over the men of the finest
parts to Popery was this- they brought themselves to doubt of the
whole Christian religion. When that was once done, it seemed a more
indifferent thing of what side or form they continued outwardly." If
this was then the ecclesiastical policy of France, it is what they
have since but too much reason to repent of. They preferred atheism to
a form of religion not agreeable to their ideas. They succeeded in
destroying that form; and atheism has succeeded in destroying them.
I can readily give credit to Burnet's story, because I have observed
too much of a similar spirit (for a little of it is "much too much")
amongst ourselves. The humor, however, is not general.

THE teachers who reformed our religion in England bore no sort
of resemblance to your present reforming doctors in Paris. Perhaps
they were (like those whom they opposed) rather more than could be
wished under the influence of a party spirit, but they were more
sincere believers, men of the most fervent and exalted piety, ready to
die (as some of them did die) like true heroes in defense of their
particular ideas of Christianity, as they would with equal
fortitude, and more cheerfully, for that stock of general truth for
the branches of which they contended with their blood. These men would
have disavowed with horror those wretches who claimed a fellowship
with them upon no other titles than those of their having pillaged the
persons with whom they maintained controversies, and their having
despised the common religion for the purity of which they exerted
themselves with a zeal which unequivocally bespoke their highest
reverence for the substance of that system which they wished to
reform. Many of their descendants have retained the same zeal, but (as
less engaged in conflict) with more moderation. They do not forget
that justice and mercy are substantial parts of religion. Impious
men do not recommend themselves to their communion by iniquity and
cruelty toward any description of their fellow creatures.
We hear these new teachers continually boasting of their spirit of
toleration. That those persons should tolerate all opinions, who think
none to be of estimation, is a matter of small merit. Equal neglect is
not impartial kindness. The species of benevolence which arises from
contempt is no true charity. There are in England abundance of men who
tolerate in the true spirit of toleration. They think the dogmas of
religion, though in different degrees, are all of moment, and that
amongst them there is, as amongst all things of value, a just ground
of preference. They favor, therefore, and they tolerate. They
tolerate, not because they despise opinions, but because they
respect justice. They would reverently and affectionately protect
all religions because they love and venerate the great principle
upon which they all agree, and the great object to which they are
all directed. They begin more and more plainly to discern that we have
all a common cause, as against a common enemy. They will not be so
misled by the spirit of faction as not to distinguish what is done
in favor of their subdivision from those acts of hostility which,
through some particular description, are aimed at the whole corps,
in which they themselves, under another denomination, are included. It
is impossible for me to say what may be the character of every
description of men amongst us. But I speak for the greater part; and
for them, I must tell you that sacrilege is no part of their
doctrine of good works; that, so far from calling you into their
fellowship on such title, if your professors are admitted to their
communion, they must carefully conceal their doctrine of the
lawfulness of the prescription of innocent men; and that they must
make restitution of all stolen goods whatsoever. Till then they are
none of ours.

You may suppose that we do not approve your confiscation of the
revenues of bishops, and deans, and chapters, and parochial clergy
possessing independent estates arising from land, because we have
the same sort of establishment in England. That objection, you will
say, cannot hold as to the confiscation of the goods of monks and nuns
and the abolition of their order. It is true that this particular part
of your general confiscation does not affect England, as a precedent
in point; but the reason implies, and it goes a great way. The Long
Parliament confiscated the lands of deans and chapters in England on
the same ideas upon which your Assembly set to sale the lands of the
monastic orders. But it is in the principle of injustice that the
danger lies, and not in the description of persons on whom it is first
exercised. I see, in a country very near us, a course of policy
pursued which sets justice, the common concern of mankind, at
defiance. With the National Assembly of France possession is
nothing, law and usage are nothing. I see the National Assembly openly
reprobate the doctrine of prescription, which* one of the greatest
of their own lawyers tells us, with great truth, is a part of the
law of nature. He tells us that the positive ascertainment of its
limits, and its security from invasion, were among the causes for
which civil society itself has been instituted. If prescription be
once shaken, no species of property is secure when it once becomes
an object large enough to tempt the cupidity of indigent power. I
see a practice perfectly correspondent to their contempt of this great
fundamental part of natural law. I see the confiscators begin with
bishops and chapters, and monasteries, but I do not see them end
there. I see the princes of the blood, who by the oldest usages of
that kingdom held large landed estates, (hardly with the compliment of
a debate) deprived of their possessions and, in lieu of their
stable, independent property, reduced to the hope of some
precarious, charitable pension at the pleasure of an assembly which of
course will pay little regard to the rights of pensioners at
pleasure when it despises those of legal proprietors. Flushed with the
insolence of their first inglorious victories, and pressed by the
distresses caused by their lust of unhallowed lucre, disappointed
but not discouraged, they have at length ventured completely to
subvert all property of all descriptions throughout the extent of a
great kingdom. They have compelled all men, in all transactions of
commerce, in the disposal of lands, in civil dealing, and through
the whole communion of life, to accept as perfect payment and good and
lawful tender the symbols of their speculations on a projected sale of
their plunder. What vestiges of liberty or property have they left?
The tenant right of a cabbage garden, a year's interest in a hovel,
the goodwill of an alehouse or a baker's shop, the very shadow of a
constructive property, are more ceremoniously treated in our
parliament than with you the oldest and most valuable landed
possessions, in the hands of the most respectable personages, or
than the whole body of the monied and commercial interest of your
country. We entertain a high opinion of the legislative authority, but
we have never dreamt that parliaments had any right whatever to
violate property, to overrule prescription, or to force a currency
of their own fiction in the place of that which is real and recognized
by the law of nations. But you, who began with refusing to submit to
the most moderate restraints, have ended by establishing an unheard-of
despotism. I find the ground upon which your confiscators go is
this: that, indeed, their proceedings could not be supported in a
court of justice, but that the rules of prescription cannot bind a
legislative assembly.*(2) So that this legislative assembly of a
free nation sits, not for the security, but for the destruction, of
property, and not of property only, but of every rule and maxim
which can give it stability, and of those instruments which can
alone give it circulation.

* Domat.
*(2) Speech of Mr. Camus, published by order of the National

When the Anabaptists of Munster, in the sixteenth century, had
filled Germany with confusion by their system of leveling and their
wild opinions concerning property, to what country in Europe did not
the progress of their fury furnish just cause of alarm? Of all things,
wisdom is the most terrified with epidemical fanaticism, because of
all enemies it is that against which she is the least able to
furnish any kind of resource. We cannot be ignorant of the spirit of
atheistical fanaticism that is inspired by a multitude of writings
dispersed with incredible assiduity and expense, and by sermons
delivered in all the streets and places of public resort in Paris.
These writings and sermons have filled the populace with a black and
savage atrocity of mind, which supersedes in them the common
feelings of nature as well as all sentiments of morality and religion,
insomuch that these wretches are induced to bear with a sullen
patience the intolerable distresses brought upon them by the violent
convulsions and permutations that have been made in property.* The
spirit of proselytism attends this spirit of fanaticism. They have
societies to cabal and correspond at home and abroad for the
propagation of their tenets. The republic of Berne, one of the
happiest, the most prosperous, and the best governed countries upon
earth, is one of the great objects at the destruction of which they
aim. I am told they have in some measure succeeded in sowing there the
seeds of discontent. They are busy throughout Germany. Spain and Italy
have not been untried. England is not left out of the comprehensive
scheme of their malignant charity; and in England we find those who
stretch out their arms to them, who recommend their example from
more than one pulpit, and who choose in more than one periodical
meeting publicly to correspond with them, to applaud them, and to hold
them up as objects for imitation; who receive from them tokens of
confraternity, and standards consecrated amidst their rites and
mysteries;*(2) who suggest to them leagues of perpetual amity, at
the very time when the power to which our constitution has exclusively
delegated the federative capacity of this kingdom may find it
expedient to make war upon them.

* Whether the following description is strictly true, I know
not; but it is what the publishers would have pass for true in order
to animate others. In a letter from Toul, given in one of their
papers, is the following passage concerning the people of that
district: "Dans la Revolution actuelle, ils ont resiste a toutes les
seductions du bigotisme, aux persecutions, et aux tracasseries des
ennemis de la Revolution. Oubliant leurs plus grands interets pour
rendre hommage aux vues d'ordre general qui ont determine
l'Assemblee Nationale, ils voient, sans se plaindre, supprimer cette
foule detablissemens ecclesiastiques par lesquels ils subsistoient; et
meme, en perdant leur siege episcopal, la seule de toutes ces
ressources qui pouvoit, ou plutot qui devoit, en toute equite, leur
etre conservee; condamnes a la plus effrayante misere, sans avoir
ete ni pu etre entendus, ils ne murmurent point, ils restent fideles
aux principes du plus pur patriotisme; ils sont encore prets a
verser leur sang pour le maintien de la Constitution, qui va reduire
leur ville a la plus deplorable nullite." These people are not
supposed to have endured those sufferings and injustices in a struggle
for liberty, for the same account states truly that they had been
always free; their patience in beggary and ruin, and their
suffering, without remonstrance, the most flagrant and confessed
injustice, if strictly true, can be nothing but the effect of this
dire fanaticism. A great multitude all over France is in the same
condition and the same temper.
*(2) See the proceedings of the confederation at Nantz.

It is not the confiscation of our church property from this
example in France that I dread, though I think this would be no
trifling evil. The great source of my solicitude is, lest it should
ever be considered in England as the policy of a state to seek a
resource in confiscations of any kind, or that any one description
of citizens should be brought to regard any of the others as their
proper prey.* Nations are wading deeper and deeper into an ocean of
boundless debt. Public debts, which at first were a security to
governments by interesting many in the public tranquillity, are likely
in their excess to become the means of their subversion. If
governments provide for these debts by heavy impositions, they
perish by becoming odious to the people. If they do not provide for
them, they will be undone by the efforts of the most dangerous of
all parties- I mean an extensive, discontented monied interest,
injured and not destroyed. The men who compose this interest look
for their security, in the first instance, to the fidelity of
government; in the second, to its power. If they find the old
governments effete, worn out, and with their springs relaxed, so as
not to be of sufficient vigor for their purposes, they may seek new
ones that shall be possessed of more energy; and this energy will be
derived, not from an acquisition of resources, but from a contempt
of justice. Revolutions are favorable to confiscation; and it is
impossible to know under what obnoxious names the next confiscations
will be authorized. I am sure that the principles predominant in
France extend to very many persons and descriptions of persons, in all
countries, who think their innoxious indolence their security. This
kind of innocence in proprietors may be argued into inutility; and
inutility into an unfitness for their estates. Many parts of Europe
are in open disorder. In many others there is a hollow murmuring under
ground; a confused movement is felt that threatens a general
earthquake in the political world. Already confederacies and
correspondencies of the most extraordinary nature are forming in
several countries.*(2) In such a state of things we ought to hold
ourselves upon our guard. In all mutations (if mutations must be)
the circumstance which will serve most to blunt the edge of their
mischief and to promote what good may be in them is that they should
find us with our minds tenacious of justice and tender of property.

* "Si plures sunt ii quibus improbe datum est, quam illi quibus
injuste ademptum est, idcirco plus etiam valent? Non enim numero
haec judicantur sed pondere. Quam autem habet aequitatem, ut agrum
multis annis, aut etiam saeculis ante possessum, qui nullum habuit
habeat; qui autem habuit amittat? Ac, propter hoc injuriae genus,
Lacedaemonii Lysandrum Ephorum expulerunt: Agin regem (quod nunquam
antea apud eos acciderat) necaverunt: exque eo tempore tantae
discordiae secutae sunt, ut et tyranni existerint, et optimates
exterminarentur, et preclarissime constituta respublica dilaberetur.
Nec vero solum ipsa cecidit, sed etiam reliquam Graeciam evertit
contagionibus malorum, quae a Lacedaemoniis profectae manarunt
latius".- After speaking of the conduct of the model of true patriots,
Aratus of Sicyon, which was in a very different spirit, he says,
"Sic par est agere cum civibus; non ut bis jam vidimus, hastam in foro
ponere et bona civium voci subjicere praeconis. At ille Graecus (id
quod fuit sapientis et praestantis viri) omnibus consulendum esse
putavit: eaque est summa ratio et sapientia boni civis, commoda civium
non divellere, sed omnes eadem aequitate continere." Cic. Off. 1. 2.
*(2) See two books entitled, Einige Originalschriften des
Illuminatenordens.- System und Folgen des Illuminatenordens.
Munchen, 1787.

But it will be argued that this confiscation in France ought not
to alarm other nations. They say it is not made from wanton
rapacity, that it is a great measure of national policy adopted to
remove an extensive, inveterate, superstitious mischief. It is with
the greatest difficulty that I am able to separate policy from
justice. Justice itself is the great standing policy of civil society,
and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under
the suspicion of being no policy at all.
When men are encouraged to go into a certain mode of life by the
existing laws, and protected in that mode as in a lawful occupation;
when they have accommodated all their ideas and all their habits to
it; when the law had long made their adherence to its rules a ground
of reputation, and their departure from them a ground of disgrace
and even of penalty- I am sure it is unjust in legislature, by an
arbitrary act, to offer a sudden violence to their minds and their
feelings, forcibly to degrade them from their state and condition
and to stigmatize with shame and infamy that character and those
customs which before had been made the measure of their happiness
and honor. If to this be added an expulsion from their habitations and
a confiscation of all their goods, I am not sagacious enough to
discover how this despotic sport, made of the feelings, consciences,
prejudices, and properties of men, can be discriminated from the
rankest tyranny.
If the injustice of the course pursued in France be clear, the
policy of the measure, that is, the public benefit to be expected from
it, ought to be at least as evident and at least as important. To a
man who acts under the influence of no passion, who has nothing in
view in his projects but the public good, a great difference will
immediately strike him between what policy would dictate on the
original introduction of such institutions and on a question of
their total abolition, where they have cast their roots wide and deep,
and where, by long habit, things more valuable than themselves are
so adapted to them, and in a manner interwoven with them, that the one
cannot be destroyed without notably impairing the other. He might be
embarrassed if the case were really such as sophisters represent it in
their paltry style of debating. But in this, as in most questions of
state, there is a middle. There is something else than the mere
alternative of absolute destruction or unreformed existence. Spartam
nactus es; hanc exorna. This is, in my opinion, a rule of profound
sense and ought never to depart from the mind of an honest reformer. I
cannot conceive how any man can have brought himself to that pitch
of presumption to consider his country as nothing but carte blanche-
upon which he may scribble whatever he pleases. A man full of warm,
speculative benevolence may wish his society otherwise constituted
than he finds it, but a good patriot and a true politician always
considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of
his country. A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve,
taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. Everything else
is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the execution.

There are moments in the fortune of states when particular men are
called to make improvements by great mental exertion. In those
moments, even when they seem to enjoy the confidence of their prince
and country, and to be invested with full authority, they have not
always apt instruments. A politician, to do great things, looks for
a power what our workmen call a purchase; and if he finds that
power, in politics as in mechanics, he cannot be at a loss to apply
it. In the monastic institutions, in my opinion, was found a great
power for the mechanism of politic benevolence. There were revenues
with a public direction; there were men wholly set apart and dedicated
to public purposes, without any other than public ties and public
principles; men without the possibility of converting the estate of
the community into a private fortune; men denied to self-interests,
whose avarice is for some community; men to whom personal poverty is
honor, and implicit obedience stands in the place of freedom. In
vain shall a man look to the possibility of making such things when he
wants them. The winds blow as they list. These institutions are the
products of enthusiasm; they are the instruments of wisdom. Wisdom
cannot create materials; they are the gifts of nature or of chance;
her pride is in the use. The perennial existence of bodies corporate
and their fortunes are things particularly suited to a man who has
long views; who meditates designs that require time in fashioning, and
which propose duration when they are accomplished. He is not deserving
to rank high, or even to be mentioned in the order of great statesmen,
who, having obtained the command and direction of such a power as
existed in the wealth, the discipline, and the habits of such
corporations, as those which you have rashly destroyed, cannot find
any way of converting it to the great and lasting benefit of his
country. On the view of this subject, a thousand uses suggest
themselves to a contriving mind. To destroy any power growing wild
from the rank productive force of the human mind is almost tantamount,
in the moral world, to the destruction of the apparently active
properties of bodies in the material. It would be like the attempt
to destroy (if it were in our competence to destroy) the expansive
force of fixed air in nitre, or the power of steam, or of electricity,
or of magnetism. These energies always existed in nature, and they
were always discernible. They seemed, some of them unserviceable, some
noxious, some no better than a sport to children, until
contemplative ability, combining with practic skill, tamed their
wild nature, subdued them to use, and rendered them at once the most
powerful and the most tractable agents in subservience to the great
views and designs of men. Did fifty thousand persons whose mental
and whose bodily labor you might direct, and so many hundred
thousand a year of a revenue which was neither lazy nor superstitious,
appear too big for your abilities to wield? Had you no way of using
them but by converting monks into pensioners? Had you no way of
turning the revenue to account but through the improvident resource of
a spendthrift sale? If you were thus destitute of mental funds, the
proceeding is in its natural course. Your politicians do not
understand their trade; and therefore they sell their tools.

But the institutions savor of superstition in their very
principle, and they nourish it by a permanent and standing
influence. This I do not mean to dispute, but this ought not to hinder
you from deriving from superstition itself any resources which may
thence be furnished for the public advantage. You derive benefits from
many dispositions and many passions of the human mind which are of
as doubtful a color, in the moral eye, as superstition itself. It
was your business to correct and mitigate everything which was noxious
in this passion, as in all the passions. But is superstition the
greatest of all possible vices? In its possible excess I think it
becomes a very great evil. It is, however, a moral subject and, of
course, admits of all degrees and all modifications. Superstition is
the religion of feeble minds; and they must be tolerated in an
intermixture of it, in some trifling or some enthusiastic shape or
other, else you will deprive weak minds of a resource found
necessary to the strongest. The body of all true religion consists, to
be sure, in obedience to the will of the Sovereign of the world, in
a confidence in his declarations, and in imitation of his perfections.
The rest is our own. It may be prejudicial to the great end; it may be
auxiliary. Wise men, who as such are not admirers (not admirers at
least of the Munera Terrae), are not violently attached to these
things, nor do they violently hate them. Wisdom is not the most severe
corrector of folly. They are the rival follies which mutually wage
so unrelenting a war, and which make so cruel a use of their
advantages as they can happen to engage the immoderate vulgar, on
the one side or the other, in their quarrels. Prudence would be
neuter, but if, in the contention between fond attachment and fierce
antipathy concerning things in their nature not made to produce such
heats, a prudent man were obliged to make a choice of what errors
and excesses of enthusiasm he would condemn or bear, perhaps he
would think the superstition which builds to be more tolerable than
that which demolishes; that which adorns a country, than that which
deforms it; that which endows, than that which plunders; that which
disposes to mistaken beneficence, than that which stimulates to real
injustice; that which leads a man to refuse to himself lawful
pleasures, than that which snatches from others the scanty subsistence
of their self-denial. Such, I think, is very nearly the state of the
question between the ancient founders of monkish superstition and
the superstition of the pretended philosophers of the hour.
For the present I postpone all consideration of the supposed
public profit of the sale, which however I conceive to be perfectly
delusive. I shall here only consider it as a transfer of property.
On the policy of that transfer I shall trouble you with a few

In every prosperous community something more is produced than goes
to the immediate support of the producer. This surplus forms the
income of the landed capitalist. It will be spent by a proprietor
who does not labor. But this idleness is itself the spring of labor;
this repose the spur to industry. The only concern of the state is
that the capital taken in rent from the land should be returned
again to the industry from whence it came, and that its expenditure
should be with the least possible detriment to the morals of those who
expend it, and to those of the people to whom it is returned.
In all the views of receipt, expenditure, and personal employment,
a sober legislator would carefully compare the possessor whom he was
recommended to expel with the stranger who was proposed to fill his
place. Before the inconveniences are incurred which must attend all
violent revolutions in property through extensive confiscation, we
ought to have some rational assurance that the purchasers of the
confiscated property will be in a considerable degree more
laborious, more virtuous, more sober, less disposed to extort an
unreasonable proportion of the gains of the laborer, or to consume
on themselves a larger share than is fit for the measure of an
individual; or that they should be qualified to dispense the surplus
in a more steady and equal mode, so as to answer the purposes of a
politic expenditure, than the old possessors, call those possessors
bishops, or canons, or commendatory abbots, or monks, or what you
please. The monks are lazy. Be it so. Suppose them no otherwise
employed than by singing in the choir. They are as usefully employed
as those who neither sing nor say; as usefully even as those who
sing upon the stage. They are as usefully employed as if they worked
from dawn to dark in the innumerable servile, degrading, unseemly,
unmanly, and often most unwholesome and pestiferous occupations to
which by the social economy so many wretches are inevitably doomed. If
it were not generally pernicious to disturb the natural course of
things and to impede in any degree the great wheel of circulation
which is turned by the strangely-directed labor of these unhappy
people, I should be infinitely more inclined forcibly to rescue them
from their miserable industry than violently to disturb the tranquil
repose of monastic quietude. Humanity, and perhaps policy, might
better justify me in the one than in the other. It is a subject on
which I have often reflected, and never reflected without feeling from
it. I am sure that no consideration, except the necessity of
submitting to the yoke of luxury and the despotism of fancy, who in
their own imperious way will distribute the surplus product of the
soil, can justify the toleration of such trades and employments in a
well-regulated state. But for this purpose of distribution, it seems
to me that the idle expenses of monks are quite as well directed as
the idle expenses of us lay-loiterers.

When the advantages of the possession and of the project are on
a par, there is no motive for a change. But in the present case,
perhaps, they are not upon a par, and the difference is in favor of
the possession. It does not appear to me that the expenses of those
whom you are going to expel do in fact take a course so directly and
so generally leading to vitiate and degrade and render miserable those
through whom they pass as the expenses of those favorites whom you are
intruding into their houses. Why should the expenditure of a great
landed property, which is a dispersion of the surplus product of the
soil, appear intolerable to you or to me when it takes its course
through the accumulation of vast libraries, which are the history of
the force and weakness of the human mind; through great collections of
ancient records, medals, and coins, which attest and explain laws
and customs; through paintings and statues that, by imitating
nature, seem to extend the limits of creation; through grand monuments
of the dead, which continue the regards and connections of life beyond
the grave; through collections of the specimens of nature which become
a representative assembly of all the classes and families of the world
that by disposition facilitate and, by exciting curiosity, open the
avenues to science? If by great permanent establishments all these
objects of expense are better secured from the inconstant sport of
personal caprice and personal extravagance, are they worse than if the
same tastes prevailed in scattered individuals? Does not the sweat
of the mason and carpenter, who toil in order to partake of the
sweat of the peasant, flow as pleasantly and as salubriously in the
construction and repair of the majestic edifices of religion as in the
painted booths and sordid sties of vice and luxury; as honorably and
as profitably in repairing those sacred works which grow hoary with
innumerable years as on the momentary receptacles of transient
voluptuousness; in opera houses, and brothels, and gaming houses,
and clubhouses, and obelisks in the Champ de Mars? Is the surplus
product of the olive and the vine worse employed in the frugal
sustenance of persons whom the fictions of a pious imagination raise
to dignity by construing in the service of God, than in pampering
the innumerable multitude of those who are degraded by being made
useless domestics, subservient to the pride of man? Are the
decorations of temples an expenditure less worthy a wise man than
ribbons, and laces, and national cockades, and petit maisons, and
petit soupers, and all the innumerable fopperies and follies in
which opulence sports away the burden of its superfluity?
We tolerate even these, not from love of them, but for fear of
worse. We tolerate them because property and liberty, to a degree,
require that toleration. But why proscribe the other, and surely, in
every point of view, the more laudable, use of estates? Why, through
the violation of all property, through an outrage upon every principle
of liberty, forcibly carry them from the better to the worse?
This comparison between the new individuals and the old corps is
made upon a supposition that no reform could be made in the latter.
But in a question of reformation I always consider corporate bodies,
whether sole or consisting of many, to be much more susceptible of a
public direction by the power of the state, in the use of their
property and in the regulation of modes and habits of life in their
members, than private citizens ever can be or, perhaps, ought to be;
and this seems to me a very material consideration for those who
undertake anything which merits the name of a politic enterprise.-
So far as to the estates of monasteries.
With regard to the estates possessed by bishops and canons and
commendatory abbots, I cannot find out for what reason some landed
estates may not be held otherwise than by inheritance. Can any
philosophic spoiler undertake to demonstrate the positive or the
comparative evil of having a certain, and that too a large, portion of
landed property passing in succession through persons whose title to
it is, always in theory and often in fact, an eminent degree of piety,
morals, and learning- a property which, by its destination, in their
turn, and on the score of merit, gives to the noblest families
renovation and support, to the lowest the means of dignity and
elevation; a property the tenure of which is the performance of some
duty (whatever value you may choose to set upon that duty), and the
character of whose proprietors demands, at least, an exterior
decorum and gravity of manners; who are to exercise a generous but
temperate hospitality; part of whose income they are to consider as
a trust for charity; and who, even when they fail in their trust, when
they slide from their character and degenerate into a mere common
secular nobleman or gentleman, are in no respect worse than those
who may succeed them in their forfeited possessions? Is it better that
estates should be held by those who have no duty than by those who
have one?- by those whose character and destination point to virtues
than by those who have no rule and direction in the expenditure of
their estates but their own will and appetite? Nor are these estates
held together in the character or with the evils supposed inherent
in mortmain. They pass from hand to hand with a more rapid circulation
than any other. No excess is good; and, therefore, too great a
proportion of landed property may be held officially for life; but
it does not seem to me of material injury to any commonwealth that
there should exist some estates that have a chance of being acquired
by other means than the previous acquisition of money.

THIS LETTER HAS GROWN to a great length, though it is, indeed,
short with regard to the infinite extent of the subject. Various
avocations have from time to time called my mind from the subject. I
was not sorry to give myself leisure to observe whether, in the
proceedings of the National Assembly, I might not find reasons to
change or to qualify some of my first sentiments. Everything has
confirmed me more strongly in my first opinions. It was my original
purpose to take a view of the principles of the National Assembly with
regard to the great and fundamental establishments, and to compare the
whole of what you have substituted in the place of what you have
destroyed with the several members of our British constitution. But
this plan is of a greater extent than at first I computed, and I
find that you have little desire to take the advantage of any
examples. At present I must content myself with some remarks upon your
establishments, reserving for another time what I proposed to say
concerning the spirit of our British monarchy, aristocracy, and
democracy, as practically they exist.
I have taken a view of what has been done by the governing power
in France. I have certainly spoken of it with freedom. Those whose
principle it is to despise the ancient, permanent sense of mankind and
to set up a scheme of society on new principles must naturally
expect that such of us who think better of the judgment of the human
race than of theirs should consider both them and their devices as men
and schemes upon their trial. They must take it for granted that we
attend much to their reason, but not at all to their authority. They
have not one of the great influencing prejudices of mankind in their
favor. They avow their hostility to opinion. Of course, they must
expect no support from that influence which, with every other
authority, they have deposed from the seat of its jurisdiction.
I can never consider this Assembly as anything else than a
voluntary association of men who have availed themselves of
circumstances to seize upon the power of the state. They have not
the sanction and authority of the character under which they first
met. They have assumed another of a very different nature and have
completely altered and inverted all the relations in which they
originally stood. They do not hold the authority they exercise under
any constitutional law of the state. They have departed from the
instructions of the people by whom they were sent, which instructions,
as the Assembly did not act in virtue of any ancient usage or
settled law, were the sole source of their authority. The most
considerable of their acts have not been done by great majorities; and
in this sort of near divisions, which carry only the constructive
authority of the whole, strangers will consider reasons as well as
If they had set up this new experimental government as a necessary
substitute for an expelled tyranny, mankind would anticipate the
time of prescription which, through long usage, mellows into
legality governments that were violent in their commencement. All
those who have affections which lead them to the conservation of civil
order would recognize, even in its cradle, the child as legitimate
which has been produced from those principles of cogent expediency
to which all just governments owe their birth, and on which they
justify their continuance. But they will be late and reluctant in
giving any sort of countenance to the operations of a power which
has derived its birth from no law and no necessity, but which, on
the contrary, has had its origin in those vices and sinister practices
by which the social union is often disturbed and sometimes
destroyed. This Assembly has hardly a year's prescription. We have
their own word for it that they have made a revolution. To make a
revolution is a measure which, prima fronte, requires an apology. To
make a revolution is to subvert the ancient state of our country;
and no common reasons are called for to justify so violent a
proceeding. The sense of mankind authorizes us to examine into the
mode of acquiring new power, and to criticize on the use that is
made of it, with less awe and reverence than that which is usually
conceded to a settled and recognized authority.
In obtaining and securing their power the Assembly proceeds upon
principles the most opposite to those which appear to direct them in
the use of it. An observation on this difference will let us into
the true spirit of their conduct. Everything which they have done,
or continue to do. in order to obtain and keep their power is by the
most common arts. They proceed exactly as their ancestors of
ambition have done before them.- Trace them through all their
artifices, frauds, and violences, you can find nothing at all that
is new. They follow precedents and examples with the punctilious
exactness of a pleader. They never depart an iota from the authentic
formulas of tyranny and usurpation. But in all the regulations
relative to the public good, the spirit has been the very reverse of
this. There they commit the whole to the mercy of untried
speculations; they abandon the dearest interests of the public to
those loose theories to which none of them would choose to trust the
slightest of his private concerns. They make this difference,
because in their desire of obtaining and securing power they are
thoroughly in earnest; there they travel in the beaten road. The
public interests, because about them they have no real solicitude,
they abandon wholly to chance; I say to chance, because their
schemes have nothing in experience to prove their tendency beneficial.
We must always see with a pity not unmixed with respect the errors
of those who are timid and doubtful of themselves with regard to
points wherein the happiness of mankind is concerned. But in these
gentlemen there is nothing of the tender, parental solicitude which
fears to cut up the infant for the sake of an experiment. In the
vastness of their promises and the confidence of their predictions,
they far outdo all the boasting of empirics. The arrogance of their
pretensions in a manner provokes and challenges us to an inquiry
into their foundation.

I AM convinced that there are men of considerable parts among
the popular leaders in the National Assembly. Some of them display
eloquence in their speeches and their writings. This cannot be without
powerful and cultivated talents. But eloquence may exist without a
proportionable degree of wisdom. When I speak of ability, I am obliged
to distinguish. What they have done toward the support of their system
bespeaks no ordinary men. In the system itself, taken as the scheme of
a republic constructed for procuring the prosperity and security of
the citizen, and for promoting the strength and grandeur of the state,
I confess myself unable to find out anything which displays in a
single instance the work of a comprehensive and disposing mind or even
the provisions of a vulgar prudence. Their purpose everywhere seems to
have been to evade and slip aside from difficulty. This it has been
the glory of the great masters in all the arts to confront, and to
overcome; and when they had overcome the first difficulty, to turn
it into an instrument for new conquests over new difficulties, thus to
enable them to extend the empire of their science and even to push
forward, beyond the reach of their original thoughts, the landmarks of
the human understanding itself. Difficulty is a severe instructor, set
over us by the supreme ordinance of a parental Guardian and
Legislator, who knows us better than we know ourselves, as he loves us
better, too. Pater ipse colendi haud facilem esse viam voluit. He that
wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our
antagonist is our helper. This amicable conflict with difficulty
obliges us to an intimate acquaintance with our object and compels
us to consider it in all its relations. It will not suffer us to be
superficial. It is the want of nerves of understanding for such a
task, it is the degenerate fondness for tricking shortcuts and
little fallacious facilities that has in so many parts of the world
created governments with arbitrary powers. They have created the
late arbitrary monarchy of France. They have created the arbitrary
republic of Paris. With them defects in wisdom are to be supplied by
the plenitude of force. They get nothing by it. Commencing their
labors on a principle of sloth, they have the common fortune of
slothful men. The difficulties, which they rather had eluded than
escaped, meet them again in their course; they multiply and thicken on
them; they are involved, through a labyrinth of confused detail, in an
industry without limit and without direction; and, in conclusion,
the whole of their work becomes feeble, vicious, and insecure.
It is this inability to wrestle with difficulty which has
obliged the arbitrary Assembly of France to commence their schemes
of reform with abolition and total destruction.* But is it in
destroying and pulling down that skill is displayed? Your mob can do
this as well at least as your assemblies. The shallowest
understanding, the rudest hand is more than equal to that task. Rage
and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence,
deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years. The
errors and defects of old establishments are visible and palpable.
It calls for little ability to point them out; and where absolute
power is given, it requires but a word wholly to abolish the vice
and the establishment together. The same lazy but restless disposition
which loves sloth and hates quiet directs the politicians when they
come to work for supplying the place of what they have destroyed. To
make everything the reverse of what they have seen is quite as easy as
to destroy. No difficulties occur in what has never been tried.
Criticism is almost baffled in discovering the defects of what has not
existed; and eager enthusiasm and cheating hope have all the wide
field of imagination in which they may expatiate with little or no

* A leading member of the Assembly, M. Rabaud de St. Etienne,
has expressed the principle of all their proceedings as clearly as
possible- Nothing can be more simple: "Tous les etablissemens en
France couronnent le malheur du peuple: pour le rendre heureux il faut
le renouveler; changer ses idees; changer ses loix; changer ses
moeurs;... changer les hommes; changer les choses; changer les mots...
tout detruire; oui, tout detruire; puisque tout est a recreer". This
gentleman was chosen president in an assembly not sitting at the
Quinze-vingt, or the Petits Maisons; and composed of persons giving
themselves out to be rational beings; but neither his ideas, language,
or conduct, differ in the smallest degree from the discourses,
opinions, and actions of those within and without the Assembly, who
direct the operations of the machine now at work in France.

At once to preserve and to reform is quite another thing. When the
useful parts of an old establishment are kept, and what is
superadded is to be fitted to what is retained, a vigorous mind,
steady, persevering attention, various powers of comparison and
combination, and the resources of an understanding fruitful in
expedients are to be exercised; they are to be exercised in a
continued conflict with the combined force of opposite vices, with the
obstinacy that rejects all improvement and the levity that is fatigued
and disgusted with everything of which it is in possession. But you
may object- "A process of this kind is slow. It is not fit for an
assembly which glories in performing in a few months the work of ages.
Such a mode of reforming, possibly, might take up many years". Without
question it might; and it ought. It is one of the excellences of a
method in which time is amongst the assistants, that its operation
is slow and in some cases almost imperceptible. If circumspection
and caution are a part of wisdom when we work only upon inanimate
matter, surely they become a part of duty, too, when the subject of
our demolition and construction is not brick and timber but sentient
beings, by the sudden alteration of whose state, condition, and habits
multitudes may be rendered miserable. But it seems as if it were the
prevalent opinion in Paris that an unfeeling heart and an undoubting
confidence are the sole qualifications for a perfect legislator. Far
different are my ideas of that high office. The true lawgiver ought to
have a heart full of sensibility. He ought to love and respect his
kind, and to fear himself. It may be allowed to his temperament to
catch his ultimate object with an intuitive glance, but his
movements toward it ought to be deliberate. Political arrangement,
as it is a work for social ends, is to be only wrought by social
means. There mind must conspire with mind. Time is required to produce
that union of minds which alone can produce all the good we aim at.
Our patience will achieve more than our force. If I might venture to
appeal to what is so much out of fashion in Paris, I mean to
experience, I should tell you that in my course I have known and,
according to my measure, have co-operated with great men; and I have
never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observation
of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who
took the lead in the business. By a slow but well-sustained progress
the effect of each step is watched; the good or ill success of the
first gives light to us in the second; and so, from light to light, we
are conducted with safety through the whole series. We see that the
parts of the system do not clash. The evils latent in the most
promising contrivances are provided for as they arise. One advantage
is as little as possible sacrificed to another. We compensate, we
reconcile, we balance. We are enabled to unite into a consistent whole
the various anomalies and contending principles that are found in
the minds and affairs of men. From hence arises, not an excellence
in simplicity, but one far superior, an excellence in composition.
Where the great interests of mankind are concerned through a long
succession of generations, that succession ought to be admitted into
some share in the councils which are so deeply to affect them. If
justice requires this, the work itself requires the aid of more
minds than one age can furnish. It is from this view of things that
the best legislators have been often satisfied with the
establishment of some sure, solid, and ruling principle in government-
a power like that which some of the philosophers have called a plastic
nature; and having fixed the principle, they have left it afterwards
to its own operation.

To proceed in this manner, that is, to proceed with a presiding
principle and a prolific energy is with me the criterion of profound
wisdom. What your politicians think the marks of a bold, hardy
genius are only proofs of a deplorable want of ability. By their
violent haste and their defiance of the process of nature, they are
delivered over blindly to every projector and adventurer, to every
alchemist and empiric. They despair of turning to account anything
that is common. Diet is nothing in their system of remedy. The worst
of it is that this their despair of curing common distempers by
regular methods arises not only from defect of comprehension but, I
fear, from some malignity of disposition. Your legislators seem to
have taken their opinions of all professions, ranks, and offices
from the declamations and buffooneries of satirists; who would
themselves be astonished if they were held to the letter of their
own descriptions. By listening only to these, your leaders regard
all things only on the side of their vices and faults, and view
those vices and faults under every color of exaggeration. It is
undoubtedly true, though it may seem paradoxical; but in general,
those who are habitually employed in finding and displaying faults are
unqualified for the work of reformation, because their minds are not
only unfurnished with patterns of the fair and good, but by habit they
come to take no delight in the contemplation of those things. By
hating vices too much, they come to love men too little. It is,
therefore, not wonderful that they should be indisposed and unable
to serve them. From hence arises the complexional disposition of
some of your guides to pull everything in pieces. At this malicious
game they display the whole of their quadrimanous activity. As to
the rest, the paradoxes of eloquent writers, brought forth purely as a
sport of fancy to try their talents, to rouse attention and excite
surprise, are taken up by these gentlemen, not in the spirit of the
original authors, as means of cultivating their taste and improving
their style. These paradoxes become with them serious grounds of
action upon which they proceed in regulating the most important
concerns of the state. Cicero ludicrously describes Cato as
endeavoring to act, in the commonwealth, upon the school paradoxes
which exercised the wits of the junior students in the Stoic
philosophy. If this was true of Cato, these gentlemen copy after him
in the manner of some persons who lived about his time- pede nudo
Catonem. Mr. Hume told me that he had from Rousseau himself the secret
of his principles of composition. That acute though eccentric observer
had perceived that to strike and interest the public the marvelous
must be produced; that the marvelous of the heathen mythology had long
since lost its effect; that the giants, magicians, fairies, and heroes
of romance which succeeded had exhausted the portion of credulity
which belonged to their age; that now nothing was left to the writer
but that species of the marvelous which might still be produced, and
with as great an effect as ever, though in another way; that is, the
marvelous in life, in manners, in characters, and in extraordinary
situations, giving rise to new and unlooked-for strokes in politics
and morals. I believe that were Rousseau alive and in one of his lucid
intervals, he would be shocked at the practical frenzy of his
scholars, who in their paradoxes are servile imitators, and even in
their incredulity discover an implicit faith.
Men who undertake considerable things, even in a regular way,
ought to give us ground to presume ability. But the physician of the
state who, not satisfied with the cure of distempers, undertakes to
regenerate constitutions ought to show uncommon powers. Some very
unusual appearances of wisdom ought to display themselves on the
face of the designs of those who appeal to no practice, and who copy
after no model. Has any such been manifested? I shall take a view
(it shall for the subject be a very short one) of what the Assembly
has done with regard, first, to the constitution of the legislature;
in the next place, to that of the executive power; then to that of the
judicature; afterwards to the model of the army; and conclude with the
system of finance; to see whether we can discover in any part of their
schemes the portentous ability which may justify these bold
undertakers in the superiority which they assume over mankind.

IT IS IN THE MODEL of the sovereign and presiding part of this new
republic that we should expect their grand display. Here they were
to prove their title to their proud demands. For the plan itself at
large, and for the reasons on which it is grounded, I refer to the
journals of the Assembly of the 29th of September, 1789, and to the
subsequent proceedings which have made any alterations in the plan. So
far as in a matter somewhat confused I can see light, the system
remains substantially as it has been originally framed. My few remarks
will be such as regard its spirit, its tendency, and its fitness for
framing a popular commonwealth, which they profess theirs to be,
suited to the ends for which any commonwealth, and particularly such a
commonwealth, is made. At the same time I mean to consider its
consistency with itself and its own principles.
Old establishments are tried by their effects. If the people are
happy, united, wealthy, and powerful, we presume the rest. We conclude
that to be good from whence good is derived. In old establishments
various correctives have been found for their aberrations from theory.
Indeed, they are the results of various necessities and
expediencies. They are not often constructed after any theory;
theories are rather drawn from them. In them we often see the end best
obtained where the means seem not perfectly reconcilable to what we
may fancy was the original scheme. The means taught by experience
may be better suited to political ends than those contrived in the
original project. They again react upon the primitive constitution,
and sometimes improve the design itself, from which they seem to
have departed. I think all this might be curiously exemplified in
the British constitution. At worst, the errors and deviations of every
kind in reckoning are found and computed, and the ship proceeds in her
course. This is the case of old establishments; but in a new and
merely theoretic system, it is expected that every contrivance shall
appear, on the face of it, to answer its ends, especially where the
projectors are no way embarrassed with an endeavor to accommodate
the new building to an old one, either in the walls or on the
The French builders, clearing away as mere rubbish whatever they
found and, like their ornamental gardeners, forming everything into an
exact level, propose to rest the whole local and general legislature
on three bases of three different kinds: one geometrical, one
arithmetical, and the third financial; the first of which they call
the basis of territory; the second, the basis of population; and the
third, the basis of contribution. For the accomplishment of the
first of these purposes they divide the area of their country into
eighty-three pieces, regularly square, of eighteen leagues by
eighteen. These large divisions are called Departments. These they
portion, proceeding by square measurement, into seventeen hundred
and twenty districts called Communes. These again they subdivide,
still proceeding by square measurement, into smaller districts
called Cantons, making in all 6400.

At first view this geometrical basis of theirs presents not much
to admire or to blame. It calls for no great legislative talents.
Nothing more than an accurate land surveyor, with his chain, sight,
and theodolite, is requisite for such a plan as this. In the old
divisions of the country, various accidents at various times and the
ebb and flow of various properties and jurisdictions settled their
bounds. These bounds were not made upon any fixed system, undoubtedly.
They were subject to some inconveniences, but they were inconveniences
for which use had found remedies, and habit had supplied accommodation
and patience. In this new pavement of square within square, and this
organization and semi-organization, made on the system of Empedocles
and Buffon, and not upon any politic principle, it is impossible
that innumerable local inconveniences, to which men are not
habituated, must not arise. But these I pass over, because it requires
an accurate knowledge of the country, which I do not possess, to
specify them.
When these state surveyors came to take a view of their work of
measurement, they soon found that in politics the most fallacious of
all things was geometrical demonstration. They had then recourse to
another basis (or rather buttress) to support the building, which
tottered on that false foundation. It was evident that the goodness of
the soil, the number of the people, their wealth, and the largeness of
their contribution made such infinite variations between square and
square as to render mensuration a ridiculous standard of power in
the commonwealth, and equality in geometry the most unequal of all
measures in the distribution of men. However, they could not give it
up. But dividing their political and civil representation into three
parts, they allotted one of those parts to the square measurement,
without a single fact or calculation to ascertain whether this
territorial proportion of representation was fairly assigned, and
ought upon any principle really to be a third. Having, however,
given to geometry this portion (of a third for her dower) out of
compliment, I suppose, to that sublime science, they left the other
two to be scuffled for between the other parts, population and

When they came to provide for population, they were not able to
proceed quite so smoothly as they had done in the field of their
geometry. Here their arithmetic came to bear upon their juridical
metaphysics. Had they stuck to their metaphysic principles, the
arithmetical process would be simple indeed. Men, with them, are
strictly equal and are entitled to equal rights in their own
government. Each head, on this system, would have its vote, and
every man would vote directly for the person who was to represent
him in the legislature. "But soft- by regular degrees, not yet".
This metaphysic principle to which law, custom, usage, policy,
reason were to yield is to yield itself to their pleasure. There
must be many degrees, and some stages, before the representative can
come in contact with his constituent. Indeed, as we shall soon see,
these two persons are to have no sort of communion with each other.
First, the voters in the Canton, who compose what they call "primary
assemblies", are to have a qualification. What! a qualification on the
indefeasible rights of men? Yes; but it shall be a very small
qualification. Our injustice shall be very little oppressive: only the
local valuation of three days' labor paid to the public. Why, this
is not much, I readily admit, for anything but the utter subversion of
your equalizing principle. As a qualification it might as well be
let alone, for it answers no one purpose for which qualifications
are established; and, on your ideas, it excludes from a vote the man
of all others whose natural equality stands the most in need of
protection and defense- I mean the man who has nothing else but his
natural equality to guard him. You order him to buy the right which
you before told him nature had given to him gratuitously at his birth,
and of which no authority on earth could lawfully deprive him. With
regard to the person who cannot come up to your market, a tyrannous
aristocracy, as against him, is established at the very outset by
you who pretend to be its sworn foe.
The gradation proceeds. These primary assemblies of the Canton
elect deputies to the Commune; one for every two hundred qualified
inhabitants. Here is the first medium put between the primary
elector and the representative legislator; and here a new turnpike
is fixed for taxing the rights of men with a second qualification; for
none can be elected into the Commune who does not pay the amount of
ten days' labor. Nor have we yet done. There is still to be another
gradation.* These Communes, chosen by the Canton, choose to the
Department; and the deputies of the Department choose their deputies
to the National Assembly. Here is a third barrier of a senseless
qualification. Every deputy to the National Assembly must pay, in
direct contribution, to the value of a mark of silver. Of all these
qualifying barriers we must think alike- that they are impotent to
secure independence, strong only to destroy the rights of men.

* The Assembly, in executing the plan of their committee, made
some alterations. They have struck out one stage in these
gradations; this removes a part of the objection; but the main
objection, namely, that in their scheme the first constituent voter
has no connection with the representative legislator, remains in all
its force. There are other alterations, some possibly for the
better, some certainly for the worse; but to the author the merit or
demerit of these smaller alterations appears to be of no moment
where the scheme itself is fundamentally vicious and absurd.

In all this process, which in its fundamental elements affects
to consider only population upon a principle of natural right, there
is a manifest attention to property, which, however just and
reasonable on other schemes, is on theirs perfectly unsupportable.

When they come to their third basis, that of contribution, we find
that they have more completely lost sight of their rights of men. This
last basis rests entirely on property. A principle totally different
from the equality of men, and utterly irreconcilable to it, is thereby
admitted; but no sooner is this principle admitted than (as usual)
it is subverted; and it is not subverted (as we shall presently see)
to approximate the inequality of riches to the level of nature. The
additional share in the third portion of representation (a portion
reserved exclusively for the higher contribution) is made to regard
the district only, and not the individuals in it who pay. It is easy
to perceive, by the course of their reasonings, how much they were
embarrassed by their contradictory ideas of the rights of men and
the privileges of riches. The committee of constitution do as good
as admit that they are wholly irreconcilable. "The relation with
regard to the contributions is without doubt null (say they) when
the question is on the balance of the political rights as between
individual and individual, without which personal equality would be
destroyed and an aristocracy of the rich would be established. But
this inconvenience entirely disappears when the proportional
relation of the contribution is only considered in the great masses,
and is solely between province and province; it serves in that case
only to form a just reciprocal proportion between the cities without
affecting the personal rights of the citizens".
Here the principle of contribution, as taken between man and
man, is reprobated as null and destructive to equality, and as
pernicious, too, because it leads to the establishment of an
aristocracy of the rich. However, it must not be abandoned. And the
way of getting rid of the difficulty is to establish the inequality as
between department and department, leaving all the individuals in each
department upon an exact par. Observe that this parity between
individuals had been before destroyed when the qualifications within
the departments were settled; nor does it seem a matter of great
importance whether the equality of men be injured by masses or
individually. An individual is not of the same importance in a mass
represented by a few as in a mass represented by many. It would be too
much to tell a man jealous of his equality that the elector has the
same franchise who votes for three members as he who votes for ten.
Now take it in the outer point of view and let us suppose their
principle of representation according to contribution, that is,
according to riches, to be well imagined and to be a necessary basis
for their republic. In this their third basis they assume that
riches ought to be respected, and that justice and policy require that
they should entitle men, in some mode or other, to a larger share in
the administration of public affairs; it is now to be seen how the
Assembly provides for the preeminence, or even for the security, of
the rich by conferring, in virtue of their opulence, that larger
measure of power to their district which is denied to them personally.
I readily admit (indeed I should lay it down as a fundamental
principle) that in a republican government which has a democratic
basis the rich do require an additional security above what is
necessary to them in monarchies. They are subject to envy, and through
envy to oppression. On the present scheme it is impossible to divine
what advantage they derive from the aristocratic preference upon which
the unequal representation of the masses is founded. The rich cannot
feel it, either as a support to dignity or as security to fortune, for
the aristocratic mass is generated from purely democratic
principles, and the preference given to it in the general
representation has no sort of reference to, or connection with, the
persons upon account of whose property this superiority of the mass is
established. If the contrivers of this scheme meant any sort of
favor to the rich, in consequence of their contribution, they ought to
have conferred the privilege either on the individual rich or on
some class formed of rich persons (as historians represent Servius
Tullius to have done in the early constitution of Rome), because the
contest between the rich and the poor is not a struggle between
corporation and corporation, but a contest between men and men- a
competition not between districts, but between descriptions. It
would answer its purpose better if the scheme were inverted: that
the vote of the masses were rendered equal, and that the votes
within each mass were proportioned to property.
Let us suppose one man in a district (it is an easy supposition)
to contribute as much as a hundred of his neighbors. Against these
he has but one vote. If there were but one representative for the
mass, his poor neighbors would outvote him by a hundred to one for
that single representative. Bad enough. But amends are to be made him.
How? The district, in virtue of his wealth, is to choose, say, ten
members instead of one; that is to say, by paying a very large
contribution he has the happiness of being outvoted a hundred to one
by the poor for ten representatives, instead of being outvoted exactly
in the same proportion for a single member. In truth, instead of
benefiting by this superior quantity of representation, the rich man
is subjected to an additional hardship. The increase of representation
within his province sets up nine persons more, and as many more than
nine as there may be democratic candidates, to cabal and intrigue, and
to flatter the people at his expense and to his oppression. An
interest is by this means held out to multitudes of the inferior sort,
in obtaining a salary of eighteen livres a day (to them a vast object)
besides the pleasure of a residence in Paris and their share in the
government of the kingdom. The more the objects of ambition are
multiplied and become democratic, just in that proportion the rich are

Thus it must fare between the poor and the rich in the province
deemed aristocratic, which in its internal relation is the very
reverse of that character. In its external relation, that is, its
relation to the other provinces, I cannot see how the unequal
representation which is given to masses on account of wealth becomes
the means of preserving the equipoise and the tranquillity of the
commonwealth. For if it be one of the objects to secure the weak
from being crushed by the strong (as in all society undoubtedly it
is), how are the smaller and poorer of these masses to be saved from
the tyranny of the more wealthy? Is it by adding to the wealthy
further and more systematical means of oppressing them? When we come
to a balance of representation between corporate bodies, provincial
interests, emulations, and jealousies are full as likely to arise
among them as among individuals; and their divisions are likely to
produce a much hotter spirit of dissension, and something leading much
more nearly to a war.
I see that these aristocratic masses are made upon what is
called the principle of direct contribution. Nothing can be a more
unequal standard than this. The indirect contribution, that which
arises from duties on consumption, is in truth a better standard and
follows and discovers wealth more naturally than this of direct
contribution. It is difficult, indeed, to fix a standard of local
preference on account of the one, or of the other, or of both, because
some provinces may pay the more of either or of both on account of
causes not intrinsic, but originating from those very districts over
whom they have obtained a preference in consequence of their
ostensible contribution. If the masses were independent, sovereign
bodies who were to provide for a federative treasury by distinct
contingents, and that the revenue had not (as it has) many impositions
running through the whole, which affect men individually, and not
corporately, and which, by their nature, confound all territorial
limits, something might be said for the basis of contribution as
founded on masses. But of all things, this representation, to be
measured by contribution, is the most difficult to settle upon
principles of equity in a country which considers its districts as
members of a whole. For a great city, such as Bordeaux or Paris,
appears to pay a vast body of duties, almost out of all assignable
proportion to other places, and its mass is considered accordingly.
But are these cities the true contributors in that proportion? No. The
consumers of the commodities imported into Bordeaux, who are scattered
through all France, pay the import duties of Bordeaux. The produce
of the vintage in Guienne and Languedoc give to that city the means of
its contribution growing out of an export commerce. The landholders
who spend their estates in Paris, and are thereby the creators of that
city, contribute for Paris from the provinces out of which their
revenues arise. Very nearly the same arguments will apply to the
representative share given on account of direct contributions, because
the direct contribution must be assessed on wealth, real or
presumed; and that local wealth will itself arise from causes not
local, and which therefore in equity ought not to produce a local
It is very remarkable that in this fundamental regulation which
settles the representation of the mass upon the direct contribution,
they have not yet settled how that direct contribution shall be
laid, and how apportioned. Perhaps there is some latent policy
toward the continuance of the present Assembly in this strange
procedure. However, until they do this, they can have no certain
constitution. It must depend at last upon the system of taxation,
and must vary with every variation in that system. As they have
contrived matters, their taxation does not so much depend on their
constitution as their constitution on their taxation. This must
introduce great confusion among the masses, as the variable
qualification for votes within the district must, if ever real
contested elections take place, cause infinite internal controversies.

To compare together the three bases, not on their political
reason, but on the ideas on which the Assembly works, and to try its
consistency with itself, we cannot avoid observing that the
principle which the committee call the basis of population does not
begin to operate from the same point with the two other principles
called the bases of territory and of contribution, which are both of
an aristocratic nature. The consequence is that, where all three begin
to operate together, there is the most absurd inequality produced by
the operation of the former on the two latter principles. Every canton
contains four square leagues, and is estimated to contain, on the
average, 4000 inhabitants or 680 voters in the primary assemblies,
which vary in numbers with the population of the canton, and send
one deputy to the commune for every 200 voters. Nine cantons make a
Now let us take a canton containing a seaport town of trade, or
a great manufacturing town. Let us suppose the population of this
canton to be 12,700 inhabitants, or 2193 voters, forming three primary
assemblies, and sending ten deputies to the commune.
Oppose to this one canton two others of the remaining eight in the
same commune. These we may suppose to have their fair population of
4000 inhabitants and 680 voters each, or 8000 inhabitants and 1360
voters, both together. These will form only two primary assemblies and
send only six deputies to the commune.
When the assembly of the commune comes to vote on the basis of
territory, which principle is first admitted to operate in that
assembly, the single canton which has half the territory of the
other two will have ten voices to six in the election of three
deputies to the assembly of the department chosen on the express
ground of a representation of territory.
This inequality, striking as it is, will be yet highly
aggravated if we suppose, as we fairly may, the several other
cantons of the commune to fall proportionably short of the average
population, as much as the principal canton exceeds it. Now as to
the basis of contribution, which also is a principle admitted first to
operate in the assembly of the commune. Let us again take one
canton, such as is stated above. If the whole of the direct
contributions paid by a great trading or manufacturing town be divided
equally among the inhabitants, each individual will be found to pay
much more than an individual living in the country according to the
same average. The whole paid by the inhabitants of the former will
be more than the whole paid by the inhabitants of the latter- we may
fairly assume one-third more. Then the 12,700 inhabitants, or 2193
voters of the canton, will pay as much as 19,050 inhabitants, or
3289 voters of the other cantons, which are nearly the estimated
proportion of inhabitants and voters of five other cantons. Now the
2193 voters will, as I before said, send only ten deputies to the
assembly; the 3289 voters will send sixteen. Thus, for an equal
share in the contribution of the whole commune, there will be a
difference of sixteen voices to ten in voting for deputies to be
chosen on the principle of representing the general contribution of
the whole commune.
By the same mode of computation we shall find 15,875
inhabitants, or 2741 voters of the other cantons, who pay one-sixth
LESS to the contribution of the whole commune, will have three
VOICES MORE than the 12,700 inhabitants, or 2193 voters of the one
Such is the fantastical and unjust inequality between mass and
mass in this curious repartition of the rights of representation
arising out of territory and contribution. The qualifications which
these confer are in truth negative qualifications, that give a right
in an inverse proportion to the possession of them.
In this whole contrivance of the three bases, consider it in any
light you please, I do not see a variety of objects reconciled in
one consistent whole, but several contradictory principles reluctantly
and irreconcilably brought and held together by your philosophers,
like wild beasts shut up in a cage to claw and bite each other to
their mutual destruction.
I am afraid I have gone too far into their way of considering
the formation of a constitution. They have much, but bad, metaphysics;
much, but bad, geometry; much, but false, proportionate arithmetic;
but if it were all as exact as metaphysics, geometry, and arithmetic
ought to be, and if their schemes were perfectly consistent in all
their parts, it would make only a more fair and sightly vision. It
is remarkable that, in a great arrangement of mankind, not one
reference whatsoever is to be found to anything moral or anything
politic, nothing that relates to the concerns, the actions, the
passions, the interests of men. Hominem non sapiunt.
You see I only consider this constitution as electoral, and
leading by steps to the National Assembly. I do not enter into the
internal government of the departments and their genealogy through the
communes and cantons. These local governments are, in the original
plan, to be as nearly as possible composed in the same manner and on
the same principles with the elective assemblies. They are each of
them bodies perfectly compact and rounded in themselves.

You cannot but perceive in this scheme that it has a direct and
immediate tendency to sever France into a variety of republics, and to
render them totally independent of each other without any direct
constitutional means of coherence, connection, or subordination,
except what may be derived from their acquiescence in the
determinations of the general congress of the ambassadors from each
independent republic. Such in reality is the National Assembly, and
such governments I admit do exist in the world, though in forms
infinitely more suitable to the local and habitual circumstances of
their people. But such associations, rather than bodies politic,
have generally been the effect of necessity, not choice; and I believe
the present French power is the very first body of citizens who,
having obtained full authority to do with their country what they
pleased, have chosen to dissever it in this barbarous manner.
It is impossible not to observe that, in the spirit of this
geometrical distribution and arithmetical arrangement, these pretended
citizens treat France exactly like a country of conquest. Acting as
conquerors, they have imitated the policy of the harshest of that
harsh race. The policy of such barbarous victors, who contemn a
subdued people and insult their feelings, has ever been, as much as in
them lay, to destroy all vestiges of the ancient country, in religion,
in polity, in laws, and in manners; to confound all territorial
limits; to produce a general poverty; to put up their properties to
auction; to crush their princes, nobles, and pontiffs; to lay low
everything which had lifted its head above the level, or which could
serve to combine or rally, in their distresses, the disbanded people
under the standard of old opinion. They have made France free in the
manner in which those sincere friends to the rights of mankind, the
Romans, freed Greece, Macedon, and other nations. They destroyed the
bonds of their union under color of providing for the independence
of each of their cities.

When the members who compose these new bodies of cantons,
communes, and departments- arrangements purposely produced through the
medium of confusion- begin to act, they will find themselves in a
great measure strangers to one another. The electors and elected
throughout, especially in the rural cantons, will be frequently
without any civil habitudes or connections, or any of that natural
discipline which is the soul of a true republic. Magistrates and
collectors of revenue are now no longer acquainted with their
districts, bishops with their dioceses, or curates with their
parishes. These new colonies of the rights of men bear a strong
resemblance to that sort of military colonies which Tacitus has
observed upon in the declining policy of Rome. In better and wiser
days (whatever course they took with foreign nations) they were
careful to make the elements of methodical subordination and
settlement to be coeval, and even to lay the foundations of civil
discipline in the military.* But when all the good arts had fallen
into ruin, they proceeded, as your Assembly does, upon the equality of
men, and with as little judgment and as little care for those things
which make a republic tolerable or durable. But in this, as well as
almost every instance, your new commonwealth is born and bred and
fed in those corruptions which mark degenerated and worn-out
republics. Your child comes into the world with the symptoms of death:
the facies Hippocratica forms the character of its physiognomy, and
the prognostic of its fate.

* Non, ut olim, universae legiones deducebantur cum tribunis, et
centurionibus, et sui cujusque ordinis militibus, ut consensu et
caritate rempublicam afficerent; sed ignoti inter se, diversis
manipulis, sine rectore, sine affectibus mutuis, quasi ex alio
genere mortalium, repente in unum collecti, numerus magis quam
colonia. Tac. Annal. 1. 14, sect. 27. All this will be still more
applicable to the unconnected, rotatory, biennial national assemblies,
in this absurd and senseless constitution.

The legislators who framed the ancient republics knew that their
business was too arduous to be accomplished with no better apparatus
than the metaphysics of an undergraduate, and the mathematics and
arithmetic of an exciseman. They had to do with men, and they were
obliged to study human nature. They had to do with citizens, and
they were obliged to study the effects of those habits which are
communicated by the circumstances of civil life. They were sensible
that the operation of this second nature on the first produced a new
combination; and thence arose many diversities amongst men,
according to their birth, their education, their professions, the
periods of their lives, their residence in towns or in the country,
their several ways of acquiring and of fixing property, and
according to the quality of the property itself- all which rendered
them as it were so many different species of animals. From hence
they thought themselves obliged to dispose their citizens into such
classes, and to place them in such situations in the state, as their
peculiar habits might qualify them to fill, and to allot to them
such appropriated privileges as might secure to them what their
specific occasions required, and which might furnish to each
description such force as might protect it in the conflict caused by
the diversity of interests that must exist and must contend in all
complex society; for the legislator would have been ashamed that the
coarse husbandman should well know how to assort and to use his sheep,
horses, and oxen, and should have enough of common sense not to
abstract and equalize them all into animals without providing for each
kind an appropriate food, care, and employment, whilst he, the
economist, disposer, and shepherd of his own kindred, subliming
himself into an airy metaphysician, was resolved to know nothing of
his flocks but as men in general. It is for this reason that
Montesquieu observed very justly that in their classification of the
citizens the great legislators of antiquity made the greatest
display of their powers, and even soared above themselves. It is
here that your modern legislators have gone deep into the negative
series, and sunk even below their own nothing. As the first sort of
legislators attended to the different kinds of citizens and combined
them into one commonwealth, the others, the metaphysical and
alchemistical legislators, have taken the direct contrary course. They
have attempted to confound all sorts of citizens, as well as they
could, into one homogeneous mass; and then they divided this their
amalgama into a number of incoherent republics. They reduce men to
loose counters, merely for the sake of simple telling, and not to
figures whose power is to arise from their place in the table. The
elements of their own metaphysics might have taught them better
lessons. The troll of their categorical table might have informed them
that there was something else in the intellectual world besides
substance and quantity. They might learn from the catechism of
metaphysics that there were eight heads more* in every complex
deliberation which they have never thought of, though these, of all
the ten, are the subjects on which the skill of man can operate
anything at all.

* Qualitas, relatio, actio, passio, ubi, quando, situs, habitus.

So far from this able disposition of some of the old republican
legislators, which follows with a solicitous accuracy the moral
conditions and propensities of men, they have leveled and crushed
together all the orders which they found, even under the coarse
unartificial arrangement of the monarchy, in which mode of
government the classing of the citizens is not of so much importance
as in a republic. It is true, however, that every such classification,
if properly ordered, is good in all forms of government, and
composes a strong barrier against the excesses of despotism, as well
as it is the necessary means of giving effect and permanence to a
republic. For want of something of this kind, if the present project
of a republic should fail, all securities to a moderated freedom
fail along with it; all the indirect restraints which mitigate
despotism are removed, insomuch that if monarchy should ever again
obtain an entire ascendancy in France, under this or under any other
dynasty, it will probably be, if not voluntarily tempered at setting
out by the wise and virtuous counsels of the prince, the most
completely arbitrary power that has ever appeared on earth. This is to
play a most desperate game.

The confusion which attends on all such proceedings they even
declare to be one of their objects, and they hope to secure their
constitution by a terror of a return of those evils which attended
their making it. "By this," say they, "its destruction will become
difficult to authority, which cannot break it up without the entire
disorganization of the whole state." They presume that, if this
authority should ever come to the same degree of power that they
have acquired, it would make a more moderate and chastised use of
it, and would piously tremble entirely to disorganize the state in the
savage manner that they have done. They expect, from the virtues of
returning despotism, the security which is to be enjoyed by the
offspring of their popular vices.

I WISH, Sir, that you and my readers would give an attentive
perusal to the work of M. de Calonne on this subject. It is, indeed,
not only an eloquent, but an able and instructive, performance. I
confine myself to what he says relative to the constitution of the new
state and to the condition of the revenue. As to the disputes of
this minister with his rivals, I do not wish to pronounce upon them.
As little do I mean to hazard any opinion concerning his ways and
means, financial or political, for taking his country out of its
present disgraceful and deplorable situation of servitude, anarchy,
bankruptcy, and beggary. I cannot speculate quite so sanguinely as
he does; but he is a Frenchman, and has a closer duty relative to
those objects, and better means of judging of them, than I can have. I
wish that the formal avowal which he refers to, made by one of the
principal leaders in the Assembly concerning the tendency of their
scheme to bring France not only from a monarchy to a republic, but
from a republic to a mere confederacy, may be very particularly
attended to. It adds new force to my observations, and indeed M. de
Calonne's work supplies my deficiencies by many new and striking
arguments on most of the subjects of this letter.*

* See l'Etat de la France, p. 363.

It is this resolution, to break their country into separate
republics, which has driven them into the greatest number of their
difficulties and contradictions. If it were not for this, all the
questions of exact equality and these balances, never to be settled,
of individual rights, population, and contribution would be wholly
useless. The representation, though derived from parts, would be a
duty which equally regarded the whole. Each deputy to the Assembly
would be the representative of France, and of all its descriptions, of
the many and of the few, of the rich and of the poor, of the great
districts and of the small. All these districts would themselves be
subordinate to some standing authority, existing independently of
them, an authority in which their representation, and everything
that belongs to it, originated, and to which it was pointed. This
standing, unalterable, fundamental government would make, and it is
the only thing which could make, that territory truly and properly a
whole. With us, when we elect popular representatives, we send them to
a council in which each man individually is a subject and submitted to
a government complete in all its ordinary functions. With you the
elective Assembly is the sovereign, and the sole sovereign; all the
members are therefore integral parts of this sole sovereignty. But
with us it is totally different. With us the representative, separated
from the other parts, can have no action and no existence. The
government is the point of reference of the several members and
districts of our representation. This is the center of our unity. This
government of reference is a trustee for the whole, and not for the
parts. So is the other branch of our public council, I mean the
House of Lords. With us the king and the lords are several and joint
securities for the equality of each district, each province, each
city. When did you hear in Great Britain of any province suffering
from the inequality of its representation, what district from having
no representation at all? Not only our monarchy and our peerage secure
the equality on which our unity depends, but it is the spirit of the
House of Commons itself. The very inequality of representation,
which is so foolishly complained of, is perhaps the very thing which
prevents us from thinking or acting as members for districts. Cornwall
elects as many members as all Scotland. But is Cornwall better taken
care of than Scotland? Few trouble their heads about any of your
bases, out of some giddy clubs. Most of those who wish for any change,
upon any plausible grounds, desire it on different ideas.

Your new constitution is the very reverse of ours in its
principle; and I am astonished how any persons could dream of
holding out anything done in it as an example for Great Britain.
With you there is little, or rather no, connection between the last
representative and the first constituent. The member who goes to the
National Assembly is not chosen by the people, nor accountable to
them. There are three elections before he is chosen; two sets of
magistracy intervene between him and the primary assembly, so as to
render him, as I have said, an ambassador of a state, and not the
representative of the people within a state. By this the whole
spirit of the election is changed, nor can any corrective which your
constitution-mongers have devised render him anything else than what
he is. The very attempt to do it would inevitably introduce a
confusion, if possible, more horrid than the present. There is no
way to make a connection between the original constituent and the
representative, but by the circuitous means which may lead the
candidate to apply in the first instance to the primary electors, in
order that by their authoritative instructions (and something more
perhaps) these primary electors may force the two succeeding bodies of
electors to make a choice agreeable to their wishes. But this would
plainly subvert the whole scheme. It would be to plunge them back into
that tumult and confusion of popular election which, by their
interposed gradation of elections, they mean to avoid, and at length
to risk the whole fortune of the state with those who have the least
knowledge of it and the least interest in it. This is a perpetual
dilemma into which they are thrown by the vicious, weak, and
contradictory principles they have chosen. Unless the people break
up and level this gradation, it is plain that they do not at all
substantially elect to the Assembly; indeed, they elect as little in
appearance as reality.
What is it we all seek for in an election? To answer its real
purposes, you must first possess the means of knowing the fitness of
your man; and then you must retain some hold upon him by personal
obligation or dependence. For what end are these primary electors
complimented, or rather mocked, with a choice? They can never know
anything of the qualities of him that is to serve them, nor has he any
obligation whatsoever to them. Of all the powers unfit to be delegated
by those who have any real means of judging, that most peculiarly
unfit is what relates to a personal choice. In case of abuse, that
body of primary electors never can call the representative to an
account for his conduct. He is too far removed from them in the
chain of representation. If he acts improperly at the end of his two
years' lease, it does not concern him for two years more. By the new
French constitution the best and the wisest representatives go equally
with the worst into this Limbus Patrum. Their bottoms are supposed
foul, and they must go into dock to be refitted. Every man who has
served in an assembly is ineligible for two years after. Just as these
magistrates begin to learn their trade, like chimney sweepers, they
are disqualified for exercising it. Superficial, new, petulant
acquisition, and interrupted, dronish, broken, ill recollection is
to be the destined character of all your future governors. Your
constitution has too much of jealousy to have much of sense in it. You
consider the breach of trust in the representative so principally that
you do not at all regard the question of his fitness to execute it.
This purgatory interval is not unfavorable to a faithless
representative, who may be as good a canvasser as he was a bad
governor. In this time he may cabal himself into a superiority over
the wisest and most virtuous. As in the end all the members of this
elective constitution are equally fugitive and exist only for the
election, they may be no longer the same persons who had chosen him,
to whom he is to be responsible when he solicits for a renewal of
his trust. To call all the secondary electors of the Commune to
account is ridiculous, impracticable, and unjust; they may
themselves have been deceived in their choice, as the third set of
electors, those of the Department, may be in theirs. In your elections
responsibility cannot exist.

FINDING NO SORT OF PRINCIPLE of coherence with each other in the
nature and constitution of the several new republics of France, I
considered what cement the legislators had provided for them from
any extraneous materials. Their confederations, their spectacles,
their civic feasts, and their enthusiasm I take no notice of; they are
nothing but mere tricks; but tracing their policy through their
actions, I think I can distinguish the arrangements by which they
propose to hold these republics together. The first is the
confiscation, with the compulsory paper currency annexed to it; the
second is the supreme power of the city of Paris; the third is the
general army of the state. Of this last I shall reserve what I have to
say until I come to consider the army as a head by itself.

As to the operation of the first (the confiscation and paper
currency) merely as a cement, I cannot deny that these, the one
depending on the other, may for some time compose some sort of
cement if their madness and folly in the management, and in the
tempering of the parts together, does not produce a repulsion in the
very outset. But allowing to the scheme some coherence and some
duration, it appears to me that if, after a while, the confiscation
should not be found sufficient to support the paper coinage (as I am
morally certain it will not), then, instead of cementing, it will
add infinitely to the dissociation, distraction, and confusion of
these confederate republics, both with relation to each other and to
the several parts within themselves. But if the confiscation should so
far succeed as to sink the paper currency, the cement is gone with the
circulation. In the meantime its binding force will be very uncertain,
and it will straiten or relax with every variation in the credit of
the paper.

One thing only is certain in this scheme, which is an effect
seemingly collateral, but direct, I have no doubt, in the minds of
those who conduct this business, that is, its effect in producing an
oligarchy in every one of the republics. A paper circulation, not
founded on any real money deposited or engaged for, amounting
already to forty-four millions of English money, and this currency
by force substituted in the place of the coin of the kingdom, becoming
thereby the substance of its revenue as well as the medium of all
its commercial and civil intercourse, must put the whole of what
power, authority, and influence is left, in any form whatsoever it may
assume, into the hands of the managers and conductors of this
In England, we feel the influence of the Bank, though it is only
the center of a voluntary dealing. He knows little indeed of the
influence of money upon mankind who does not see the force of the
management of a monied concern which is so much more extensive and
in its nature so much more depending on the managers than any of ours.
But this is not merely a money concern. There is another member in the
system inseparably connected with this money management. It consists
in the means of drawing out at discretion portions of the
confiscated lands for sale, and carrying on a process of continual
transmutation of paper into land, and land into paper. When we
follow this process in its effects, we may conceive something of the
intensity of the force with which this system must operate. By this
means the spirit of money-jobbing and speculation goes into the mass
of land itself and incorporates with it. By this kind of operation
that species of property becomes (as it were) volatilized; it
assumes an unnatural and monstrous activity, and thereby throws into
the hands of the several managers, principal and subordinate, Parisian
and provincial, all the representative of money and perhaps a full
tenth part of all the land in France, which has now acquired the worst
and most pernicious part of the evil of a paper circulation, the
greatest possible uncertainty in its value. They have reversed the
Latonian kindness to the landed property of Delos. They have sent
theirs to be blown about, like the light fragments of a wreck, oras et
littora circum.
The new dealers, being all habitually adventurers and without
any fixed habits of local predilections, will purchase to job out
again, as the market of paper or of money or of land shall present
an advantage. For though a holy bishop thinks that agriculture will
derive great advantages from the "enlightened" usurers who are to
purchase the church confiscations, I, who am not a good but an old
farmer, with great humility beg leave to tell his late lordship that
usury is not a tutor of agriculture; and if the word "enlightened"
be understood according to the new dictionary, as it always is in your
new schools, I cannot conceive how a man's not believing in God can
teach him to cultivate the earth with the least of any additional
skill or encouragement. "Diis immortalibus sero", said an old Roman,
when he held one handle of the plough, whilst Death held the other.
Though you were to join in the commission all the directors of the two
academies to the directors of the Caisse d'Escompte, one old,
experienced peasant is worth them all. I have got more information
upon a curious and interesting branch of husbandry, in one short
conversation with an old Carthusian monk, than I have derived from all
the Bank directors that I have ever conversed with. However, there
is no cause for apprehension from the meddling of money dealers with
rural economy. These gentlemen are too wise in their generation. At
first, perhaps, their tender and susceptible imaginations may be
captivated with the innocent and unprofitable delights of a pastoral
life; but in a little time they will find that agriculture is a
trade much more laborious, and much less lucrative, than that which
they had left. After making its panegyric, they will turn their
backs on it like their great precursor and prototype. They may, like
him, begin by singing "Beatus ille" but what will be the end?

Haec ubi locutus foenerator Alphius,
Jam jam futurus rusticus
Omnem redegit idibus pecuniam;
Quaerit calendis ponere.

They will cultivate the Caisse d'Eglise, under the sacred auspices
of this prelate, with much more profit than its vineyards and its
cornfields. They will employ their talents according to their habits
and their interests. They will not follow the plough whilst they can
direct treasuries and govern provinces.

Your legislators, in everything new, are the very first who have
founded a commonwealth upon gaming, and infused this spirit into it as
its vital breath. The great object in these politics is to
metamorphose France from a great kingdom into one great playtable;
to turn its inhabitants into a nation of gamesters; to make
speculation as extensive as life; to mix it with all its concerns
and to divert the whole of the hopes and fears of the people from
their usual channels into the impulses, passions, and superstitions of
those who live on chances. They loudly proclaim their opinion that
this their present system of a republic cannot possibly exist
without this kind of gaming fund, and that the very thread of its life
is spun out of the staple of these speculations. The old gaming in
funds was mischievous enough, undoubtedly, but it was so only to
individuals. Even when it had its greatest extent, in the
Mississippi and South Sea, it affected but few, comparatively; where
it extends further, as in lotteries, the spirit has but a single
object. But where the law, which in most circumstances forbids, and in
none countenances, gaming, is itself debauched so as to reverse its
nature and policy and expressly to force the subject to this
destructive table by bringing the spirit and symbols of gaming into
the minutest matters and engaging everybody in it, and in
everything, a more dreadful epidemic distemper of that kind is
spread than yet has appeared in the world. With you a man can
neither earn nor buy his dinner without a speculation. What he
receives in the morning will not have the same value at night. What he
is compelled to take as pay for an old debt will not be received as
the same when he comes to pay a debt contracted by himself, nor will
it be the same when by prompt payment he would avoid contracting any
debt at all. Industry must wither away. Economy must be driven from
your country. Careful provision will have no existence. Who will labor
without knowing the amount of his pay? Who will study to increase what
none can estimate? Who will accumulate, when he does not know the
value of what he saves? If you abstract it from its uses in gaming, to
accumulate your paper wealth would be not the providence of a man, but
the distempered instinct of a jackdaw.
The truly melancholy part of the policy of systematically making a
nation of gamesters is this, that though all are forced to play, few
can understand the game; and fewer still are in a condition to avail
themselves of the knowledge. The many must be the dupes of the few who
conduct the machine of these speculations. What effect it must have on
the country people is visible. The townsman can calculate from day
to day, not so the inhabitant of the country. When the peasant first
brings his corn to market, the magistrate in the towns obliges him
to take the assignat at par; when he goes to the shop with his
money, he finds it seven per cent the worse for crossing the way. This
market he will not readily resort to again. The townspeople will be
inflamed; they will force the country people to bring their corn.
Resistance will begin, and the murders of Paris and St. Denis may be
renewed through all France.
What signifies the empty compliment paid to the country by
giving it, perhaps, more than its share in the theory of your
representation? Where have you placed the real power over monied and
landed circulation? Where have you placed the means of raising and
falling the value of every man's freehold? Those whose operations
can take form, or add ten per cent to, the possessions of every man in
France must be the masters of every man in France. The whole of the
power obtained by this revolution will settle in the towns among the
burghers and the monied directors who lead them. The landed gentleman,
the yeoman, and the peasant have, none of them, habits or inclinations
or experience which can lead them to any share in this the sole source
of power and influence now left in France. The very nature of a
country life, the very nature of landed property, in all the
occupations, and all the pleasures they afford, render combination and
arrangement (the sole way of procuring and exerting influence) in a
manner impossible amongst country people. Combine them by all the
art you can, and all the industry, they are always dissolving into
individuality. Anything in the nature of incorporation is almost
impracticable amongst them. Hope, fear, alarm, jealousy, the
ephemerous tale that does its business and dies in a day- all these
things which are the reins and spurs by which leaders check or urge
the minds of followers are not easily employed, or hardly at all,
amongst scattered people. They assemble, they arm, they act with the
utmost difficulty and at the greatest charge. Their efforts, if ever
they can be commenced, cannot be sustained. They cannot proceed
systematically. If the country gentlemen attempt an influence
through the mere income of their property, what is it to that of those
who have ten times their income to sell, and who can ruin their
property by bringing their plunder to meet it at market? If the landed
man wishes to mortgage, he falls the value of his land and raises
the value of assignats. He augments the power of his enemy by the very
means he must take to contend with him. The country gentleman,
therefore, the officer by sea and land, the man of liberal views and
habits, attached to no profession, will be as completely excluded from
the government of his country as if he were legislatively
proscribed. It is obvious that in the towns all things which
conspire against the country gentleman combine in favor of the money
manager and director. In towns combination is natural. The habits of
burghers, their occupations, their diversion, their business, their
idleness continually bring them into mutual contact. Their virtues and
their vices are sociable; they are always in garrison; and they come
embodied and half disciplined into the hands of those who mean to form
them for civil or military action.

All these considerations leave no doubt on my mind that, if this
monster of a constitution can continue, France will be wholly governed
by the agitators in corporations, by societies in the towns formed
of directors of assignats, and trustees for the sale of church
lands, attorneys, agents, money jobbers, speculators, and adventurers,
composing an ignoble oligarchy founded on the destruction of the
crown, the church, the nobility, and the people. Here end all the
deceitful dreams and visions of the equality and rights of men. In the
Serbonian bog of this base oligarchy they are all absorbed, sunk,
and lost forever.
Though human eyes cannot trace them, one would be tempted to think
some great offenses in France must cry to heaven, which has thought
fit to punish it with a subjection to a vile and inglorious domination
in which no comfort or compensation is to be found in any, even of
those false, splendors which, playing about other tyrannies, prevent
mankind from feeling themselves dishonored even whilst they are
oppressed. I must confess I am touched with a sorrow, mixed with
some indignation, at the conduct of a few men, once of great rank
and still of great character, who, deluded with specious names, have
engaged in a business too deep for the line of their understanding
to fathom; who have lent their fair reputation and the authority of
their high-sounding names to the designs of men with whom they could
not be acquainted, and have thereby made their very virtues operate to
the ruin of their country.
So far as to the first cementing principle.

THE second material of cement for their new republic is the
superiority of the city of Paris; and this I admit is strongly
connected with the other cementing principle of paper circulation
and confiscation. It is in this part of the project we must look for
the cause of the destruction of all the old bounds of provinces and
jurisdictions, ecclesiastical and secular, and the dissolution of
all ancient combinations of things, as well as the formation of so
many small unconnected republics. The power of the city of Paris is
evidently one great spring of all their politics. It is through the
power of Paris, now become the center and focus of jobbing, that the
leaders of this faction direct, or rather command, the whole
legislative and the whole executive government. Everything, therefore,
must be done which can confirm the authority of that city over the
other republics. Paris is compact; she has an enormous strength,
wholly disproportioned to the force of any of the square republics;
and this strength is collected and condensed within a narrow
compass. Paris has a natural and easy connection of its parts, which
will not be affected by any scheme of a geometrical constitution,
nor does it much signify whether its proportion of representation be
more or less, since it has the whole draft of fishes in its dragnet.
The other divisions of the kingdom, being hackled and torn to
pieces, and separated from all their habitual means and even
principles of union, cannot, for some time at least, confederate
against her. Nothing was to be left in all the subordinate members but
weakness, disconnection, and confusion. To confirm this part of the
plan, the Assembly has lately come to a resolution that no two of
their republics shall have the same commander-in-chief.

To a person who takes a view of the whole, the strength of
Paris, thus formed, will appear a system of general weakness. It is
boasted that the geometrical policy has been adopted, that all local
ideas should be sunk, and that the people should no longer be Gascons,
Picards, Bretons, Normans, but Frenchmen, with one country, one heart,
and one Assembly. But instead of being all Frenchmen, the greater
likelihood is that the inhabitants of that region will shortly have no
country. No man ever was attached by a sense of pride, partiality,
or real affection to a description of square measurement. He never
will glory in belonging to the Chequer No. 71, or to any other
badge-ticket. We begin our public affections in our families. No
cold relation is a zealous citizen. We pass on to our neighborhoods
and our habitual provincial connections. These are inns and resting
places. Such divisions of our country as have been formed by habit,
and not by a sudden jerk of authority, were so many little images of
the great country in which the heart found something which it could
fill. The love to the whole is not extinguished by this subordinate
partiality. Perhaps it is a sort of elemental training to those higher
and more large regards by which alone men come to be affected, as with
their own concern, in the prosperity of a kingdom so extensive as that
of France. In that general territory itself, as in the old name of
provinces, the citizens are interested from old prejudices and
unreasoned habits, and not on account of the geometric properties of
its figure. The power and pre-eminence of Paris does certainly press
down and hold these republics together as long as it lasts. But, for
the reasons I have already given you, I think it cannot last very

Passing from the civil creating and the civil cementing principles
of this constitution to the National Assembly, which is to appear
and act as sovereign, we see a body in its constitution with every
possible power, and no possible external control. We see a body
without fundamental laws, without established maxims, without
respected rules of proceeding, which nothing can keep firm to any
system whatsoever. Their idea of their powers is always taken at the
utmost stretch of legislative competence, and their examples for
common cases from the exceptions of the most urgent necessity. The
future is to be in most respects like the present Assembly; but, by
the mode of the new elections and the tendency of the new
circulations, it will be purged of the small degree of internal
control existing in a minority chosen originally from various
interests, and preserving something of their spirit. If possible,
the next Assembly must be worse than the present. The present, by
destroying and altering everything, will leave to their successors
apparently nothing popular to do. They will be roused by emulation and
example to enterprises the boldest and the most absurd. To suppose
such an Assembly sitting in perfect quietude is ridiculous.
Your all-sufficient legislators, in their hurry to do everything
at once, have forgotten one thing that seems essential, and which I
believe never has been before, in the theory or the practice,
omitted by any projector of a republic. They have forgotten to
constitute a senate or something of that nature and character. Never
before this time was heard of a body politic composed of one
legislative and active assembly, and its executive officers, without
such a council, without something to which foreign states might
connect themselves; something to which, in the ordinary detail of
government, the people could look up; something which might give a
bias and steadiness and preserve something like consistency in the
proceedings of state. Such a body kings generally have as a council. A
monarchy may exist without it, but it seems to be in the very
essence of a republican government. It holds a sort of middle place
between the supreme power exercised by the people, or immediately
delegated from them, and the mere executive. Of this there are no
traces in your constitution, and in providing nothing of this kind
your Solons and Numas have, as much as in anything else, discovered
a sovereign incapacity.

LET US NOW TURN OUR EYES to what they have done toward the
formation of an executive power. For this they have chosen a
degraded king. This their first executive officer is to be a machine
without any sort of deliberative discretion in any one act of his
function. At best he is but a channel to convey to the National
Assembly such matter as it may import that body to know. If he had
been made the exclusive channel, the power would not have been without
its importance, though infinitely perilous to those who would choose
to exercise it. But public intelligence and statement of facts may
pass to the Assembly with equal authenticity through any other
conveyance. As to the means, therefore, of giving a direction to
measures by the statement of an authorized reporter, this office of
intelligence is as nothing.
To consider the French scheme of an executive officer, in its
two natural divisions of civil and political.- In the first, it must
be observed that, according to the new constitution, the higher
parts of judicature, in either of its lines, are not in the king.
The king of France is not the fountain of justice. The judges, neither
the original nor the appellate, are of his nomination. He neither
proposes the candidates, nor has a negative on the choice. He is not
even the public prosecutor. He serves only as a notary to authenticate
the choice made of the judges in the several districts. By his
officers he is to execute their sentence. When we look into the true
nature of his authority, he appears to be nothing more than a chief of
bum bailiffs, sergeants at mace, catchpoles, jailers, and hangmen.
It is impossible to place anything called royalty in a more
degrading point of view. A thousand times better had it been for the
dignity of this unhappy prince that he had nothing at all to do with
the administration of justice, deprived as he is of all that is
venerable and all that is consolatory in that function, without
power of originating any process, without a power of suspension,
mitigation, or pardon. Everything in justice that is vile and odious
is thrown upon him. It was not for nothing that the Assembly has
been at such pains to remove the stigma from certain offices when they
are resolved to place the person who had lately been their king in a
situation but one degree above the executioner, and in an office
nearly of the same quality. It is not in nature that, situated as
the king of the French now is, he can respect himself or can be
respected by others.

View this new executive officer on the side of his political
capacity, as he acts under the orders of the National Assembly. To
execute laws is a royal office; to execute orders is not to be a king.
However, a political executive magistracy, though merely such, is a
great trust. It is a trust indeed that has much depending upon its
faithful and diligent performance, both in the person presiding in
it and in all its subordinates. Means of performing this duty ought to
be given by regulation; and dispositions toward it ought to be infused
by the circumstances attendant on the trust. It ought to be
environed with dignity, authority, and consideration, and it ought
to lead to glory. The office of execution is an office of exertion. It
is not from impotence we are to expect the tasks of power. What sort
of person is a king to command executory service, who has no means
whatsoever to reward it? Not in a permanent office; not in a grant
of land; no, not in a pension of fifty pounds a year; not in the
vainest and most trivial title. In France, the king is no more the
fountain of honor than he is the fountain of justice. All rewards, all
distinctions are in other hands. Those who serve the king can be
actuated by no natural motive but fear- by a fear of everything except
their master. His functions of internal coercion are as odious as
those which he exercises in the department of justice. If relief is to
be given to any municipality, the Assembly gives it. If troops are
to be sent to reduce them to obedience to the Assembly, the king is to
execute the order; and upon every occasion he is to be spattered
over with the blood of his people. He has no negative; yet his name
and authority is used to enforce every harsh decree. Nay, he must
concur in the butchery of those who shall attempt to free him from his
imprisonment or show the slightest attachment to his person or to
his ancient authority.

Executive magistracy ought to be constituted in such a manner that
those who compose it should be disposed to love and to venerate
those whom they are bound to obey. A purposed neglect or, what is
worse, a literal but perverse and malignant obedience must be the ruin
of the wisest counsels. In vain will the law attempt to anticipate
or to follow such studied neglects and fraudulent attentions. To
make them act zealously is not in the competence of law. Kings, even
such as are truly kings, may and ought to bear the freedom of subjects
that are obnoxious to them. They may, too, without derogating from
themselves, bear even the authority of such persons if it promotes
their service. Louis the Thirteenth mortally hated the Cardinal de
Richelieu, but his support of that minister against his rivals was the
source of all the glory of his reign and the solid foundation of his
throne itself. Louis the Fourteenth, when come to the throne, did
not love the Cardinal Mazarin, but for his interests he preserved
him in power. When old, he detested Louvois, but for years, whilst
he faithfully served his greatness, he endured his person. When George
the Second took Mr. Pitt, who certainly was not agreeable to him, into
his councils, he did nothing which could humble a wise sovereign.
But these ministers, who were chosen by affairs, not by affections,
acted in the name of, and in trust for, kings, and not as their
avowed, constitutional, and ostensible masters. I think it
impossible that any king, when he has recovered his first terrors, can
cordially infuse vivacity and vigor into measures which he knows to be
dictated by those who, he must be persuaded, are in the highest degree
ill affected to his person. Will any ministers who serve such a king
(or whatever he may be called) with but a decent appearance of respect
cordially obey the orders of those whom but the other day in his
name they had committed to the Bastille? Will they obey the orders
of those whom, whilst they were exercising despotic justice upon them,
they conceived they were treating with lenity, and from whom, in a
prison, they thought they had provided an asylum? If you expect such
obedience amongst your other innovations and regenerations, you
ought to make a revolution in nature and provide a new constitution
for the human mind. Otherwise, your supreme government cannot
harmonize with its executory system. There are cases in which we
cannot take up with names and abstractions. You may call half a
dozen leading individuals, whom we have reason to fear and hate, the
nation. It makes no other difference than to make us fear and hate
them the more. If it had been thought justifiable and expedient to
make such a revolution by such means, and through such persons, as you
have made yours, it would have been more wise to have completed the
business of the fifth and sixth of October. The new executive
officer would then owe his situation to those who are his creators
as well as his masters; and he might be bound in interest, in the
society of crime, and (if in crimes there could be virtues) in
gratitude to serve those who had promoted him to a place of great
lucre and great sensual indulgence, and of something more; for more he
must have received from those who certainly would not have limited
an aggrandized creature, as they have done a submitting antagonist.

A king circumstanced as the present, if he is totally stupefied by
his misfortunes so as to think it not the necessity but the premium
and privilege of life to eat and sleep, without any regard to glory,
can never be fit for the office. If he feels as men commonly feel,
he must be sensible that an office so circumstanced is one in which he
can obtain no fame or reputation. He has no generous interest that can
excite him to action. At best, his conduct will be passive and
defensive. To inferior people such an office might be matter of honor.
But to be raised to it, and to descend to it, are different things and
suggest different sentiments. Does he really name the ministers?
They will have a sympathy with him. Are they forced upon him? The
whole business between them and the nominal king will be mutual
counteraction. In all other countries, the office of ministers of
state is of the highest dignity. In France it is full of peril, and
incapable of glory. Rivals, however, they will have in their
nothingness, whilst shallow ambition exists in the world, or the
desire of a miserable salary is an incentive to short-sighted avarice.
Those competitors of the ministers are enabled by your constitution to
attack them in their vital parts, whilst they have not the means of
repelling their charges in any other than the degrading character of
culprits. The ministers of state in France are the only persons in
that country who are incapable of a share in the national councils.
What ministers! What councils! What a nation!- But they are
responsible. It is a poor service that is to be had from
responsibility. The elevation of mind to be derived from fear will
never make a nation glorious. Responsibility prevents crimes. It makes
all attempts against the laws dangerous. But for a principle of active
and zealous service, none but idiots could think of it. Is the conduct
of a war to be trusted to a man who may abhor its principle, who, in
every step he may take to render it successful, confirms the power
of those by whom he is oppressed? Will foreign states seriously
treat with him who has no prerogative of peace or war? No, not so much
as in a single vote by himself or his ministers, or by any one whom he
can possibly influence. A state of contempt is not a state for a
prince; better get rid of him at once.
I know it will be said that these humors in the court and
executive government will continue only through this generation, and
that the king has been brought to declare the dauphin shall be
educated in a conformity to his situation. If he is made to conform to
his situation, he will have no education at all. His training must
be worse, even, than that of an arbitrary monarch. If he reads-
whether he reads or not- some good or evil genius will tell him his
ancestors were kings. Thenceforward his object must be to assert
himself and to avenge his parents. This you will say is not his
duty. That may be; but it is nature; and whilst you pique nature
against you, you do unwisely to trust to duty. In this futile scheme
of polity, the state nurses in its bosom, for the present, a source of
weakness, perplexity, counteraction, inefficiency, and decay; and it
prepares the means of its final ruin. In short, I see nothing in the
executive force (I cannot call it authority) that has even an
appearance of vigor, or that has the smallest degree of just
correspondence or symmetry, or amicable relation with the supreme
power, either as it now exists or as it is planned for the future
You have settled, by an economy as perverted as the policy, two*
establishments of government- one real, one fictitious. Both
maintained at a vast expense, but the fictitious at, I think, the
greatest. Such a machine as the latter is not worth the grease of
its wheels. The expense is exorbitant, and neither the show nor the
use deserve the tenth part of the charge. Oh! but I don't do justice
to the talents of the legislators: I don't allow, as I ought to do,
for necessity. Their scheme of executive force was not their choice.
This pageant must be kept. The people would not consent to part with
it. Right; I understand you. You do, in spite of your grand
theories, to which you would have heaven and earth to bend- you do
know how to conform yourselves to the nature and circumstances of
things. But when you were obliged to conform thus far to
circumstances, you ought to have carried your submission further,
and to have made, what you were obliged to take, a proper
instrument, and useful to its end. That was in your power. For
instance, among many others, it was in your power to leave to your
king the right of peace and war. What! to leave to the executive
magistrate the most dangerous of all prerogatives? I know none more
dangerous, nor any one more necessary to be so trusted. I do not say
that this prerogative ought to be trusted to your king unless he
enjoyed other auxiliary trusts along with it, which he does not now
hold. But if he did possess them, hazardous as they are undoubtedly,
advantages would arise from such a constitution, more than
compensating the risk. There is no other way of keeping the several
potentates of Europe from intriguing distinctly and personally with
the members of your Assembly, from intermeddling in all your concerns,
and fomenting, in the heart of your country, the most pernicious of
all factions- factions in the interest and under the direction of
foreign powers. From that worst of evils, thank God, we are still
free. Your skill, if you had any, would be well employed to find out
indirect correctives and controls upon this perilous trust. If you did
not like those which in England we have chosen, your leaders might
have exerted their abilities in contriving better. If it were
necessary to exemplify the consequences of such an executive
government as yours, in the management of great affairs, I should
refer you to the late reports of M. de Montmorin to the National
Assembly, and all the other proceedings relative to the differences
between Great Britain and Spain. It would be treating your
understanding with disrespect to point them out to you.

* In reality three, to reckon the provincial republican

I hear that the persons who are called ministers have signified an
intention of resigning their places. I am rather astonished that
they have not resigned long since. For the universe I would not have
stood in the situation in which they have been for this last
twelvemonth. They wished well, I take it for granted, to the
revolution. Let this fact be as it may, they could not, placed as they
were upon an eminence, though an eminence of humiliation, but be the
first to see collectively, and to feel each in his own department, the
evils which have been produced by that revolution. In every step which
they took, or forbore to take, they must have felt the degraded
situation of their country and their utter incapacity of serving it.
They are in a species of subordinate servitude, in which no men before
them were ever seen. Without confidence from their sovereign, on
whom they were forced, or from the Assembly, who forced them upon him,
all the noble functions of their office are executed by committees
of the Assembly without any regard whatsoever to their personal or
their official authority. They are to execute, without power; they are
to be responsible, without discretion; they are to deliberate, without
choice. In their puzzled situations, under two sovereigns, over
neither of whom they have any influence, they must act in such a
manner as (in effect, whatever they may intend) sometimes to betray
the one, sometimes the other, and always to betray themselves. Such
has been their situation, such must be the situation of those who
succeed them. I have much respect and many good wishes for M.
Necker. I am obliged to him for attentions. I thought, when his
enemies had driven him from Versailles, that his exile was a subject
of most serious congratulations- sed multae urbes et publica vota
vicerunt. He is now sitting on the ruins of the finances and of the
monarchy of France.
A great deal more might be observed on the strange constitution of
the executory part of the new government, but fatigue must give bounds
to the discussion of subjects which in themselves have hardly any

AS little genius and talent am I able to perceive in the plan of
judicature formed by the National Assembly. According to their
invariable course, the framers of your constitution have begun with
the utter abolition of the parliaments. These venerable bodies, like
the rest of the old government, stood in need of reform, even though
there should be no change made in the monarchy. They required
several more alterations to adapt them to the system of a free
constitution. But they had particulars in their constitution, and
those not a few, which deserved approbation from the wise. They
possessed one fundamental excellence: they were independent. The
most doubtful circumstance attendant on their office, that of its
being vendible, contributed however to this independence of character.
They held for life. Indeed, they may be said to have held by
inheritance. Appointed by the monarch, they were considered as
nearly out of his power. The most determined exertions of that
authority against them only showed their radical independence. They
composed permanent bodies politic, constituted to resist arbitrary
innovation; and from that corporate constitution, and from most of
their forms, they were well calculated to afford both certainty and
stability to the laws. They had been a safe asylum to secure these
laws in all the revolutions of humor and opinion. They had saved
that sacred deposit of the country during the reigns of arbitrary
princes and the struggles of arbitrary factions. They kept alive the
memory and record of the constitution. They were the great security to
private property which might be said (when personal liberty had no
existence) to be, in fact, as well guarded in France as in any other
country. Whatever is supreme in a state ought to have, as much as
possible, its judicial authority so constituted as not only not to
depend upon it, but in some sort to balance it. It ought to give a
security to its justice against its power. It ought to make its
judicature, as it were, something exterior to the state.
These parliaments had furnished, not the best certainly, but
some considerable corrective to the excesses and vices of the
monarchy. Such an independent judicature was ten times more
necessary when a democracy became the absolute power of the country.
In that constitution, elective temporary, local judges, such as you
have contrived, exercising their dependent functions in a narrow
society, must be the worst of all tribunals. In them it will be vain
to look for any appearance of justice toward strangers, toward the
obnoxious rich, toward the minority of routed parties, toward all
those who in the election have supported unsuccessful candidates. It
will be impossible to keep the new tribunals clear of the worst spirit
of faction. All contrivances by ballot we know experimentally to be
vain and childish to prevent a discovery of inclinations. Where they
may the best answer the purposes of concealment, they answer to
produce suspicion, and this is a still more mischievous cause of
If the parliaments had been preserved, instead of being
dissolved at so ruinous a charge to the nation, they might have served
in this new commonwealth, perhaps not precisely the same (I do not
mean an exact parallel), but nearly the same, purposes as the court
and senate of Areopagus did in Athens; that is, as one of the balances
and correctives to the evils of a light and unjust democracy. Every
one knows that this tribunal was the great stay of that state; every
one knows with what care it was upheld, and with what a religious
awe it was consecrated. The parliaments were not wholly free from
faction, I admit; but this evil was exterior and accidental, and not
so much the vice of their constitution itself, as it must be in your
new contrivance of sexennial elective judicatories. Several English
commend the abolition of the old tribunals, as supposing that they
determined everything by bribery and corruption. But they have stood
the test of monarchic and republican scrutiny. The court was well
disposed to prove corruption on those bodies when the were dissolved
in 1771. Those who have again dissolved them would have done the
same if they could, but both inquisitions having failed, I conclude
that gross pecuniary corruption must have been rather rare amongst
It would have been prudent, along with the parliaments, to
preserve their ancient power of registering, and of remonstrating at
least upon, all the decrees of the National Assembly, as they did upon
those which passed in the time of the monarchy. It would be a means of
squaring the occasional decrees of a democracy to some principles of
general jurisprudence. The vice of the ancient democracies, and one
cause of their ruin, was that they ruled, as you do, by occasional
decrees, psephismata. This practice soon broke in upon the tenor and
consistency of the laws; it abated the respect of the people toward
them, and totally destroyed them in the end.
Your vesting the power of remonstrance, which, in the time of
the monarchy, existed in the parliament of Paris, in your principal
executive officer, whom, in spite of common sense, you persevere in
calling king, is the height of absurdity. You ought never to suffer
remonstrance from him who is to execute. This is to understand neither
council nor execution, neither authority nor obedience. The person
whom you call king ought not to have this power, or he ought to have

Your present arrangement is strictly judicial. Instead of
imitating your monarchy and seating your judges on a bench of
independence, your object is to reduce them to the most blind
obedience. As you have changed all things, you have invented new
principles of order. You first appoint judges, who, I suppose, are
to determine according to law, and then you let them know that, at
some time or other, you intend to give them some law by which they are
to determine. Any studies which they have made (if any they have made)
are to be useless to them. But to supply these studies, they are to be
sworn to obey all the rules, orders, and instructions which from
time to time they are to receive from the National Assembly. These
if they submit to, they leave no ground of law to the subject. They
become complete and most dangerous instruments in the hands of the
governing power which, in the midst of a cause or on the prospect of
it, may wholly change the rule of decision. If these orders of the
National Assembly come to be contrary to the will of the people, who
locally choose judges, such confusion must happen as is terrible to
think of. For the judges owe their places to the local authority,
and the commands they are sworn to obey come from those who have no
share in their appointment. In the meantime they have the example of
the court of Chatelet to encourage and guide them in the exercise of
their functions. That court is to try criminals sent to it by the
National Assembly, or brought before it by other courses of
delation. They sit under a guard to save their own lives. They know
not by what law they judge, nor under what authority they act, nor
by what tenure they hold. It is thought that they are sometimes
obliged to condemn at peril of their lives. This is not perhaps
certain, nor can it be ascertained; but when they acquit, we know they
have seen the persons whom they discharge, with perfect impunity to
the actors, hanged at the door of their court.
The Assembly indeed promises that they will form a body of law,
which shall be short, simple, clear, and so forth. That is, by their
short laws they will leave much to the discretion of the judge, whilst
they have exploded the authority of all the learning which could
make judicial discretion (a thing perilous at best) deserving the
appellation of a sound discretion.

It is curious to observe that the administrative bodies are
carefully exempted from the jurisdiction of these new tribunals.
That is, those persons are exempted from the power of the laws who
ought to be the most entirely submitted to them. Those who execute
public pecuniary trusts ought of all men to be the most strictly
held to their duty. One would have thought that it must have been
among your earliest cares, if you did not mean that those
administrative bodies should be real, sovereign, independent states,
to form an awful tribunal, like your late parliaments, or like our
king's bench, where all corporate officers might obtain protection
in the legal exercise of their functions, and would find coercion if
they trespassed against their legal duty. But the cause of the
exemption is plain. These administrative bodies are the great
instruments of the present leaders in their progress through democracy
to oligarchy. They must, therefore, be put above the law. It will be
said that the legal tribunals which you have made are unfit to
coerce them. They are, undoubtedly. They are unfit for any rational
purpose. It will be said, too, that the administrative bodies will
be accountable to the General Assembly. This I fear is talking without
much consideration of the nature of that Assembly, or of these
corporations. However, to be subject to the pleasure of that
Assembly is not to be subject to law either for protection or for

This establishment of judges as yet wants something to its
completion. It is to be crowned by a new tribunal. This is to be a
grand state judicature, and it is to judge of crimes committed against
the nation, that is, against the power of the Assembly. It seems as if
they had something in their view of the nature of the high court of
justice erected in England during the time of the great usurpation. As
they have not yet finished this part of the scheme, it is impossible
to form a right judgment upon it. However, if great care is not
taken to form it in a spirit very different from that which has guided
them in their proceedings relative to state offenses, this tribunal,
subservient to their inquisition, the Committee of Research, will
extinguish the last sparks of liberty in France and settle the most
dreadful and arbitrary tyranny ever known in any nation. If they
wish to give to this tribunal any appearance of liberty and justice,
they must not evoke from or send to it the causes relative to their
own members, at their pleasure. They must also remove the seat of that
tribunal out of the republic of Paris.*

* For further elucidations upon the subject of all these
judicatures, and of the committee of research, see M. de Calonne's

HAS more wisdom been displayed in the constitution of your army
than what is discoverable in your plan of judicature? The able
arrangement of this part is the more difficult, and requires the
greatest skill and attention, not only as the great concern in itself,
but as it is the third cementing principle in the new body of
republics which you call the French nation. Truly it is not easy to
divine what that army may become at last. You have voted a very
large one, and on good appointments, at least fully equal to your
apparent means of payment. But what is the principle of its
discipline, or whom is it to obey? You have got the wolf by the
ears, and I wish you joy of the happy position in which you have
chosen to place yourselves, and in which you are well circumstanced
for a free deliberation relatively to that army or to anything else.

The minister and secretary of state for the war department is M.
de la Tour du Pin. This gentleman, like his colleagues in
administration, is a most zealous assertor of the revolution, and a
sanguine admirer of the new constitution which originated in that
event. His statement of facts, relative to the military of France,
is important, not only from his official and personal authority, but
because it displays very clearly the actual condition of the army in
France, and because it throws light on the principles upon which the
Assembly proceeds in the administration of this critical object. It
may enable us to form some judgment how far it may be expedient in
this country to imitate the martial policy of France.
M. de la Tour du Pin, on the fourth of last June, comes to give an
account of the state of his department as it exists under the auspices
of the National Assembly. No man knows it so well; no man can
express it better. Addressing himself to the National Assembly, he

His Majesty has this day sent me to apprise you of the
multiplied disorders of which every day he receives the most
distressing intelligence. The army (le corps militaire) threatens to
fall into the most turbulent anarchy. Entire regiments have dared to
violate at once the respect due to the laws, to the king, to the order
established by your decrees, and to the oaths which they have taken
with the most awful solemnity. Compelled by my duty to give you
information of these excesses, my heart bleeds when I consider who
they are that have committed them. Those against whom it is not in
my power to withhold the most grievous complaints are a part of that
very soldiery which to this day have been so full of honor and
loyalty, and with whom, for fifty years, I have lived the comrade
and the friend.
What incomprehensible spirit of delirium and delusion has all at
once led them astray? Whilst you are indefatigable in establishing
uniformity in the empire, and molding the whole into one coherent
and consistent body; whilst the French are taught by you at once the
respect which the laws owe to the rights of man, and that which the
citizens owe to the laws, the administration of the army presents
nothing but disturbance and confusion. I see in more than one corps
the bonds of discipline relaxed or broken; the most unheard-of
pretensions avowed directly and without any disguise; the ordinances
without force; the chiefs without authority; the military chest and
the colors carried off; the authority of the king himself (risum
teneatis?) proudly defied; the officers despised, degraded,
threatened, driven away, and some of them prisoners in the midst of
their corps, dragging on a precarious life in the bosom of disgust and
humiliation. To fill up the measure of all these horrors, the
commandants of places have had their throats cut, under the eyes and
almost in the arms of their own soldiers.
These evils are great; but they are not the worst consequences
which may be produced by such military insurrections. Sooner or
later they may menace the nation itself. The nature of things requires
that the army should never act but as an instrument. The moment
that, erecting itself into a deliberative body, it shall act according
to its own resolutions, the government, be it what it may, will
immediately degenerate into a military democracy- a species of
political monster which has always ended by devouring those who have
produced it.
After all this, who must not be alarmed at the irregular
consultations and turbulent committees formed in some regiments by the
common soldiers and non-commissioned officers without the knowledge,
or even in contempt of the authority, of their superiors, although the
presence and concurrence of those superiors could give no authority to
such monstrous democratic assemblies (comices).

It is not necessary to add much to this finished picture- finished
as far as its canvas admits, but, as I apprehend, not taking in the
whole of the nature and complexity of the disorders of this military
democracy which, the minister at war truly and wisely observes,
wherever it exists must be the true constitution of the state, by
whatever formal appellation it may pass. For though he informs the
Assembly that the more considerable part of the army have not cast off
their obedience, but are still attached to their duty, yet those
travelers who have seen the corps whose conduct is the best rather
observe in them the absence of mutiny than the existence of
I cannot help pausing here for a moment to reflect upon the
expressions of surprise which this minister has let fall, relative
to the excesses he relates. To him the departure of the troops from
their ancient principles of loyalty and honor seems quite
inconceivable. Surely those to whom he addresses himself know the
causes of it but too well. They know the doctrines which they have
preached, the decrees which they have passed, the practices which they
have countenanced. The soldiers remember the 6th of October. They
recollect the French guards. They have not forgotten the taking of the
king's castles in Paris and Marseilles. That the governors in both
places were murdered with impunity is a fact that has not passed out
of their minds. They do not abandon the principles laid down so
ostentatiously and laboriously of the equality of men. They cannot
shut their eyes to the degradation of the whole noblesse of France and
the suppression of the very idea of a gentleman. The total abolition
of titles and distinctions is not lost upon them. But M. de la Tour du
Pin is astonished at their disloyalty, when the doctors of the
Assembly have taught them at the same time the respect due to laws. It
is easy to judge which of the two sorts of lessons men with arms in
their hands are likely to learn. As to the authority of the king, we
may collect from the minister himself (if any argument on that head
were not quite superfluous) that it is not of more consideration
with these troops than it is with everybody else. "The king", says he,
"has over and over again repeated his orders to put a stop to these
excesses; but in so terrible a crisis your (the Assembly's)
concurrence is become indispensably necessary to prevent the evils
which menace the state. You unite to the force of the legislative
power that of opinion still more important". To be sure the army can
have no opinion of the power or authority of the king. Perhaps the
soldier has by this time learned that the Assembly itself does not
enjoy a much greater degree of liberty than that royal figure.
It is now to be seen what has been proposed in this exigency,
one of the greatest that can happen in a state. The minister
requests the Assembly to array itself in all its terrors, and to
call forth all its majesty. He desires that the grave and severe
principles announced by them may give vigor to the king's
proclamation. After this we should have looked for courts, civil and
martial, breaking of some corps, decimating of others, and all the
terrible means which necessity has employed in such cases to arrest
the progress of the most terrible of all evils; particularly, one
might expect that a serious inquiry would be made into the murder of
commandants in the view of their soldiers. Not one word of all this or
of anything like it. After they had been told that the soldiery
trampled upon the decrees of the Assembly promulgated by the king, the
Assembly pass new decrees, and they authorize the king to make new
proclamations. After the secretary at war had stated that the
regiments had paid no regard to oaths pretes avec la plus imposante
solemnite, they propose- what? More oaths. They renew decrees and
proclamations as they experience their insufficiency, and they
multiply oaths in proportion as they weaken in the minds of men, the
sanctions of religion. I hope that handy abridgments of the
excellent sermons of Voltaire, d'Alembert, Diderot, and Helvetius,
on the Immortality of the Soul, on a particular superintending
Providence, and on a Future State of Rewards and Punishments are
sent down to the soldiers along with their civic oaths. Of this I have
no doubt; as I understand that a certain description of reading
makes no inconsiderable part of their military exercises, and that
they are full as well supplied with the ammunition of pamphlets as
of cartridges.

To prevent the mischiefs arising from conspiracies, irregular
consultations, seditious committees, and monstrous democratic
assemblies (comitia, comices) of the soldiers, and all the disorders
arising from idleness, luxury, dissipation, and insubordination, I
believe the most astonishing means have been used that ever occurred
to men, even in all the inventions of this prolific age. It is no less
than this: the king has promulgated in circular letters to all the
regiments his direct authority and encouragement that the several
corps should join themselves with the clubs and confederations in
the several municipalities, and mix with them in their feasts and
civic entertainments! This jolly discipline, it seems, is to soften
the ferocity of their minds, to reconcile them to their bottle
companions of other descriptions, and to merge particular conspiracies
in more general associations.* That this remedy would be pleasing to
the soldiers, as they are described by M. de la Tour du Pin, I can
readily believe; and that, however mutinous otherwise, they will
dutifully submit themselves to these royal proclamations. But I should
question whether all this civic swearing, clubbing, and feasting would
dispose them, more than at present they are disposed, to an
obedience to their officers, or teach them better to submit to the
austere rules of military discipline. It will make them admirable
citizens after the French mode, but not quite so good soldiers after
any mode. A doubt might well arise whether the conversations at
these good tables would fit them a great deal the better for the
character of mere instruments, which this veteran officer and
statesman justly observes the nature of things always requires an army
to be.

* Comme sa Majeste y a reconnu, non une systeme d'associations
particulieres, mais une reunion de volontes de tous les Francois
pour la liberte et la prosperite communes, ainsi pour la maintien de
l'ordre publique; il a pense qu'il convenoit que chaque regiment
prit part a ces fetes civiques pour multiplier les rapports et
reserrer les liens d'union entre les citoyens et les troupes.- Lest
I should not be credited, I insert the words, authorizing the troops
to feast with the popular confederacies.

Concerning the likelihood of this improvement in discipline by the
free conversation of the soldiers with municipal festive societies,
which is thus officially encouraged by royal authority and sanction,
we may judge by the state of the municipalities themselves,
furnished to us by the war minister in this very speech. He
conceives good hopes of the success of his endeavors toward
restoring order for the present from the good disposition of certain
regiments, but he finds something cloudy with regard to the future. As
to preventing the return of confusion, for this the administration
(says he) cannot be answerable to you as long as they see the
municipalities arrogate to themselves an authority over the troops
which your institutions have reserved wholly to the monarch. You
have fixed the limits of the military authority and the municipal
authority. You have bounded the action which you have permitted to the
latter over the former to the right of requisition, but never did
the letter or the spirit of your decrees authorize the commons in
these municipalities to break the officers, to try them, to give
orders to the soldiers, to drive them from the posts committed to
their guard, to stop them in their marches ordered by the king, or, in
a word, to enslave the troops to the caprice of each of the cities
or even market towns through which they are to pass.
Such is the character and disposition of the municipal society
which is to reclaim the soldiery, to bring them back to the true
principles of military subordination, and to render them machines in
the hands of the supreme power of the country! Such are the distempers
of the French troops! Such is their cure! As the army is, so is the
navy. The municipalities supersede the orders of the Assembly, and the
seamen in their turn supersede the orders of the municipalities.
From my heart I pity the condition of a respectable servant of the
public like this war minister, obliged in his old age to pledge the
Assembly in their civic cups, and to enter with a hoary head into
all the fantastic vagaries of these juvenile politicians. Such schemes
are not like propositions coming from a man of fifty years' wear and
tear amongst mankind. They seem rather such as ought to be expected
from those grand compounders in politics who shorten the road to their
degrees in the state and have a certain inward fanatical assurance and
illumination upon all subjects, upon the credit of which one of
their doctors has thought fit, with great applause, and greater
success, to caution the Assembly not to attend to old men or to any
persons who valued themselves upon their experience. I suppose all the
ministers of state must qualify and take this test- wholly abjuring
the errors and heresies of experience and observation. Every man has
his own relish. But I think if I could not attain to the wisdom, I
would at least preserve something of the stiff and peremptory
dignity of age. These gentlemen deal in regeneration; but at any price
I should hardly yield my rigid fibers to be regenerated by them, nor
begin, in my grand climacteric, to squall in their new accents or to
stammer, in my second cradle, the elemental sounds of their
barbarous metaphysics.* Si isti mihi largiantur ut repuerascam, et
in eorum cunis vagiam, valde recusem!

* This war minister has since quitted the school and resigned
his office.

The imbecility of any part of the puerile and pedantic system,
which they call a constitution, cannot be laid open without
discovering the utter insufficiency and mischief of every other part
with which it comes in contact, or that bears any the remotest
relation to it. You cannot propose a remedy for the incompetence of
the crown without displaying the debility of the Assembly. You
cannot deliberate on the confusion of the army of the state without
disclosing the worse disorders of the armed municipalities. The
military lays open the civil, and the civil betrays the military,
anarchy. I wish everybody carefully to peruse the eloquent speech
(such it is) of M. de la Tour du Pin. He attributes the salvation of
the municipalities to the good behavior of some of the troops. These
troops are to preserve the well-disposed part of those municipalities,
which is confessed to be the weakest, from the pillage of the
worst-disposed, which is the strongest. But the municipalities
affect a sovereignty and will command those troops which are necessary
for their protection. Indeed they must command them or court them. The
municipalities, by the necessity of their situation, and by the
republican powers they have obtained, must, with relation to the
military, be the masters, or the servants, or the confederates, or
each successively; or they must make a jumble of all together,
according to circumstances. What government is there to coerce the
army but the municipality, or the municipality but the army? To
preserve concord where authority is extinguished, at the hazard of all
consequences, the Assembly attempts to cure the distempers by the
distempers themselves; and they hope to preserve themselves from a
purely military democracy by giving it a debauched interest in the
If the soldiers once come to mix for any time in the municipal
clubs, cabals, and confederacies, an elective attraction will draw
them to the lowest and most desperate part. With them will be their
habits, affections, and sympathies. The military conspiracies, which
are to be remedied by civic confederacies; the rebellious
municipalities, which are to be rendered obedient by furnishing them
with the means of seducing the very armies of the state that are to
keep them in order; all these chimeras of a monstrous and portentous
policy must aggravate the confusion from which they have arisen. There
must be blood. The want of common judgment manifested in the
construction of all their descriptions of forces and in all their
kinds of civil and judicial authorities will make it flow. Disorders
may be quieted in one time and in one part. They will break out in
others, because the evil is radical and intrinsic. All these schemes
of mixing mutinous soldiers with seditious citizens must weaken
still more and more the military connection of soldiers with their
officers, as well as add military and mutinous audacity to turbulent
artificers and peasants. To secure a real army, the officer should
be first and last in the eye of the soldier; first and last in his
attention, observance, and esteem. Officers it seems there are to
be, whose chief qualification must be temper and patience. They are to
manage their troops by electioneering arts. They must bear
themselves as candidates, not as commanders. But as by such means
power may be occasionally in their hands, the authority by which
they are to be nominated becomes of high importance.

What you may do finally does not appear, nor is it of much
moment whilst the strange and contradictory relation between your army
and all the parts of your republic, as well as the puzzled relation of
those parts to each other and to the whole, remain as they are. You
seem to have given the provisional nomination of the officers in the
first instance to the king, with a reserve of approbation by the
National Assembly. Men who have an interest to pursue are extremely
sagacious in discovering the true seat of power. They must soon
perceive that those who can negative indefinitely in reality
appoint. The officers must, therefore, look to their intrigues in that
Assembly as the sole certain road to promotion. Still, however, by
your new constitution they must begin their solicitation at court.
This double negotiation for military rank seems to me a contrivance as
well adapted, as if it were studied for no other end, to promote
faction in the Assembly itself, relative to this vast military
patronage, and then to poison the corps of officers with factions of a
nature still more dangerous to the safety of government, upon any
bottom on which it can be placed, and destructive in the end to the
efficiency of the army itself. Those officers who lose the
promotions intended for them by the crown must become of a faction
opposite to that of the Assembly, which has rejected their claims, and
must nourish discontents in the heart of the army against the ruling
powers. Those officers, on the other hand, who, by carrying their
point through an interest in the Assembly, feel themselves to be at
best only second in the good will of the crown, though first in that
of the Assembly, must slight an authority which would not advance
and could not retard their promotion. If to avoid these evils you will
have no other rule for command or promotion than seniority, you will
have an army of formality; at the same time it will become more
independent and more of a military republic. Not they, but the king is
the machine. A king is not to be deposed by halves. If he is not
everything in the command of an army, he is nothing. What is the
effect of a power placed nominally at the head of the army who to that
army is no object of gratitude or of fear? Such a cipher is not fit
for the administration of an object, of all things the most
delicate, the supreme command of military men. They must be
constrained (and their inclinations lead them to what their
necessities require) by a real, vigorous, effective, decided, personal
authority. The authority of the Assembly itself suffers by passing
through such a debilitating channel as they have chosen. The army will
not long look to an assembly acting through the organ of false show
and palpable imposition. They will not seriously yield obedience to
a prisoner. They will either despise a pageant, or they will pity a
captive king. This relation of your army to the crown will, if I am
not greatly mistaken, become a serious dilemma in your politics.

It is, besides, to be considered whether an assembly like yours,
even supposing that it was in possession of another sort of organ
through which its orders were to pass, is fit for promoting the
obedience and discipline of an army. It is known that armies have
hitherto yielded a very precarious and uncertain obedience to any
senate or popular authority; and they will least of all yield it to an
assembly which is only to have a continuance of two years. The
officers must totally lose the characteristic disposition of
military men if they see with perfect submission and due admiration
the dominion of pleaders; especially when they find that they have a
new court to pay to an endless succession of those pleaders, whose
military policy, and the genius of whose command (if they should
have any), must be as uncertain as their duration is transient. In the
weakness of one kind of authority, and in the fluctuation of all,
the officers of an army will remain for some time mutinous and full of
faction until some popular general, who understands the art of
conciliating the soldiery, and who possesses the true spirit of
command, shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself. Armies will obey
him on his personal account. There is no other way of securing
military obedience in this state of things. But the moment in which
that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is
your master- the master (that is little) of your king, the master of
your Assembly, the master of your whole republic.

How came the Assembly by their present power over the army?
Chiefly, to be sure, by debauching the soldiers from their officers.
They have begun by a most terrible operation. They have touched the
central point about which the particles that compose armies are at
repose. They have destroyed the principle of obedience in the great,
essential, critical link between the officer and the soldier, just
where the chain of military subordination commences and on which the
whole of that system depends. The soldier is told he is a citizen
and has the rights of man and citizen. The right of a man, he is told,
is to be his own governor and to be ruled only by those to whom he
delegates that self-government. It is very natural he should think
that he ought most of all to have his choice where he is to yield
the greatest degree of obedience. He will therefore, in all
probability, systematically do what he does at present occasionally;
that is, he will exercise at least a negative in the choice of his
officers. At present the officers are known at best to be only
permissive, and on their good behavior. In fact, there have been
many instances in which they have been cashiered by their corps.
Here is a second negative on the choice of the king- a negative as
effectual at least as the other of the Assembly. The soldiers know
already that it has been a question, not ill received in the
National Assembly, whether they ought not to have the direct choice of
their officers, or some proportion of them? When such matters are in
deliberation it is no extravagant supposition that they will incline
to the opinion most favorable to their pretensions. They will not bear
to be deemed the army of an imprisoned king whilst another army in the
same country, with whom, too, they are to feast and confederate, is to
be considered as the free army of a free constitution. They will
cast their eyes on the other and more permanent army; I mean the
municipal. That corps, they well know, does actually elect its own
officers. They may not be able to discern the grounds of distinction
on which they are not to elect a Marquis de la Fayette (or what is his
new name?) of their own. If this election of a commander-in-chief be a
part of the rights of men, why not of theirs? They see elective
justices of peace, elective judges, elective curates, elective
bishops, elective municipalities, and elective commanders of the
Parisian army- why should they alone be excluded? Are the brave troops
of France the only men in that nation who are not the fit judges of
military merit and of the qualifications necessary for a
commander-in-chief? Are they paid by the state and do they, therefore,
lose the rights of men? They are a part of that nation themselves
and contribute to that pay. And is not the king, is not the National
Assembly, and are not all who elect the National Assembly, likewise
paid? Instead of seeing all these forfeit their rights by their
receiving a salary, they perceive that in all these cases a salary
is given for the exercise of those rights. All your resolutions, all
your proceedings, all your debates, all the works of your doctors in
religion and politics have industriously been put into their hands,
and you expect that they will apply to their own case just as much
of your doctrines and examples as suits your pleasure.

EVERYTHING depends upon the army in such a government as yours,
for you have industriously destroyed all the opinions and prejudices
and, as far as in you lay, all the instincts which support government.
Therefore, the moment any difference arises between your National
Assembly and any part of the nation, you must have recourse to
force. Nothing else is left to you, or rather you have left nothing
else to yourselves. You see, by the report of your war minister,
that the distribution of the army is in a great measure made with a
view of internal coercion.* You must rule by an army; and you have
infused into that army by which you rule, as well as into the whole
body of the nation, principles which after a time must disable you
in the use you resolve to make of it. The king is to call out troops
to act against his people, when the world has been told, and the
assertion is still ringing in our ears, that troops ought not to
fire on citizens. The colonies assert to themselves an independent
constitution and a free trade. They must be constrained by troops.
In what chapter of your code of the rights of men are they able to
read that it is a part of the rights of men to have their commerce
monopolized and restrained for the benefit of others? As the colonists
rise on you, the Negroes rise on them. Troops again- massacre,
torture, hanging! These are your rights of men! These are the fruits
of metaphysic declarations wantonly made, and shamefully retracted! It
was but the other day that the farmers of land in one of your
provinces refused to pay some sort of rents to the lord of the soil.
In consequence of this, you decree that the country people shall pay
all rents and dues, except those which as grievances you have
abolished; and if they refuse, then you order the king to march troops
against them. You lay down metaphysic propositions which infer
universal consequences, and then you attempt to limit logic by
despotism. The leaders of the present system tell them of their
rights, as men, to take fortresses, to murder guards, to seize on
kings without the least appearance of authority even from the
Assembly, whilst, as the sovereign legislative body, that Assembly was
sitting in the name of the nation- and yet these leaders presume to
order out the troops which have acted in these very disorders, to
coerce those who shall judge on the principles, and follow the
examples, which have been guaranteed by their own approbation.

* Courier Francois, 30th July, 1790. Assemblee Nationale, Numero

The leaders teach the people to abhor and reject all feudality
as the barbarism of tyranny, and they tell them afterwards how much of
that barbarous tyranny they are to bear with patience. As they are
prodigal of light with regard to grievances, so the people find them
sparing in the extreme with regard to redress. They know that not only
certain quitrents and personal duties, which you have permitted them
to redeem (but have furnished no money for the redemption), are as
nothing to those burdens for which you have made no provision at
all. They know that almost the whole system of landed property in
its origin is feudal; that it is the distribution of the possessions
of the original proprietors, made by a barbarous conqueror to his
barbarous instruments; and that the most grievous effects of the
conquest are the land rents of every kind, as without question they
The peasants, in all probability, are the descendants of these
ancient proprietors, Romans or Gauls. But if they fail, in any degree,
in the titles which they make on the principles of antiquaries and
lawyers, they retreat into the citadel of the rights of men. There
they find that men are equal; and the earth, the kind and equal mother
of all, ought not to be monopolized to foster the pride and luxury
of any men, who by nature are no better than themselves, and who, if
they do not labor for their bread, are worse. They find that by the
laws of nature the occupant and subduer of the soil is the true
proprietor; that there is no prescription against nature; and that the
agreements (where any there are) which have been made with the
landlords, during the time of slavery, are only the effect of duress
and force; and that when the people reentered into the rights of
men, those agreements were made as void as everything else which had
been settled under the prevalence of the old feudal and aristocratic
tyranny. They will tell you that they see no difference between an
idler with a hat and a national cockade and an idler in a cowl or in a
rochet. If you ground the title to rents on succession and
prescription, they tell you from the speech of M. Camus, published
by the National Assembly for their information, that things ill
begun cannot avail themselves of prescription; that the title of these
lords was vicious in its origin; and that force is at least as bad
as fraud. As to the title by succession, they will tell you that the
succession of those who have cultivated the soil is the true
pedigree of property, and not rotten parchments and silly
substitutions; that the lords have enjoyed their usurpation too
long; and that if they allow to these lay monks any charitable
pension, they ought to be thankful to the bounty of the true
proprietor, who is so generous toward a false claimant to his goods.
When the peasants give you back that coin of sophistic reason on
which you have set your image and superscription, you cry it down as
base money and tell them you will pay for the future with French
guards, and dragoons, and hussars. You hold up, to chastise them,
the second-hand authority of a king, who is only the instrument of
destroying, without any power of protecting either the people or his
own person. Through him it seems you will make yourselves obeyed. They
answer: You have taught us that there are no gentlemen, and which of
your principles teach us to bow to kings whom we have not elected?
We know without your teaching that lands were given for the support of
feudal dignities, feudal titles, and feudal offices. When you took
down the cause as a grievance, why should the more grievous effect
remain? As there are now no hereditary honors, and no distinguished
families, why are we taxed to maintain what you tell us ought not to
exist? You have sent down our old aristocratic landlords in no other
character, and with no other title, but that of exactors under your
authority. Have you endeavored to make these your rent-gatherers
respectable to us? No. You have sent them to us with their arms
reversed, their shields broken, their impresses defaced; and so
displumed, degraded, and metamorphosed, such unfeathered two-legged
things, that we no longer know them. They are strangers to us. They do
not even go by the names of our ancient lords. Physically they may
be the same men, though we are not quite sure of that, on your new
philosophic doctrines of personal identity. In all other respects they
are totally changed. We do not see why we have not as good a right
to refuse them their rents as you have to abrogate all their honors,
titles, and distinctions. This we have never commissioned you to do;
and it is one instance, among many indeed, of your assumption of
undelegated power. We see the burghers of Paris, through their
clubs, their mobs, and their national guards, directing you at their
pleasure and giving that as law to you which, under your authority, is
transmitted as law to us. Through you these burghers dispose of the
lives and fortunes of us all. Why should not you attend as much to the
desires of the laborious husbandman with regard to our rent, by
which we are affected in the most serious manner, as you do to the
demands of these insolent burghers, relative to distinctions and
titles of honor, by which neither they nor we are affected at all? But
we find you pay more regard to their fancies than to our
necessities. Is it among the rights of man to pay tribute to his
equals? Before this measure of yours, we might have thought we were
not perfectly equal. We might have entertained some old, habitual,
unmeaning prepossession in favor of those landlords; but we cannot
conceive with what other view than that of destroying all respect to
them, you could have made the law that degrades them. You have
forbidden us to treat them with any of the old formalities of respect,
and now you send troops to saber and to bayonet us into a submission
to fear and force, which you did not suffer us to yield to the mild
authority of opinion.
The ground of some of these arguments is horrid and ridiculous
to all rational ears, but to the politicians of metaphysics who have
opened schools for sophistry and made establishments for anarchy, it
is solid and conclusive. It is obvious that, on a mere consideration
of the right, the leaders in the Assembly would not in the least
have scrupled to abrogate the rents along with the title and family
ensigns. It would be only to follow up the principle of their
reasonings and to complete the analogy of their conduct. But they
had newly possessed themselves of a great body of landed property by
confiscation. They had this commodity at market; and the market
would have been wholly destroyed if they were to permit the husbandmen
to riot in the speculations with which they so freely intoxicated
themselves. The only security which property enjoys in any one of
its descriptions is from the interests of their rapacity with regard
to some other. They have left nothing but their own arbitrary pleasure
to determine what property is to be protected and what subverted.
Neither have they left any principle by which any of their
municipalities can be bound to obedience, or even conscientiously
obliged not to separate from the whole to become independent, or to
connect itself with some other state. The people of Lyons, it seems,
have refused lately to pay taxes. Why should they not? What lawful
authority is there left to exact them? The king imposed some of
them. The old states, methodized by orders, settled the more
ancient. They may say to the Assembly: who are you, that are not our
kings, nor the states we have elected, nor sit on the principles on
which we have elected you? And who are we, that when we see the
gabelles, which you have ordered to be paid, wholly shaken off, when
we see the act of disobedience afterwards ratified by yourselves-
who are we, that we are not to judge what taxes we ought or ought
not to pay, and are not to avail ourselves of the same powers, the
validity of which you have approved in others? To this the answer
is, We will send troops. The last reason of kings is always the
first with your Assembly. This military aid may serve for a time,
whilst the impression of the increase of pay remains, and the vanity
of being umpires in all disputes is flattered. But this weapon will
snap short, unfaithful to the hand that employs it. The Assembly
keep a school where, systematically, and with unremitting
perseverance, they teach principles and form regulations destructive
to all spirit of subordination, civil and military- and then they
expect that they shall hold in obedience an anarchic people by an
anarchic army.
The municipal army which, according to the new policy, is to
balance this national army, if considered in itself only, is of a
constitution much more simple, and in every respect less
exceptionable. It is a mere democratic body, unconnected with the
crown or the kingdom, armed and trained and officered at the
pleasure of the districts to which the corps severally belong, and the
personal service of the individuals who compose, or the fine in lieu
of personal service, are directed by the same authority.* Nothing is
more uniform. If, however, considered in any relation to the crown, to
the National Assembly, to the public tribunals, or to the other
army, or considered in a view to any coherence or connection between
its parts, it seems a monster, and can hardly fail to terminate its
perplexed movements in some great national calamity. It is a worse
preservative of a general constitution than the systasis of Crete,
or the confederation of Poland, or any other ill-devised corrective
which has yet been imagined in the necessities produced by an
ill-constructed system of government.

* I see by M. Necker's account that the national guards of Paris
have received, over and above the money levied within their own
city, about L145,000 sterling out of the public treasures. Whether
this be an actual payment for the nine months of their existence or an
estimate of their yearly charge, I do not clearly perceive. It is of
no great importance, as certainly they may take whatever they please.

Having concluded my few remarks on the constitution of the supreme
power, the executive, the judicature, the military, and on the
reciprocal relation of all these establishments, I shall say something
of the ability shown by your legislators with regard to the revenue.

IN THEIR PROCEEDINGS relative to this object, if possible, still
fewer traces appear of political judgment or financial resource.
When the states met, it seemed to be the great object to improve the
system of revenue, to enlarge its collection, to cleanse it of
oppression and vexation, and to establish it on the most solid
footing. Great were the expectations entertained on that head
throughout Europe. It was by this grand arrangement that France was to
stand or fall; and this became, in my opinion, very properly the
test by which the skill and patriotism of those who ruled in that
Assembly would be tried. The revenue of the state is the state. In
effect, all depends upon it, whether for support or for reformation.
The dignity of every occupation wholly depends upon the quantity and
the kind of virtue that may be exerted in it. As all great qualities
of the mind which operate in public, and are not merely suffering
and passive, require force for their display, I had almost said for
their unequivocal existence, the revenue, which is the spring of all
power, becomes in its administration the sphere of every active
virtue. Public virtue, being of a nature magnificent and splendid,
instituted for great things and conversant about great concerns,
requires abundant scope and room and cannot spread and grow under
confinement and in circumstances straitened, narrow, and sordid.
Through the revenue alone the body politic can act in its true
genius and character, and, therefore, it will display just as much
of its collective virtue, and as much of that virtue which may
characterize those who move it and are, as it were, its life and
guiding principle, as it is possessed of a just revenue. For from
hence not only magnanimity, and liberality, and beneficence, and
fortitude, and providence, and the tutelary protection of all good
arts derive their food and the growth of their organs; but continence,
and self-denial, and labor, and vigilance, and frugality, and whatever
else there is in which the mind shows itself above the appetite, are
nowhere more in their proper element than in the provision and
distribution of the public wealth. It is, therefore, not without
reason that the science of speculative and practical finance, which
must take to its aid so many auxiliary branches of knowledge, stands
high in the estimation not only of the ordinary sort but of the wisest
and best men; and as this science has grown with the progress of its
object, the prosperity and improvement of nations has generally
increased with the increase of their revenues; and they will both
continue to grow and flourish as long as the balance between what is
left to strengthen the efforts of individuals and what is collected
for the common efforts of the state bear to each other a due
reciprocal proportion and are kept in a close correspondence and
communication. And perhaps it may be owing to the greatness of
revenues and to the urgency of state necessities that old abuses in
the constitution of finances are discovered and their true nature
and rational theory comes to be more perfectly understood: insomuch,
that a smaller revenue might have been more distressing in one
period than a far greater is found to be in another, the proportionate
wealth even remaining the same. In this state of things, the French
Assembly found something in their revenues to preserve, to secure, and
wisely to administer, as well as to abrogate and alter. Though their
proud assumption might justify the severest tests, yet in trying their
abilities on their financial proceedings, I would only consider what
is the plain obvious duty of a common finance minister, and try them
upon that, and not upon models of ideal perfection.

The objects of a financier are, then, to secure an ample
revenue, to impose it with judgment and equality, to employ it
economically, and when necessity obliges him to make use of credit, to
secure its foundations in that instance, and forever, by the clearness
and candor of his proceedings, the exactness of his calculations and
the solidity of his funds. On these heads we may take a short and
distinct view of the merits and abilities of those in the National
Assembly who have taken to themselves the management of this arduous
concern. Far from any increase of revenue in their hands, I find, by a
report of M. Vernier, from the committee of finances, of the second of
August last, that the amount of the national revenue, as compared with
its produce before the Revolution, was diminished by the sum of two
hundred millions, or eight millions sterling of the annual income,
considerably more than one-third of the whole.
If this be the result of great ability, never surely was ability
displayed in a more distinguished manner or with so powerful an
effect. No common folly, no vulgar incapacity, no ordinary official
negligence, even no official crime, no corruption, no peculation,
hardly any direct hostility which we have seen in the modern world
could in so short a time have made so complete an overthrow of the
finances and, with them, of the strength of a great kingdom.- Cedo qui
vestram rempublicam tantam amisistis tam cito?

The sophisters and declaimers, as soon as the Assembly met,
began with decrying the ancient constitution of the revenue in many of
its most essential branches, such as the public monopoly of salt. They
charged it, as truly as unwisely, with being ill-contrived,
oppressive, and partial. This representation they were not satisfied
to make use of in speeches preliminary to some plan of reform; they
declared it in a solemn resolution or public sentence, as it were
judicially passed upon it; and this they dispersed throughout the
nation. At the time they passed the decree, with the same gravity they
ordered the same absurd, oppressive, and partial tax to be paid
until they could find a revenue to replace it. The consequence was
inevitable. The provinces which had been always exempted from this
salt monopoly, some of whom were charged with other contributions,
perhaps equivalent, were totally disinclined to bear any part of the
burden which by an equal distribution was to redeem the others. As
to the Assembly, occupied as it was with the declaration and violation
of the rights of men, and with their arrangements for general
confusion, it had neither leisure nor capacity to contrive, nor
authority to enforce, any plan of any kind relative to the replacing
the tax or equalizing it, or compensating the provinces, or for
conducting their minds to any scheme of accommodation with other
districts which were to be relieved.
The people of the salt provinces, impatient under taxes, damned by
the authority which had directed their payment, very soon found
their patience exhausted. They thought themselves as skillful in
demolishing as the Assembly could be. They relieved themselves by
throwing off the whole burden. Animated by this example, each
district, or part of a district, judging of its own grievance by its
own feeling, and of its remedy by its own opinion, did as it pleased
with other taxes.

We are next to see how they have conducted themselves in
contriving equal impositions, proportioned to the means of the
citizens, and the least likely to lean heavy on the active capital
employed in the generation of that private wealth from whence the
public fortune must be derived. By suffering the several districts,
and several of the individuals in each district, to judge of what part
of the old revenue they might withhold, instead of better principles
of equality, a new inequality was introduced of the most oppressive
kind. Payments were regulated by dispositions. The parts of the
kingdom which were the most submissive, the most orderly, or the
most affectionate to the commonwealth bore the whole burden of the
state. Nothing turns out to be so oppressive and unjust as a feeble
government. To fill up all the deficiencies in the old impositions and
the new deficiencies of every kind which were to be expected- what
remained to a state without authority? The National Assembly called
for a voluntary benevolence: for a fourth part of the income of all
the citizens, to be estimated on the honor of those who were to pay.
They obtained something more than could be rationally calculated,
but what was far indeed from answerable to their real necessities, and
much less to their fond expectations. Rational people could have hoped
for little from this their tax in the disguise of a benevolence- a tax
weak, ineffective, and unequal; a tax by which luxury, avarice, and
selfishness were screened, and the load thrown upon productive
capital, upon integrity, generosity, and public spirit; a tax of
regulation upon virtue. At length the mask is thrown off, and they are
now trying means (with little success) of exacting their benevolence
by force.

This benevolence, the rickety offspring of weakness, was to be
supported by another resource, the twin brother of the same prolific
imbecility. The patriotic donations were to make good the failure of
the patriotic contribution. John Doe was to become security for
Richard Roe. By this scheme they took things of much price from the
giver, comparatively of small value to the receiver; they ruined
several trades; they pillaged the crown of its ornaments, the churches
of their plate, and the people of their personal decorations. The
invention of these juvenile pretenders to liberty was in reality
nothing more than a servile imitation of one of the poorest
resources of doting despotism. They took an old, huge, full-bottomed
periwig out of the wardrobe of the antiquated frippery of Louis the
Fourteenth to cover the premature baldness of the National Assembly.
They produced this old-fashioned formal folly, though it had been so
abundantly exposed in the Memoirs of the Duke de St. Simon, if to
reasonable men it had wanted any arguments to display its mischief and
insufficiency. A device of the same kind was tried, in my memory, by
Louis the Fifteenth, but it answered at no time. However, the
necessities of ruinous wars were some excuse for desperate projects.
The deliberations of calamity are rarely wise. But here was a season
for disposition and providence. It was in a time of profound peace,
then enjoyed for five years, and promising a much longer
continuance, that they had recourse to this desperate trifling. They
were sure to lose more reputation by sporting, in their serious
situation, with these toys and playthings of finance, which have
filled half their journals, than could possibly be compensated by
the poor temporary supply which they afforded. It seemed as if those
who adopted such projects were wholly ignorant of their
circumstances or wholly unequal to their necessities. Whatever
virtue may be in these devices, it is obvious that neither the
patriotic gifts, nor the patriotic contribution, can ever be
resorted to again. The resources of public folly are soon exhausted.
The whole, indeed, of their scheme of revenue is to make, by any
artifice, an appearance of a full reservoir for the hour, whilst at
the same time they cut off the springs and living fountains of
perennial supply. The account not long since furnished by M. Necker
was meant, without question, to be favorable. He gives a flattering
view of the means of getting through the year, but he expresses, as it
is natural he should, some apprehension for that which was to succeed.
On this last prognostic, instead of entering into the grounds of
this apprehension in order, by a proper foresight, to prevent the
prognosticated evil, M. Necker receives a sort of friendly reprimand
from the president of the Assembly.

As to their other schemes of taxation, it is impossible to say
anything of them with certainty, because they have not yet had their
operation; but nobody is so sanguine as to imagine they will fill up
any perceptible part of the wide gaping breach which their
incapacity had made in their revenues. At present the state of their
treasury sinks every day more and more in cash, and swells more and
more in fictitious representation. When so little within or without is
now found but paper, the representative not of opulence but of want,
the creature not of credit but of power, they imagine that our
flourishing state in England is owing to that bank-paper, and not
the bank-paper to the flourishing condition of our commerce, to the
solidity of our credit, and to the total exclusion of all idea of
power from any part of the transaction. They forget that, in
England, not one shilling of paper money of any description is
received but of choice; that the whole has had its origin in cash
actually deposited; and that it is convertible at pleasure, in an
instant and without the smallest loss, into cash again. Our paper is
of value in commerce, because in law it is of none. It is powerful
on 'Change, because in Westminster Hall it is impotent. In payment
of a debt of twenty shillings, a creditor may refuse all the paper
of the Bank of England. Nor is there amongst us a single public
security, of any quality or nature whatsoever, that is enforced by
authority. In fact, it might be easily shown that our paper wealth,
instead of lessening the real coin, has a tendency to increase it;
instead of being a substitute for money, it only facilitates its
entry, its exit, and its circulation; that it is the symbol of
prosperity, and not the badge of distress. Never was a scarcity of
cash and an exuberance of paper a subject of complaint in this nation.

Well! but a lessening of prodigal expenses, and the economy
which has been introduced by the virtuous and sapient Assembly, make
amends for the losses sustained in the receipt of revenue. In this
at least they have fulfilled the duty of a financier. Have those who
say so looked at the expenses of the National Assembly itself, of
the municipalities, of the city of Paris, of the increased pay of
the two armies, of the new police, of the new judicatures? Have they
even carefully compared the present pension list with the former?
These politicians have been cruel, not economical. Comparing the
expense of the former prodigal government and its relation to the then
revenues with the expenses of this new system as opposed to the
state of its new treasury, I believe the present will be found
beyond all comparison more chargeable.*

* The reader will observe that I have but lightly touched (my plan
demanded nothing more) on the condition of the French finances, as
connected with the demands upon them. If I had intended to do
otherwise, the materials in my hands for such a task are not
altogether perfect. On this subject I refer the reader to M. de
Calonne's work; and the tremendous display that he has made of the
havoc and devastation in the public estate, and in all the affairs
of France, caused by the presumptuous good intentions of ignorance and
incapacity. Such effects those causes will always produce. Looking
over that account with a pretty strict eye, and, with perhaps too much
rigor, deducting everything which may be placed to the account of a
financier out of place, who might be supposed by his enemies
desirous of making the most of his cause, I believe it will be found
that a more salutary lesson of caution against the daring spirit of
innovators than what has been supplied at the expense of France
never was at any time furnished to mankind.

It remains only to consider the proofs of financial ability
furnished by the present French managers when they are to raise
supplies on credit. Here I am a little at a stand, for credit,
properly speaking, they have none. The credit of the ancient
government was not indeed the best, but they could always, on some
terms, command money, not only at home, but from most of the countries
of Europe where a surplus capital was accumulated; and the credit of
that government was improving daily. The establishment of a system
of liberty would of course be supposed to give it new strength; and so
it would actually have done if a system of liberty had been
established. What offers has their government of pretended liberty had
from Holland, from Hamburg, from Switzerland, from Genoa, from England
for a dealing in their paper? Why should these nations of commerce and
economy enter into any pecuniary dealings with a people who attempt to
reverse the very nature of things, amongst whom they see the debtor
prescribing at the point of the bayonet the medium of his solvency
to the creditor, discharging one of his engagements with another,
turning his very penury into his resource and paying his interest with
his rags?

Their fanatical confidence in the omnipotence of church plunder
has induced these philosophers to overlook all care of the public
estate, just as the dream of the philosopher's stone induces dupes,
under the more plausible delusion of the hermetic art, to neglect
all rational means of improving their fortunes. With these philosophic
financiers, this universal medicine made of church mummy is to cure
all the evils of the state. These gentlemen perhaps do not believe a
great deal in the miracles of piety, but it cannot be questioned
that they have an undoubting faith in the prodigies of sacrilege. Is
there a debt which presses them?- Issue assignats. Are compensations
to be made or a maintenance decreed to those whom they have robbed
of their freehold in their office, or expelled from their profession?-
Assignats. Is a fleet to be fitted out?- Assignats. If sixteen
millions sterling of these assignats, forced on the people, leave
the wants of the state as urgent as ever- issue, says one, thirty
millions sterling of assignats- says another, issue fourscore millions
more of assignats. The only difference among their financial
factions is on the greater or the lesser quantity of assignats to be
imposed on the public sufferance. They are all professors of
assignats. Even those whose natural good sense and knowledge of
commerce, not obliterated by philosophy, furnish decisive arguments
against this delusion conclude their arguments by proposing the
emission of assignats. I suppose they must talk of assignats, as no
other language would be understood. All experience of their
inefficiency does not in the least discourage them. Are the old
assignats depreciated at market?- What is the remedy? Issue new
assignats.- Mais si maladia, opiniatria, non vult se garire, quid illi
facere? assignare- postea assignare; ensuita assignare. The word is
a trifle altered. The Latin of your present doctors may be better than
that of your old comedy; their wisdom and the variety of their
resources are the same. They have not more notes in their song than
the cuckoo, though, far from the softness of that harbinger of
summer and plenty, their voice is as harsh and as ominous as that of
the raven.
Who but the most desperate adventurers in philosophy and finance
could at all have thought of destroying the settled revenue of the
state, the sole security for the public credit, in the hope of
rebuilding it with the materials of confiscated property? If, however,
an excessive zeal for the state should have led a pious and
venerable prelate (by anticipation a father of the church*) to pillage
his own order and, for the good of the church and people, to take upon
himself the place of grand financier of confiscation and
comptroller-general of sacrilege, he and his coadjutors were in my
opinion bound to show by their subsequent conduct that they knew
something of the office they assumed. When they had resolved to
appropriate to the Fisc a certain portion of the landed property of
their conquered country, it was their business to render their bank
a real fund of credit, as far as such a bank was capable of becoming

* La Bruyere of Bossuet.

To establish a current circulating credit upon any Land-bank,
under any circumstances whatsoever, has hitherto proved difficult at
the very least. The attempt has commonly ended in bankruptcy. But when
the Assembly were led, through a contempt of moral, to a defiance of
economical principles, it might at least have been expected that
nothing would be omitted on their part to lessen this difficulty, to
prevent any aggravation of this bankruptcy. It might be expected
that to render your land-bank tolerable, every means would be
adopted that could display openness and candor in the statement of the
security- everything which could aid the recovery of the demand. To
take things in their most favorable point of view, your condition
was that of a man of a large landed estate which he wished to
dispose of for the discharge of a debt and the supply of certain
services. Not being able instantly to sell, you wished to mortgage.
What would a man of fair intentions and a commonly clear understanding
do in such circumstances? Ought he not first to ascertain the gross
value of the estate, the charges of its management and disposition,
the encumbrances perpetual and temporary of all kinds that affect
it, then, striking a net surplus, to calculate the just value of the
security? When that surplus (the only security to the creditor) had
been clearly ascertained and properly vested in the hands of trustees,
then he would indicate the parcels to be sold, and the time and
conditions of sale; after this, he would admit the public creditor, if
he chose it, to subscribe his stock into this new fund, or he might
receive proposals for an assignat from those who would advance money
to purchase this species of security.
This would be to proceed like men of business, methodically and
rationally, and on the only principles of public and private credit
that have an existence. The dealer would then know exactly what he
purchased; and the only doubt which could hang upon his mind would
be the dread of the resumption of the spoil, which one day might be
made (perhaps with an addition of punishment) from the sacrilegious
gripe of those execrable wretches who could become purchasers at the
auction of their innocent fellow citizens.

AN open and exact statement of the clear value of the property and
of the time, the circumstances, and the place of sale were all
necessary to efface as much as possible the stigma that has hitherto
been branded on every kind of land-bank. It became necessary on
another principle, that is, on account of a pledge of faith previously
given on that subject, that their future fidelity in a slippery
concern might be established by their adherence to their first
engagement. When they had finally determined on a state resource
from church booty, they came, on the 14th of April, 1790, to a
solemn resolution on the subject, and pledged themselves to their
country, "that in the statement of the public charges for each year,
there should be brought to account a sum sufficient for defraying
the expenses of the R. C. A. religion, the support of the ministers at
the altars, the relief of the poor, the pensions to the ecclesiastics,
secular as well as regular, of the one and of the other sex, in
order that the estates and goods which are at the disposal of the
nation may be disengaged of all charges and employed by the
representatives, or the legislative body, to the great and most
pressing exigencies of the state." They further engaged, on the same
day, that the sum necessary for the year 1791 should be forthwith
In this resolution they admit it their duty to show distinctly the
expense of the above objects which, by other resolutions, they had
before engaged should be first in the order of provision. They admit
that they ought to show the estate clear and disengaged of all
charges, and that they should show it immediately. Have they done this
immediately, or at any time? Have they ever furnished a rent-roll of
the immovable estates, or given in an inventory of the movable effects
which they confiscate to their assignats? In what manner they can
fulfill their engagements of holding out to public service "an
estate disengaged of all charges" without authenticating the value
of the estate or the quantum of the charges, I leave it to their
English admirers to explain. Instantly upon this assurance, and
previously to any one step toward making it good, they issue, on the
credit of so handsome a declaration, sixteen millions sterling of
their paper. This was manly. Who, after this masterly stroke, can
doubt of their abilities in finance? But then, before any other
emission of these financial indulgences, they took care at least to
make good their original promise!- If such estimate either of the
value of the estate or the amount of the encumbrances has been made,
it has escaped me. I never heard of it.

At length they have spoken out, and they have made a full
discovery of their abominable fraud in holding out the church lands as
a security for any debts, or any service whatsoever. They rob only
to enable them to cheat, but in a very short time they defeat the ends
both of the robbery and the fraud by making out accounts for other
purposes which blow up their whole apparatus of force and of
deception. I am obliged to M. de Calonne for his reference to the
document which proves this extraordinary fact; it had by some means
escaped me. Indeed it was not necessary to make out my assertion as to
the breach of faith on the declaration of the 14th of April, 1790.
By a report of their committee it now appears that the charge of
keeping up the reduced ecclesiastical establishments and other
expenses attendant on religion, and maintaining the religious of
both sexes, retained or pensioned, and the other concomitant
expenses of the same nature which they have brought upon themselves by
this convulsion in property, exceeds the income of the estates
acquired by it in the enormous sum of two millions sterling
annually, besides a debt of seven millions and upwards. These are
the calculating powers of imposture! This is the finance of
philosophy! This is the result of all the delusions held out to engage
a miserable people in rebellion, murder, and sacrilege, and to make
them prompt and zealous instruments in the ruin of their country!
Never did a state, in any case, enrich itself by the confiscations
of the citizens. This new experiment has succeeded like all the
rest. Every honest mind, every true lover of liberty and humanity,
must rejoice to find that injustice is not always good policy, nor
rapine the high road to riches. I subjoin with pleasure, in a note,
the able and spirited observations of M. de Calonne on this subject.*

* "Ce n'est point a l'assemblee entiere que je m'adresse ici; je
ne parle qu'a ceux qui l'egarent, en lui cachant sous des gazes
seduisantes le but ou ils l'entrainent. C'est a eux que je dis:
votre objet, vous n'en disconviendrez pas, c'est d'oter tout espoir au
clerge, & de consommer sa ruine; c'est-la, en ne vous soupconnant
d'aucune combinaison de cupidite, d'aucun regard sur le jeu des effets
publics, c'est-la ce qu'on doit croire que vous avez en vue dans la
terrible operation que vous proposez; c'est ce qui doit en etre le
fruit. Mais le peuple que vous y interessez, quel avantage peut-il y
trouver? En vous servant sans cesse de lui, que faites vous pour
lui? Rien, absolument rien; &, au contraire, vous faites ce qui ne
conduit qu'a l'accabler de nouvelles charges. Vous avez rejete, a
son prejudice, une offre de 400 millions, dont l'acceptation pouvoit
devenir un moyen de soulagement en sa faveur; & a cette ressource,
aussi profitable que legitime, vous avez substitue une injustice
ruineuse, qui, de votre propre aveu, charge le tresor public, & par
consequent le peuple, d'un surcroit de depense annuelle de 50 millions
au moins, & d'un remboursement de 150 millions.
"Malheureux peuple, voila ce que vous vaut en dernier resultat
l'expropriation de l'Eglise, & la durete des decrets taxateurs du
traitement des ministres d'une religion bienfaisante; & deformais
ils seront a votre charge: leurs charites soulageoient les pauvres;
& vous allez etre imposes pour subvenir a leur entretien!"- De
l'Etat de la France, p. 81. See also p. 92, and the following pages.

In order to persuade the world of the bottomless resource of
ecclesiastical confiscation, the Assembly have proceeded to other
confiscations of estates in offices, which could not be done with
any common color without being compensated out of this grand
confiscation of landed property. They have thrown upon this fund,
which was to show a surplus disengaged of all charges, a new charge-
namely, the compensation to the whole body of the disbanded
judicature, and of all suppressed offices and estates, a charge
which I cannot ascertain, but which unquestionably amounts to many
French millions. Another of the new charges is an annuity of four
hundred and eighty thousand pounds sterling, to be paid (if they
choose to keep faith) by daily payments, for the interest of the first
assignats. Have they even given themselves the trouble to state fairly
the expense of the management of the church lands in the hands of
the municipalities to whose care, skill, and diligence, and that of
their legion of unknown underagents, they have chosen to commit the
charge of the forfeited estates, the consequence of which had been
so ably pointed out by the bishop of Nancy?
But it is unnecessary to dwell on these obvious heads of
encumbrance. Have they made out any clear state of the grand
encumbrance of all, I mean the whole of the general and municipal
establishments of all sorts, and compared it with the regular income
by revenue? Every deficiency in these becomes a charge on the
confiscated estate before the creditor can plant his cabbages on an
acre of church property. There is no other prop than this confiscation
to keep the whole state from tumbling to the ground. In this situation
they have purposely covered all that they ought industriously to
have cleared with a thick fog, and then, blindfold themselves, like
bulls that shut their eyes when they push, they drive, by the point of
the bayonets, their slaves, blindfolded indeed no worse than their
lords, to take their fictions for currencies and to swallow down paper
pills by thirty-four millions sterling at a dose. Then they proudly
lay in their claim to a future credit, on failure of all their past
engagements, and at a time when (if in such a matter anything can be
clear) it is clear that the surplus estates will never answer even the
first of their mortgages, I mean that of the four hundred millions (or
sixteen millions sterling) of assignats. In all this procedure I can
discern neither the solid sense of plain dealing nor the subtle
dexterity of ingenious fraud. The objections within the Assembly to
pulling up the floodgates for this inundation of fraud are unanswered,
but they are thoroughly refuted by a hundred thousand financiers in
the street. These are the numbers by which the metaphysic
arithmeticians compute. These are the grand calculations on which a
philosophical public credit is founded in France. They cannot raise
supplies, but they can raise mobs. Let them rejoice in the applauses
of the club at Dundee for their wisdom and patriotism in having thus
applied the plunder of the citizens to the service of the state. I
hear of no address upon this subject from the directors of the Bank of
England, though their approbation would be of a little more weight
in the scale of credit than that of the club at Dundee. But, to do
justice to the club, I believe the gentlemen who compose it to be
wiser than they appear; that they will be less liberal of their
money than of their addresses; and that they would not give a dog's
ear of their most rumpled and ragged Scotch paper for twenty of your
fairest assignats.

Early in this year the Assembly issued paper to the amount of
sixteen millions sterling; what must have been the state into which
the Assembly has brought your affairs, that the relief afforded by
so vast a supply has been hardly perceptible? This paper also felt
an almost immediate depreciation of five per cent, which in a little
time came to about seven. The effect of these assignats on the receipt
of the revenue is remarkable. M. Necker found that the collectors of
the revenue who received in coin paid the treasury in assignats. The
collectors made seven per cent by thus receiving in money and
accounting in depreciated paper. It was not very difficult to
foresee that this must be inevitable. It was, however, not the less
embarrassing. M. Necker was obliged (I believe, for a considerable
part, in the market of London) to buy gold and silver for the mint,
which amounted to about twelve thousand pounds above the value of
the commodity gained. That minister was of opinion that, whatever
their secret nutritive virtue might be, the state could not live
upon assignats alone, that some real silver was necessary,
particularly for the satisfaction of those who, having iron in their
hands, were not likely to distinguish themselves for patience when
they should perceive that, whilst an increase of pay was held out to
them in real money, it was again to be fraudulently drawn back by
depreciated paper. The minister, in this very natural distress,
applied to the Assembly that they should order the collectors to pay
in specie what in specie they had received. It could not escape him
that if the treasury paid three per cent for the use of a currency
which should be returned seven per cent worse than the minister issued
it, such a dealing could not very greatly tend to enrich the public.
The Assembly took no notice of this recommendation. They were in
this dilemma: if they continued to receive the assignats, cash must
become an alien to their treasury; if the treasury should refuse those
paper amulets or should discountenance them in any degree, they must
destroy the credit of their sole resource. They seem then to have made
their option, and to have given some sort of credit to their paper
by taking it themselves; at the same time in their speeches they
made a sort of swaggering declaration, something, I rather think,
above legislative competence; that is, that there is no difference
in value between metallic money and their assignats. This was a
good, stout, proof article of faith, pronounced under an anathema by
the venerable fathers of this philosophic synod. Credat who will-
certainly not Judaeus Apella.

A noble indignation rises in the minds of your popular leaders
on hearing the magic lantern in their show of finance compared to
the fraudulent exhibitions of Mr. Law. They cannot bear to hear the
sands of his Mississippi compared with the rock of the church on which
they build their system. Pray let them suppress this glorious spirit
until they show to the world what piece of solid ground there is for
their assignats which they have not preoccupied by other charges. They
do injustice to that great mother fraud to compare it with their
degenerate imitation. It is not true that Law built solely on a
speculation concerning the Mississippi. He added the East India trade;
he added the African trade; he added the farms of all the farmed
revenue of France. All these together unquestionably could not support
the structure which the public enthusiasm, not he, chose to build upon
these bases. But these were, however, in comparison generous
delusions. They supposed, and they aimed at, an increase of the
commerce of France. They opened to it the whole range of the two
hemispheres. They did not think of feeding France from its own
substance. A grand imagination found in this night of commerce
something to captivate. It was wherewithal to dazzle the eye of an
eagle. It was not made to entice the smell of a mole nuzzling and
burying himself in his mother earth, as yours is. Men were not then
quite shrunk from their natural dimensions by a degrading and sordid
philosophy, and fitted for low and vulgar deceptions. Above all,
remember that in imposing on the imagination the then managers of
the system made a compliment to the freedom of men. In their fraud
there was no mixture of force. This was reserved to our time, to
quench the little glimmerings of reason which might break in upon
the solid darkness of this enlightened age.

On recollection, I have said nothing of a scheme of finance
which may be urged in favor of the abilities of these gentlemen, and
which has been introduced with great pomp, though not yet finally
adopted, in the National Assembly. It comes with something solid in
aid of the credit of the paper circulation; and much has been said
of its utility and its elegance. I mean the project for coining into
money the bells of the suppressed churches. This is their alchemy.
There are some follies which baffle argument, which go beyond
ridicule, and which excite no feeling in us but disgust; and therefore
I say no more upon it.
It is as little worth remarking any further upon all their drawing
and re-drawing on their circulation for putting off the evil day, on
the play between the treasury and the Caisse d'Escompte, and on all
these old, exploded contrivances of mercantile fraud now exalted
into policy of state. The revenue will not be trifled with. The
prattling about the rights of men will not be accepted in payment
for a biscuit or a pound of gunpowder. Here then the metaphysicians
descend from their airy speculations and faithfully follow examples.
What examples? The examples of bankrupts. But defeated, baffled,
disgraced, when their breath, their strength, their inventions,
their fancies desert them, their confidence still maintains its
ground. In the manifest failure of their abilities, they take credit
for their benevolence. When the revenue disappears in their hands,
they have the presumption, in some of their late proceedings, to value
themselves on the relief given to the people. They did not relieve the
people. If they entertained such intentions, why did they order the
obnoxious taxes to be paid? The people relieved themselves in spite of
the Assembly.

But waiving all discussion on the parties who may claim the
merit of this fallacious relief, has there been, in effect, any relief
to the people in any form? Mr. Bailly, one of the grand agents of
paper circulation, lets you into the nature of this relief. His speech
to the National Assembly contained a high and labored panegyric on the
inhabitants of Paris for the constancy and unbroken resolution with
which they have borne their distress and misery. A fine picture of
public felicity! What great courage and unconquerable firmness of mind
to endure benefits and sustain redress! One would think from the
speech of this learned lord mayor that the Parisians, for this
twelvemonth past, had been suffering the straits of some dreadful
blockade, that Henry the Fourth had been stopping up the avenues to
their supply, and Sully thundering with his ordnance at the gates of
Paris, when in reality they are besieged by no other enemies than
their own madness and folly, their own credulity and perverseness. But
Mr. Bailly will sooner thaw the eternal ice of his Atlantic regions
than restore the central heat to Paris whilst it remains "smitten with
the cold, dry, petrific mace" of a false and unfeeling philosophy.
Some time after this speech, that is, on the thirteenth of last
August, the same magistrate, giving an account of his government at
the bar of the same Assembly, expresses himself as follows:

In the month of July, 1789, (the period of everlasting
commemoration) the finances of the city of Paris were yet in good
order; the expenditure was counterbalanced by the receipt; and she
had at that time a million (forty thousand pounds sterling) in bank.

The expenses which she has been constrained to incur, subsequent to
the Revolution, amount to 2,500,000 livres. From these expenses, and

the great falling off in the product of the free gifts, not only a
momentary, but a total, want of money has taken place.

This is the Paris upon whose nourishment, in the course of the last
year, such immense sums, drawn from the vitals of all France, have
been expended. As long as Paris stands in the place of ancient Rome,
so long she will be maintained by the subject provinces. It is an evil
inevitably attendant on the dominion of sovereign democratic
republics. As it happened in Rome, it may survive that republican
domination which gave rise to it. In that case despotism itself must
submit to the vices of popularity. Rome, under her emperors, united
the evils of both systems; and this unnatural combination was one
great cause of her ruin.

To tell the people that they are relieved by the dilapidation of
their public estate is a cruel and insolent imposition. Statesmen,
before they valued themselves on the relief given to the people by the
destruction of their revenue, ought first to have carefully attended
to the solution of this problem- whether it be more advantageous to
the people to pay considerably and to gain in proportion, or to gain
little or nothing and to be disburdened of all contribution? My mind
is made up to decide in favor of the first proposition. Experience
is with me, and, I believe, the best opinions also. To keep a
balance between the power of acquisition on the part of the subject
and the demands he is to answer on the part of the state is the
fundamental part of the skill of a true politician. The means of
acquisition are prior in time and in arrangement. Good order is the
foundation of all good things. To be enabled to acquire, the people,
without being servile, must be tractable and obedient. The
magistrate must have his reverence, the laws their authority. The body
of the people must not find the principles of natural subordination by
art rooted out of their minds. They must respect that property of
which they cannot partake. They must labor to obtain what by labor can
be obtained; and when they find, as they commonly do, the success
disproportioned to the endeavour, they must be taught their
consolation in the final proportions of eternal justice. Of this
consolation, whoever deprives them deadens their industry and
strikes at the root of all acquisition as of all conservation. He that
does this is the cruel oppressor, the merciless enemy of the poor
and wretched, at the same time that by his wicked speculations he
exposes the fruits of successful industry and the accumulations of
fortune to the plunder of the negligent, the disappointed, and the

Too many of the financiers by profession are apt to see nothing in
revenue but banks, and circulations, and annuities on lives, and
tontines, and perpetual rents, and all the small wares of the shop. In
a settled order of the state, these things are not to be slighted, nor
is the skill in them to be held of trivial estimation. They are
good, but then only good when they assume the effects of that
settled order and are built upon it. But when men think that these
beggarly contrivances may supply a resource for the evils which result
from breaking up the foundations of public order, and from causing
or suffering the principles of property to be subverted, they will, in
the ruin of their country, leave a melancholy and lasting monument
of the effect of preposterous politics and presumptuous,
short-sighted, narrow-minded wisdom.

The effects of the incapacity shown by the popular leaders in
all the great members of the commonwealth are to be covered with the
"all-atoning name" of liberty. In some people I see great liberty
indeed; in many, if not in the most, an oppressive, degrading
servitude. But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It
is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and
madness, without tuition or restraint. Those who know what virtuous
liberty is cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads on
account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths. Grand,
swelling sentiments of liberty I am sure I do not despise. They warm
the heart; they enlarge and liberalize our minds; they animate our
courage in a time of conflict. Old as I am, I read the fine raptures
of Lucan and Corneille with pleasure. Neither do I wholly condemn
the little arts and devices of popularity. They facilitate the
carrying of many points of moment; they keep the people together; they
refresh the mind in its exertions; and they diffuse occasional
gaiety over the severe brow of moral freedom. Every politician ought
to sacrifice to the graces, and to join compliance with reason. But in
such an undertaking as that in France, all these subsidiary sentiments
and artifices are of little avail. To make a government requires no
great prudence. Settle the seat of power, teach obedience, and the
work is done. To give freedom is still more easy. It is not
necessary to guide; it only requires to let go the rein. But to form a
free government, that is, to temper together these opposite elements
of liberty and restraint in one consistent work, requires much
thought, deep reflection, a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind.
This I do not find in those who take the lead in the National
Assembly. Perhaps they are not so miserably deficient as they
appear. I rather believe it. It would put them below the common
level of human understanding. But when the leaders choose to make
themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in
the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become
flatterers instead of legislators, the instruments, not the guides, of
the people. If any of them should happen to propose a scheme of
liberty, soberly limited and defined with proper qualifications, he
will be immediately outbid by his competitors who will produce
something more splendidly popular. Suspicions will be raised of his
fidelity to his cause. Moderation will be stigmatized as the virtue of
cowards, and compromise as the prudence of traitors, until, in hopes
of preserving the credit which may enable him to temper and
moderate, on some occasions, the popular leader is obliged to become
active in propagating doctrines and establishing powers that will
afterwards defeat any sober purpose at which he ultimately might
have aimed.

But am I so unreasonable as to see nothing at all that deserves
commendation in the indefatigable labors of this Assembly? I do not
deny that, among an infinite number of acts of violence and folly,
some good may have been done. They who destroy everything certainly
will remove some grievance. They who make everything new have a chance
that they may establish something beneficial. To give them credit
for what they have done in virtue of the authority they have
usurped, or which can excuse them in the crimes by which that
authority has been acquired, it must appear that the same things could
not have been accomplished without producing such a revolution. Most
assuredly they might, because almost every one of the regulations made
by them which is not very equivocal was either in the cession of the
king, voluntarily made at the meeting of the states, or in the
concurrent instructions to the orders. Some usages have been abolished
on just grounds, but they were such that if they had stood as they
were to all eternity, they would little detract from the happiness and
prosperity of any state. The improvements of the National Assembly are
superficial, their errors fundamental.

Whatever they are, I wish my countrymen rather to recommend to our
neighbors the example of the British constitution than to take
models from them for the improvement of our own. In the former, they
have got an invaluable treasure. They are not, I think, without some
causes of apprehension and complaint, but these they do not owe to
their constitution but to their own conduct. I think our happy
situation owing to our constitution, but owing to the whole of it, and
not to any part singly, owing in a great measure to what we have
left standing in our several reviews and reformations as well as to
what we have altered or superadded. Our people will find employment
enough for a truly patriotic, free, and independent spirit in guarding
what they possess from violation. I would not exclude alteration
neither, but even when I changed, it should be to preserve. I should
be led to my remedy by a great grievance. In what I did, I should
follow the example of our ancestors. I would make the reparation as
nearly as possible in the style of the building. A politic caution,
a guarded circumspection, a moral rather than a complexional
timidity were among the ruling principles of our forefathers in
their most decided conduct. Not being illuminated with the light of
which the gentlemen of France tell us they have got so abundant a
share, they acted under a strong impression of the ignorance and
fallibility of mankind. He that had made them thus fallible rewarded
them for having in their conduct attended to their nature. Let us
imitate their caution if we wish to deserve their fortune or to retain
their bequests. Let us add, if we please, but let us preserve what
they have left; and, standing on the firm ground of the British
constitution, let us be satisfied to admire rather than attempt to
follow in their desperate flights the aeronauts of France.
I have told you candidly my sentiments. I think they are not
likely to alter yours. I do not know that they ought. You are young;
you cannot guide but must follow the fortune of your country. But
hereafter they may be of some use to you, in some future form which
your commonwealth may take. In the present it can hardly remain; but
before its final settlement it may be obliged to pass, as one of our
poets says, "through great varieties of untried being", and in all its
transmigrations to be purified by fire and blood.
I have little to recommend my opinions but long observation and
much impartiality. They come from one who has been no tool of power,
no flatterer of greatness; and who in his last acts does not wish to
belie the tenor of his life. They come from one almost the whole of
whose public exertion has been a struggle for the liberty of others;
from one in whose breast no anger, durable or vehement, has ever
been kindled but by what he considered as tyranny; and who snatches
from his share in the endeavors which are used by good men to
discredit opulent oppression the hours he has employed on your
affairs; and who in so doing persuades himself he has not departed
from his usual office; they come from one who desires honors,
distinctions, and emoluments but little, and who expects them not at
all; who has no contempt for fame, and no fear of obloquy; who shuns
contention, though he will hazard an opinion; from one who wishes to
preserve consistency, but who would preserve consistency by varying
his means to secure the unity of his end, and, when the equipoise of
the vessel in which he sails may be endangered by overloading it
upon one side, is desirous of carrying the small weight of his reasons
to that which may preserve its equipoise.



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