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JAN11 19S6 


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ANY attempt to consider the tumultuous life of Burke with 
in the limits of a short article is foredoomed to failure. His 
career shows a double phase, each remarkable. In the 
political history of England he holds a prominent place 
through participation in many a great struggle; in the 
history of English letters he is renowned as the greatest of 
those who have used our tongue in prose to ends of 
power and passion. This introduction will contain no 
consideration whatever of Burke the politician; and of 
Burke the writer, it will present the merest outline of a 
sketch. If, by giving a short account of his principal 
works, and a taste of their quality in the shape of a 
small quotation, it will persuade any one either to read 
as a whole the magnificent and momentous fruits of an 
intellect truly great, or even to make the attempt, it will 
have accomplished all it aims to do. 

He was born in Dublin, probably in the January of 
1729 (N.S.), and came to London to study for the legal pro 
fession in 1750. His literary life began in 1756 with the 
pamphlet entitled A Vindication of Natural Society, etc., 
written in imitation of the style of Bolingbroke, and in 
ridicule of that noble writer s facile philosophy. The joke 
was so subtle that it eluded the wits of the public, who took 
the piece seriously as a newly-discovered essay of Boling- 
broke s, and Burke had to explain his jest in a second 


edition. "When it is remembered that Bolingbroke s prose 
was highly esteemed at this time, there is matter for astonish 
ment in the spectacle of a young and unpractised writer 
deceiving with a forgery the critical admirers of the master- 
hand. However, in Burke we may trace many of the 
qualities of St. John s lucid and often admirable prose; and 
from this, it seems to me, we should assume that the two 
writers had some affinity in style, and not (as some have 
done) that Burke s effort at imitation strained his style for 
ever out of its natural line of growth. The wonder is that 
Burke displayed so much distinction in style while yet, so 
far as the public is concerned, an unpractised writer. Here 
is a short passage from this work : 

I now come to show that political society is justly chargeable with 
much the greatest part of this destruction of the species. To give the 
fairest play to every side of the question, I will own that there is a 
haughtiness and fierceness in human nature which will cause innumer 
able broils, place men in what situation you please ; but owning this, I 
still insist in charging it to political regulations that these broils are so 
frequent, so cruel, and attended with consequences so deplorable. In 
a state of nature, it had been impossible to find a number of men, 
sufficient for such slaughters, agreed in the same bloody purpose; or 
allowing that they might have come to such an agreement (an impos 
sible supposition), yet the means that simple nature has supplied them 
with are by no means adequate to such an end ; many scratches, many 
bruises undoubtedly would be received upon all hands ; but only a few, 
a very few deaths. Society and politics, which have given us these 
destructive views, have given us also the means of satisfying them. 
From the earliest dawnings of policy to this day, the invention of men 
has been sharpening and improving the mystery of murder, from the 
first rude essays of clubs and stones, to the present perfection of 
gunnery, cannonecring, bombarding, mining, and all those species of 
artificial, learned, and refined cruelty, in which we are now so expert, 
and which make a principal part of what politicians have taught us to 
believe is our principal glory." 


Another, and more striking passage on the slavery of man 
kind to noxious trades is quoted in Mr. Morley s admirable 
" English Men of Letters " monograph. The whole 
pamphlet was meant as a protest, by a reductio ad absurdum, 
against the increasing habit so repugnant to the mind of 
Burke, of rashly applying destructive theoretical principles 
to political and social institutions whose practical wisdom 
had been demonstrated by ages of excellent results. 
Throughout his life this attitude of mind remained one of 
Burke s most notable characteristics as a politician; and 
those who study the present work will find that revision of 
political disabilities from the point of view of some vague 
" rights of man " is what provoked his most crushing con 
tempt and vehement protests. 

His first serious work, the Philosophical Inquiry into 
the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, etc,, 
was also published in 1756. Rumour assigns the compo 
sition of this piece to Burke s twentieth year. This can 
readily be believed, for the work is immature and insuffi 
cient. It is known to have influenced Lessing; it is believed 
to have influenced Kantj otherwise it has little claim on 
present-day readers, not especially interested in the literature 
of aesthetics. 

At Burke s suggestion, Dodsley began the issue of the 
Annual Register, and paid the future politician for a sum 
mary and criticism of contemporary events. This is of 
more importance in the consideration of Burke s life than 
may appear ; for the knowledge he must have acquired, 
together with the mental habit thus formed of isolating 
important facts during a rapid survey of events, formed an 
equipment of the utmost value for his political career. 

The first of his political works (omitting the leaflet on 


the Rockingham administration), entitled Observations on a 
Late Publication intituled " The Present State of the Nation" 
appeared in 1769. It was written in reply to Grenville s 
defence of Bute, and is remarkable for its severity of style 
and its admirable management of financial and commercial 
details. Its importance, however, is overshadowed by the 
Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770). 
Immediately, this work is a masterly exposition of the 
system of political intrigue which had its centre in the 
King ; it contains, besides, matter for other ages in its wise 
generalisations and its incontrovertible axioms of political 
wisdom ; it is written, too, in prose that is lucid and 
forcible without much adornment. One unforeseen result 
of the work was the growth of a belief that Burke was 
Junius. This, however, Burke denied ; and, indeed, the 
Thoughts and the Letters have nothing but their aim in 
common. Here is a passage from the conclusion the 
famous defence of party : 

" It is an advantage to all narrow wisdom and narrow morals, that 
their maxims have a plausible air ; and, on a cursory view, appear 
equal to first principles. They are light and portable. They are as 
current as copper coin ; and about as valuable. They serve equally 
the first capacities and the lowest ; and they are, at least, as useful to 
the worst men as to the best. Of this stamp is the cant of Not men but 
measures ; a sort of charm by which many people get loose from every 
honourable engagement. When I see a man acting this desultory and 
disconnected part, with as much detriment to his own fortune as 
prejudice to the cause of any party, I am not persuaded that he is 
right ; but I am ready to believe he is in earnest. I respect virtue in 
all its situations ; even when it is found in the unsuitable company of 
weakness. I lament to see qualities, rare and valuable, squandered 
away without any public utility. But when a gentleman with great 
visible emoluments abandons the party in which he has long acted, and 
tells you, it is because he proceeds on his own judgment ; that he acts 


on the merits of the several measures as they arise; and that he is 
obliged to follow his own conscience, and not that of others ; he gives 
reasons which it is impossible to mistake. What shall we think of him 
who never differed from a certain set of men until the moment they lost 
their power, and who never agreed with them in a single instance 
afterwards? Would not such a coincidence of interest and opinion be 
rather fortunate? Would it not be an extraordinary cast upon the 
dice, that a man s connections should degenerate into faction precisely 
at the critical moment when they lose their power, or he accepts a 
place? When people desert their connections, the desertion is a 
manifest fact, upon which a direct simple issue lies, triable by plain 
men. Whether a measure of government be right or wrong, is no 
matter of fact, but a mere affair of opinion, on which men may, as they 
do, dispute and wrangle without end. But whether the individual 
thinks \h& measure right or wrong, is a point at still a greater distance 
from the reach of all human decision. It is therefore very convenient 
to politicians not to put the judgment of their conduct on overt acts, 
cognisable in any ordinary court, but upon such matter as can be 
triable only in that secret tribunal, where they are sure of being heard 
with favour, or where at the worst the sentence will be only private 

In 1773 Burke visited France, and there felt the first 
weak strength of those currents of thought and action 
which were presently to sweep out of existence the proudest 
monarchy in Europe. There, too, in the radiant morning 
of her life he saw the ill-fated Marie Antoinette; and 
seventeen years later, when his mind and heart had been 
moved by the story of that tragic procession to Paris, the 
memory of her bright image flitted across the gloomy 
picture and moved him to that passionate outburst, the 
most famous passage in all his works. 

The years 1774-78 form a period of Burke s life which 
is honourable alike to his memory as a politician and his 
fame as a writer. The King and Lord North, urged by the 
approval of the public, were hastening on the war with the 


American colonists. It is easy for Englishmen to admit 
now that the colonists had the principle of right on their 
side. At the time it was not easy to see nor to admit. Of 
all the men who tried in vain to arouse the better feelings 
of the nation, none was more eager and fervent than Burke. 
He was never tired of proclaiming his belief in a rational 
liberty. This is the theme alike of the Present Discontents, 
and of the speeches, on the American war. It was the spirit 
of injustice that he fought. He knew that if the efforts 
at oppression in America were successful the way was open 
for a similar policy in England. And so it is that the 
literary results of this great business the Speech on 
American Taxation (1774), the Speech on Conciliation with 
the Colonies (1775), and the Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol 
(1777) are full of a high seriousness and true patriotic 
fervour, such as will probably ensure for them a truer life as 
literature, and a greater continuity of vital influence as 
political thought, than will be accorded to any other por 
tions of his work. In the two other great causes with 
which his name is associated the prosecution of Warren 
Hastings, and the agitation against the French Revolu 
tion it is impossible not to feel that he is often in the 
wrong ; that his vehemence is misplaced ; that his appeal 
is too often merely and solely to sentiment, which may be 
as easily called forth in a wrong cause as in a right one. 
These pieces are marked by Burke s marvellous compre 
hension of detail; by profound political wisdom; by a 
fervour such as reason in the calmest moments accepts as 
just and fitting; by a prophetic instinct of the consequences 
of the national policy, that facts have demonstrated to have 
been unfailingly correct; they have in addition literary 
excellence that gives them rank with his most esteemed 


works, although they contain little in his famous vein of 
splendour. I shall quote nothing from them, for they should 
be in the hands of all who care for what is noble in English 
thought and letters. They will be found in volumes i. and 
ii. of the excellent "Bohn" edition of his works. Three 
famous speeches fall between Burke s campaign on behalf of 
America and his campaign on behalf of India. One is his 
speech on his plan of purging the house of its venal mem 
bers by a system of Economical Reform ; the second, the 
speech on Fox s India Bill; the third, the speech on the 
Nabob of Arcot s Debts. The former lacks attractiveness 
of subject, but is one of Burke s finest parliamentary efforts. 
It makes plain how much potential bribery in the shape of 
appointments to useless and lucrative offices was available 
as an inducement for members to vote as they were 
required. Here is a specimen in a lighter vein than usual 
a vein, by the way, that Burke could never work to much 

"There is, Sir, another office which was not long since closely con 
nected with this of the American secretary ; but has been lately separated 
from it for the very same purpose of all the separations and all the con 
junctions that have been lately made a job. I speak, Sir, of the board 
of trade and plantations. This board is a sort of temperate bed of 
influence; a sort of gently ripening hothouse, where eight members of 
parliament receive salaries of a thousand a year for a certain time, in 
order to mature, at a proper season, a claim for two thousand, granted 
for doing less, and on the credit of having toiled so long in that inferior, 
laborious department. 

" I have known that board, off and on, for a great number of years. 
Both of its pretended objects have been much of the objects of my study 
if I have a right to call any pursuits of mine by so respectable a name. 
I can assure the House, and I hope they will not think that I risk my 
liltle credit lightly, that, without meaning to convey the least reflectio 


upon any one of its members past or present, it is a board which, if 

not mischievous, is of no use at all This board, Sir, has had 

both its original formation, and its regeneration, in a job. In a job it 
was conceived, and in a job its mother brought it forth. It made one 
among those showy and specious impositions which one of the 
experiment-making administrations of Charles the Second held out to 
delude the people, and to be substituted in the place of the real service 
which they might expect from a parliament annually sitting. It was 
intended, also, to corrupt that body whenever it should be permitted to 
sit. It was projected in the year 1668, and it continued in a tottering 
and rickety childhood for about three or four years ; for it died in the 
year 1673, a babe of as little hopes as ever swelled the bills of mortality 
in the article of convulsed or over-laid children, who have hardly stepped 
over the threshold of life." 

The speech on the India Bill is of a different nature. It 
contains much that is in Burke s finest manner, and con 
cludes with a panegyric on Fox " a studied panegyric, the 
fruit of much meditation." I quote part of it. 

" He has faults ; but they are the faults that, though they may in a 
small degree tarnish the lustre, and sometimes impede the march, of his 
abilities, have nothing in them to extinguish the fire of great virtues. 
In those faults there is no mixture of deceit, of hypocrisy, of pride, of 
ferocity, of complexional despotism, or want of feeling for the distresses 
of mankind. His are faults which might exist in a descendant of Henry 
the Fourth of France, as they did exist in that father of his country. 
Henry the Fourth wished that he might live to see a fowl in the pot of 
every peasant in his kingdom. That sentiment of homely benevolence 
was worth all the splendid sayings that are recorded of kings. But 
this gentleman, a subject, may this day say this at least, with truth, 
that he secures the rice in his pot to every man in India. A poet of 
antiquity thought it one of the first distinctions to a prince whom he 
meant to celebrate, that through a long succession of generations he 
had been the progenitor of an able and virtuous citizen, who by force of 
the arts of peace had corrected governments of oppression, and sup 
pressed wars of rapine. 


Indole proh quanta juvenis, quanturnque daturas 
Ausonioe populis ventura in stccnla civeni. 
llle super Gangein, super exaaditus et Iiulos, 
Iinplebit terras voce; et furialia bella 
Fulmine compescet linguie. 

This was what was said of the predecessor of the only person to whose 
eloquence it does not wrong that of the mover of this bill to be com 
pared. But the Ganges and the Indus are the patrimony of the fame of 
my honourable friend, and not of Cicero. 1 confess, I anticipate with 
joy the reward of those whose whole consequence, power, and authority 
exist only for the benefit of mankind ; and I carry my mind to all the 
people, and all the names and descriptions, that, relieved by this bill, will 
bless the labours of this parliament, and the confidence which the best 
House of Commons has given to him who the best deserves it. The little 
cavils of party will not be heard, where freedom and happiness will be 
felt. There is not a tongue, a nation, or religion in India which will 
not bless the presiding care and manly beneficence of this house, and of 
him who proposes to you this great work. Your names will never be 
separated before the throne of the Divine Goodness, in whatever 
language, or with whatever rites, pardon is asked for sin, and reward 
for those who imitate the Godhead in his universal bounty to his 
creatures. These honours you deserve, and they will surely be paid, 
when all the jargon of influence, and party, and patronage are swept 
into oblivion." 

However, the Bill was thrown out in the Lords no 
worse fate than it deserved; and with this defeat came the 
downfall of the Whig ministry. The succeeding years, 
1783-90, were the most troubled of Burke s political life. 
The hopeless condition of the Whig party goaded him into 
mere factious opposition, and his speeches were received 
either with contempt or organised interruption. Yet during 
this period was delivered one of his greatest speeches, that 
on the Nabob of Arcot s debts. It is difficult to say 
whether this speech is more admirable for its mastery of 
details and technicalities, or for its magnificent eloquence. 



The passage quoted below is well known, but it can 
scarcely be quoted too often. 

" When at length Hyder All found that he had to do with men who 
either would sign no convention, or whom no treaty and no signature 
could bind, and who were the determined enemies of human inter 
course itself, he decreed to make the country possessed by these 
incorrigible and predestinated criminals a memorable example to man 
kind. He resolved, in the gloomy recesses of a mind capacious of 
such things, to leave the whole Carnatic an everlasting monument of 
vengeance, and to put perpetual desolation as a barrier between him 
and those against whom the faith which holds the moral elements of 
the world together was no protection. lie became at length so 
confident of his force, so collected in his might, that he made no 
secret whatsoever of his dreadful resolution. Having terminated his 
disputes with every enemy and every rival, who buried their mutual 
animosities in their common detestation against the creditors of the 
Nabob of Arcot, he drew from every quarter whatever a savage ferocity 
could add to his new rudiments in the arts of destruction ; and com 
pounding all the materials of fury, havoc, and desolation into one 
black cloud, he hung for a while on the declivities of the mountains. 
Whilst the authors of all these evils were idly and stupidly gazing on 
this menacing meteor, which blackened all their horizon, it suddenly 
burst, and poured down the whole of its contents upon the plains of 
the Carnatic. Then ensued a scene of woe, the like of which no eye 
had seen, no heart conceived, and which no tongue can adequately 
tell. All the horrors of war before known or heard of, were mercy to 
that new havoc. A storm of universal fire blasted every field, con 
sumed every house, destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants 
flying from their flaming villages, in part were slaughtered ; others, 
without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank, or sacredness of 
function, fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in 
a whirlwind of cavalry, and amidst the goading spears of drivers, and 
the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity in an 
unknown and hostile land. Those who were able to evade this 
tempest fled to the walled cities. But escaping from fire, sword, and 

exile, they fell into the jaws of famine For eighteen 

months, without intermission, this destruction raged from the gates of 


Madras to the gates of Tanjore ; and so completely did these masters 
in their art, Hyder Ali, and his more ferocious son, absolve themselves 
of their impious vow, that when the British armies traversed, as they 
did, the Carnatic for hundreds of miles in all directions, through the 
whole line of their march they did not see one man, not one woman, 
not one child, not one four-footed beast of any description whatever. 
One dead, uniform silence reigned over the whole region. With the 
inconsiderable exceptions of the narrow vicinage of some few forts, I 
wish to be understood as speaking literally : I mean to produce to you 
more ^than three witnesses, above all exception, who will support this 
assertion in its full extent. That hurricane of war passed through every 
part of the central provinces of the Carnatic. Six or seven districts to 
the north and to the south (and these not wholly untouched) escaped 
the general ravage." 

Now comes the second of the three great affairs with 
which the name of Burke is for ever implicated. We have 
seen him as the spokesman of the American colonists in 
their struggle against political oppression now we see him 
armed on behalf of the Hindoos against the tyranny and 
rapacity of Hastings and his subordinates. In 1772 Burke s 
knowledge of Indian affairs was such as to bring him the 
offer of a lucrative post in that country ; while it is again 
brilliantly revealed in the speech from which the last quota 
tion was made. Knowing Indian affairs, then, as few men 
in or out of the country knew them, Burke resolved to 
express his deep-seated disapproval of the Company s 
methods by impeaching its principal servant Macaulay 
speaks of Burke s conduct in this affair and in his crusade 
against the French Revolution as being that of a "great 
and good man, led into extravagance by a sensibility which 
domineered over all his faculties." There is no need to 
follow Mr. Morley in his discrimination of the nature and 
range of Burke s " sensibility "; Macaulay s phrase expresses 


with characteristic clearness and emphasis both the mental 
attitude of Burke and his constant lack of "reasonableness." 
That Hastings and his subordinates, during an administra 
tion that made as a whole for settlement and order, were 
guilty of enormous crimes is unfortunately beyond argu 
ment; just as true is it that these crimes were exhibited 
by Burke in the fiercest of lights magnified by his mere 
vehemence. Happily, however, the vexed political issues 
of the controversy do not concern us here. Burke partly 
prepared his speeches for publication ; but death found the 
task unfinished, and not till twenty-eight years after his 
death were these wonderful pieces of oratory given to the 
world. In them, the peculiar strength of Burke is exhibited 
at its best and worst ; and a careful study of the whole 
series is one of the most fascinating of tasks. On the fifth 
day he described in words of blood and flame the atrocities 
of Debi Sing. The passage is unfortunately too long to 
quote, but the reader may be referred to vol. vii., p. 186, etc., 
of the Bohn Library edition. The effect on the auditors 
was remarkable ; the most callous were deeply moved, while 
the susceptible sobbed and fainted. That the occasion might 
lack nothing of effect, Burke himself sank down exhausted. 
He tried to continue, but failed; and on the motion of the 
Prince of Wales the sitting was suspended. 

At this time Burke had a few friends who could see 
through the savage irritability that unjust neglect added to 
the trials of increasing age; and these loved and admired 
him beyond measure. Johnson, Reynolds, Garrick, and 
Burke what a quartet this is ! Others there were whose 
names are of less importance, or whose intimacy was not so 
complete. His enemies, however, were many and power 
ful. His reputation and circumstances were such, that his 


party dared not put him into a Cabinet office during their 
brief period in power; while the other side pursued him 
with hatred and obloquy of peculiar malevolence. His 
indiscreet violence led to the rumour of madness, and gave, 
indeed, probability thereto. Presently all this was changed. 
The name of Burke became popular in England, and was 
mentioned with admiration in the most distant courts of 
Europe. What devotion to constitutional liberty in England 
had failed to do, was effected by his opposition to un 
bridled licence in a neighbouring country. 

In 1789 began the French Revolution; outwardly at 
least, and so far as one can point to a definite beginning. 
The fine spirits of England were enthusiastic in their 
encouragement of the struggling nation. The cause of 
freedom seemed to prosper amazingly. Yet in the tumult 
of rejoicing, doubt whispered an uneasy interrogation. The 
insurgents ceased to be soldiers of liberty; they soon 
exhibited the disorder and licence of an armed mob. Many 
who had been indifferent declared against them; and even 
among the friends of the Revolution there were some who 
felt disquieted at the course of events. Burke was not 
indifferent. He saw every principle that had inspired and 
guided his public life now being openly violated; and he 
lifted his mighty voice in a storm of denunciation that grew 
fiercer as events progressed, and that Death found still 
raging in fury. Most of Burke s political friends, however, 
were still pronouncedly in sympathy with the Revolutionists; 
and the first-fruits of his intervention in the struggle came 
in the shape of loss of friends, the rupture of ties that the 
course of years and the associations of public life had bound 
very closely about his heart. 

In February, 1790, during a debate on the army esti- 


mates, Fox found cause to express his agreement with the 
conduct of the French army in rising against their officers. 
This drew from Burke his first public denunciation of the 
Revolution. Fox replied with great earnestness and 
generosity, saying of his old friend and colleague, in unfor 
gettable words, " If all the political information I have 
learned from books, all which I have gained from science, 
and all which my knowledge of the world and its affairs has 
taught me, were put into one scale, and the improvement 
which I have derived from my right honourable friend s 
instruction and conversation were placed in the other, I 
should be at a loss to decide to which to give the preference. 
I have learned more from my right honourable friend than 
from all the men with whom I ever conversed." 

Burke replied very mildly, and the affair was likely to 
drop, had not Sheridan chosen to denounce Burke as a 
renegade from the cause of liberty. Though bound in 
politics, the two were rarely in personal sympathy; and in a 
few cutting words Burke renounced any further intercourse 
with his assailant. All attempts at reconciliation failed. 
The next step in this famous business a discreditable 
step came soon after. On March 2nd, Fox moved for the 
repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, a cause that had 
had Burke s sympathy. Now, however, he feared the relief 
of the Dissenters in religion might seem to encourage the 
feeling of dissent in politics. "There was," he said, "a 
wild spirit of innovation abroad, which required not in 
dulgence but restraint." The house was on his side; and 
while in the previous session the motion had been lost by 
twenty votes, it was now decisively crushed by a majority 
of one hundred and eighty-nine. 

Meanwhile, Burke was preparing to carry his denunciation 


of the Revolution to a larger audience. With unexampled 
care he was elaborating the treatise which the reader now 
has before him. It was indeed "elaborated"; for Prior 
alleges, on the authority of Dodsley s accounts, that more 
than a dozen revises were prepared and destroyed. It 
finally appeared early in November, 1790, and was bought 
up eagerly by friends and enemies. In six days its sale 
reached 7000 copies; in a year more than 30,000 had 
been disposed of in England and France. For several 
years the sale continued steadily; for there were many who 
lost sight of its political bearings in admiration of its stately 
beauty of style. It was like a trumpet call; at its sound, 
the nation took sides. Round Burke there gathered those 
who had in former years heaped scorn and obloquy upon 
him; while against him he saw his political friends of many 
years, led by Fox himself. The final rupture between these 
two great friends and great men took place on May 6th, 
1791, during the debate on the Quebec Bill. Burke was 
censured for introducing French affairs. Fox seconded the 
motion and spoke strongly in favour of it. Burke com 
plained bitterly of the line that Fox took: that he had 
dragged into the debate confidential and private communi 
cations of many years gone by; and said that the affair had 
been so put that he must renounce his principles or his 
friends. " Mr. Fox here observed there is no loss of friend 
ship." " I regret to say there is," was the reply; "I know 
the value of my line of conduct; I have indeed made a 
great sacrifice; I have done my duty though I have lost my 
friend. There is something in the detested French con 
stitution that envenoms everything it touches. . . ." "Mr. 
Fox, unusually excited by this public renunciation of long 
intimacy, rose under excited feelings, so that it was some 


moments," says the Morning Chronicles report, "before he 
could proceed. Tears rolled down his cheeks, and he strove 
in vain to give utterance to feelings that dignified his nature. 
When he had recovered, ... an eloquent appeal broke 
forth to his old and revered friend to the remembrance of 
their past attachment their unalienable friendship their 
reciprocal affection, as dear and almost as binding as the 
ties of nature between father and son. Seldom had there 
been heard in the House of Commons an appeal so pathetic 
and so personal." (Prior s Life, Bonn Ed., p. 329.) The 
rupture with Fox was followed by separation from his party. 
In Parliament his position was most painful. Yet in spite 
of the strain he never ceased to write. The Reflections 
was followed in the next year (i 791) by a Letter to a Member 
of the National Assembly, Hints for a Memorial, etc., 
Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs, and the Thoughts 
on French Affairs. It seemed that, cut off from his friends, 
he found relief in denouncing the cause of the rupture. 

The execution of the king, early in 1793, brought the 
nation as a whole to Burke s side. War was demanded on 
all sides, and at this time, Burke, though not a minister, was 
nearly the most powerful man in the country. His labours 
with the pen, however, never ceased ; and several valuable 
pieces were produced about this time. Rather earlier comes 
the first letter to Langrishe (1792), which is valuable for its 
own sake, and also for showing how calm Burke could be on 
other matters in the midst of his anti-Gallican tempest. The 
Report on the Lords Journals (1794) is large and important. 
But his work was nearly over. The death of his son 
Richard, whom he idolised, came on him with crushing 
suddenness in 1795. The proposals for a peerage therefore 
fell through, and instead he was granted certain pensions. 


The grant was attacked in the Lords by the Duke of Bed 
ford and the Earl of Lauderdale. The spectacle of a 
member of the bounty-fed house of Russell protesting 
against grants from the Crown, gave Burke a chance ; and 
he replied with the famous Letter to a Noble Lord 
( r 795)- In a short space it contains almost everything that 
is characteristic of Burke s prose. Indeed, scarcely any 
piece of equal length compasses such extremes of eloquence, 
pathos, and irony. Its complete felicity is amazing. It is 
so proportionate that a quotation would only misrepresent 
it. The letter to William Elliott (1795) is less known than 
it deserves to be. Like the Letter to a Noble Lord, it 
contains a reference to the death of his son. Here is a 
short passage : 

"If I saw this auspicious beginning, baffled and frustrated as I am, 
yet, on the verge of a timely grave, abandoned abroad and desolate at 
home, stripped of my boast, my hope, my consolation, my helper, my 
counsellor, and my guide (you know in part what I have lost, and 
would to God I could clear myself of all neglect and fault in that loss), 
yet thus, even thus, I would rake up the fire under all the ashes that 
oppress it. I am no longer patient of the public eye ; nor am I of force 
to win my way, and to justle and elbow in a crowd. But even in 
solitude something may be done for society. The meditations of the 
iloset have affected senates with a subtle fren/.y, and inflamed armies 
with the brands of the furies. The cure might come from the same 
source with the distemper. I would add my part to those who would 
animate the people (whose hearts arc yet right) to new exertions in the 
old cause. 

His last publications were the first two of the letters known 
briefly and conveniently as the Letters on a Regicide 
Peace. Two more were written, but were published\fter 
his death. The last is unfinished, though commenced first 
A short piece comes before it, - The Thoughts and 


Details on Scarcity (1795). Of this piece Mr. Morley 
says that " it contains ideas on free trade which were too far 
in advance of the opinion of his time" (page 204). The 
following is the best known passage in it ; it is curious, but 
approval of the argument will not be universally conceded. 

"As to what is said, in a physical and moral view against 
the home consumption of spirits, experience has long since 
taught me very little to respect the declamation on that 
subject. Whether the thunder of the laws or the thunder of 
eloquence is hurled on gin, always am I thunder proof. 
The alembic, in my mind, has furnished the world a far 
greater benefit and blessing, than if the opus maximum had 
been really found by chemistry, and, like Midas, we could 
turn everything to gold." More follows of the same 
character; and one almost thinks of the "Fable of the 

The Letters on a Regicide Peace were written to re 
vive the waning interest of the nation in the war a Holy 
War to Burke and in consequence, they lack much of that 
clarity of political wisdom which shone in his earlier writings. 
There is, too, a corresponding heightening of the literary 
colour. It is difficult, perhaps, to read Burke with complete 
detachment from political sympathies ; but to belittle the 
prose of the Regicide Peace because the political thought 
is reactionary, is unfair and uncritical. The letters are not 
perfect; but they contain pieces in the "grand manner" 
hardly to be matched in the rest of his work. They form 
the culminating point of his labours against the Revolution, 
and they are the logical development of his methods. To 
compare these inflammatory pieces with the cool narrative 
of the Preface to Brissofs Address is to see with what 
mastery Burke could wield dissimilar weapons in the literary 


xxi 11 

armoury. As I said above, they are not perfect as literary 
pieces ; but the student who sits down to separate the pearls 
from the pebbles, will enter upon a task that cannot but 
delight him, if he cares for directness and force, joined with 
all the splendours of a great imagination. 

In July, 1797, he died, and was simply buried in the 
church at Beaconsfield, in accordance with his own instruc 

When the present work was composed, the Revolution, 
as we conceive it, was scarcely begun. There was still a 
king; and of the famous or infamous names that are 
prompted to our memories by the mention of the French 
Revolution, most were quite unknown or were barely heard 
of. The whole work is a piece of special pleading some 
of it being specious argument. It states the case for the 
Royal Family and the many vested interests. Of the 
sufferings and oppression borne by the nation at large the 
reader will find no word. It provoked many replies, 
notably the Vindicia Gallicce of Mackintosh, and the Rights 
of Man, by Thomas Paine \ but the reader need not concern 
himself with these. Let him turn to Arthur Young s 
Travels in France and he will find, not only the best 
answer to Burke, but also an invaluable, nay, indispens 
able preface to any study of this great struggle. Read 
with an eye to the years immediately following its 
publication, the book astonishes by a foresight almost 
prophetical. Scarcely a woe that fell on the unhappy 
land of France has not its origin indicated in these pages. 
Indeed, few historical events have been more accurately 
foreshadowed than the rise and power of Napoleon was 
by Burke in his indictment of the military organisation. 
Yet all through the piece one thinks with some regret of 


that Burke who, in earlier years, applied his political faith 
(not then, indeed, fully developed as to some of its issues) 
to causes less doubtful than the crushing of a nation s first 
struggles towards freedom from real social evils. There is 
sentiment in the Reflections, sentiment for the loss of much 
that was picturesque ; sensibility too ; but there is, after all, 
little humanity in it. Man is more than a cipher in 
political arithmetic. Governments were devised for the 
ultimate benefit of mankind, not men that there might 
be governments and picturesque institutions. There are 
" rights of men " ; and if in any form of government these 
rights are denied, that form is not to be supported, be it 
endeared by associations the most venerable, and relations 
the most entitled to dutiful affection. 

Few, however, who read this volume will concern them 
selves with its historic truth or its political justness. The 
Reflections on the French Revolution is the most famous 
book of Edmund Burke, writer of English; and nine out of 
ten who read the W 7 ork do so wiih no other aim than to 
become acquainted with the style of one who, a generation 
ago, w r as considered to have reached the highest point of 
excellence in the art of making fine prose. The work is 
designed to fall into two parts, and of these the second is 
the better both in matter and manner. The sophistries of 
the first part are clothed in disproportionate vehemence, as 
if Burke himself were partly conscious of the weakness of 
his arguments in a bad case ; the second part exhibits 
his variety and vigour, his simplicity and his massive 
grandeur almost at their best. In the first part his appeal 
is to sentiment, in the second to intellect ; and the reader 
will find the style bearing properly its part in these different 
motions. With a certain class of people there is a growing 


notion that style is a sort of pontifical vestment assumed 
by a writer when he is about to translate his thoughts into 
words that a person deliberately adopts a certain style of 
writing as one may select a mode of dressing the hair or 
tying a neckcloth. For this malady of mind the causes 
of which are easy to trace a few pages of Burke assimi 
lated at frequent intervals is at once a corrective and a 
tonic. Burke did not practise a certain style of utterance 
and then look around for something to say. With him, as 
with all writers whose fame endures beyond their own little 
hour, the great question is, How can I utter what I have to 
say in the best possible manner, best for the immediate 
end in view, and best for its own sake ? Cardinal Newman 
has on this point certain wise words words that are 
weighted with the authority of a master of all the graces of 
expression : "I wish you to observe that the mere dealer 
in words cares little or nothing for the subject which he is 
embellishing, but can paint and gild anything whatever to 
order ; whereas the artist, whom I am acknowledging, has 
his great or rich vision before him, and his only aim is to 
bring out what he thinks or what he feels, in a way adequate 
to the thing spoken of, and appropriate to the speaker." 

Some one has said, in effect, that Burke s writings were 
written speeches, and that his speeches were spoken 
pamphlets. When one considers that Burke in most of 
his later writings is making a direct appeal about some 
special question, the presence of the oratorical note is not 
surprising. Thus Burke s compositions pay largely for 
being read aloud. Charles Lamb, in whom the literary 
instinct was peculiarly strong, wrote in a letter to Words 
worth : " The poets are as well to listen to ; anything high 
may, nay, must be read out ; you read it to yourself with an 


imaginary auditor." (Ainger, ii. 243.) This reading aloud 
gives a very distinct gain in the case of Burke. The phrases 
seem in themselves to flow smoothly from the tongue ; and 
in their place in the larger periods, they fit with an exact 
ness that gratifies the ear while it convinces the mind. 
The balance of each sentence the systole and diastole is 
perfect, and reading aloud establishes this. There is no 
reaching the end of a clause with stunning suddenness, or 
collapsing at a belated full point with a gasp. 

In conclusion, let me call the reader s attention to the 
enormous variety that Burke exhibits. For every passage 
of vehemence and passion we may quote, another may be 
cited for sanity and lucidity; with each example of ornate 
splendour we may range a specimen of simplicity and 
directness. A sentence quoted from Burke is nearly 
always misleading both in form and in matter. A short 
passage may bear different meanings as it is considered 
in its logical connection or viewed alone. Again, many 
pieces can be found in which the use of images seems to 
exceed the bounds of good taste ; but in most cases these 
concrete passages form a sort of climax, and the gradual 
approach thereto tones down any elaboration of ornament. 
His greater pieces must be read; though it is better to read 
him completely. A leisurely but observant journey through 
the eight volumes of the Bohn reprint or the sixteen 
volumes of the old edition will invigorate the taste and 
mind as will few other excursions in literature. It will be, 
in addition, an act of decent homage to the memory of a 
man who was, in the fullest sense of the words, "a great 










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 honour 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 favourable to a commodious divi 
sion and distribution of his matter. 


You are pleased to call again, and with some earnest 
ness, 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 honour 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 
transactions. . 

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 honour 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 re 
verence : and I reckon myself among the most forward in 
my zeal for maintaining that constitution and those prin 
ciples in their utmost purity and vigour. It is because I 
do so that I think it necessary fo 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 towards 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 informa 
tion 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 circula 
tion, 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 a useful body of men. Whether the books, .so chari 
tably 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 judg 
ment, 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 gentle 
men by adopting them; and they return the favour, 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 splendour 
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 after 
wards they spent the clay 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 constitu 
tion 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 
ndirectly, 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 govern 
ment 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 corre 
spondence 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 authorised to speak the sense 
of some part of it. On account of the ambiguity and 
uncertainty of unauthorised general descriptions, and of the 
deceit which may be practised 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 had 
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 stratagem, adopted for 
the sake of giving, under a high-sounding name, an import 
ance 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 colour 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 trans 
cendental dignity of the Revolution Society. Whilst I 
continued in the country, from whence I had the honour 
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 Rochefaucault s and the Archbishop of Aix s letter, and 
several other documents annexed. The whole of that publi 
cation, 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 tranquillity 
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 neighbour 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, ap 
parently, by the most contemptible instruments. Every 
thing 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 tragi-comic 
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 dash 
ing Machiavelian politicians, but to render it a fit theme for 
all the devout effusions of sacred eloquence. 

On the forenoon of the 4 th 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. 

Tor 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 philippises^ and chants 
his prophetic song in exact unison with their designs. 

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 
honour and privilege of the saints, who, with the "high 
praises of God in their mouths, and a /zev-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." 1 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 
1 Psalm cxlix. 


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. 

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, 1 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 

1 Discourse on the Love of our Country, Nov. 41!), 1789, by Dr. 
I Richard Price, 3rd edition, pp. 17 and 18. 

- "Those who dislike that mode of worship which is prescribed by 
public authority, ought, if they can find no worship out of the church 
tvhich they approve, to set up a separate worship for themselves ; and by 
lining this, and giving an example of a rational and manly worship, men 
l)f weight from their rank and literature may do the greatest service to 
lociety and the world." Page 18 Dr. Price s Sermon. 


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 levelling 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 congrega 
tions, that they may, as in former blessed times, preach 
their doctrines to regiments of dragoons and corps of 
infantry and artillery. Such arrangements, however favour 
able to the cause of compulsory freedom, civil and religious, 
may not be equally conducive to the national tranquillity. 
These few restrictions I hope are no great stretches of 
intolerance, no very violent exertions of despotism. 

But I may say of our preacher, " utinam nugis iota ilia 
dedisset tempora scevitia" 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 
fervour 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 
behoves them to consider how they admit into their terri 
tories 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 ow r e 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 
lis 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 over 
looked, whilst the king of Great Britain was not affected by 
t. 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 
qiice. mox depromere passim. By this policy, whilst our 
government is soothed with a reservation in its favour, to 
which it has no claim, the security, which it has in common 
with all governments, so far as opinion is security, is taken 

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 offence, since they take refuge in their folly. For 
if you admit this interpretation, how does their idea of j 
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 legalise our j 
monarchy, rather than that of any of the neighbouring ; 
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 col 
lege, 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 rf 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 l 
that, by the principles of the Revolution, the people of 
England have acquired three fundamental rights, all which, 

1 -Discourse on the Lore of our Country, by Dr. Price, p. 34. 



with him, compose one system, and He together in one short 
sentence; namely, that we have acquired a right, 
i. "To choose our own governors." 
2 " To cashier them for misconduct." 
,! "To frame a government for ourselves." 
Tins 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 ,t 
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 favour of the fictmous nghts 
claimed by the Society which abuses its name. 
" These gentlemen of the Old Jewry, in all their reasonings 
on the Revolution of .688, have a Revolution which hap 
pened in England about forty years before, and the late 
French Revolution, so much before their eyes and m the.r 
hearts, that they are constantly confounding all the Are, 
toother 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 
,688 are anywhere to be found, it is in the statute calk 
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" MI- 

This Declaration of Right (the act of the ist of William 


and Mary, sess. 2, ch. 2) is the corner stone of our con 
stitution, 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 settli)ig 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 legalising 
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 a 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 un 
erring, 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. Privi/egiutn non transit in exemphun. 
If ever there was a time favourable 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 necessiiy, 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 
favour 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 a 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, im 
perative 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, ist, both acts strongly de 
claratory 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 
3een in a condition to avoid the very appearance of it, as 
nuch as possible, was by them considered as a providential 

, :scape. They threw a politic, well-wrought veil over every 
ircumstance tending to weaken the rights, which in the 

neliorated order of succession they meant to perpetuate ; 

. T which might furnish a precedent for any future departure 
"om what they had then settled for ever. Accordingly, 
iat they might not relax the nerves of their monarchy, 


and that they might preserve a close conformity to the prac 
tice of their ancestors, as it appeared in the declaratory 
statutes of Queen Mary 1 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, incor 
porated, 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 tradi 
tionary 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 pre 
serving "a certainty in the SUCCESSION thereof, the unity, 
peace, and tranquillity of this nation doth, under God, wholly 

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 favour of a 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 
1 ist Mary, scss. 3, ch. I. 


Majesties, and also the limitation of the crown, herein 
specified and contained, to the utmost of their powers," 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 for ever. 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 Somcrs ; 
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, a 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, comtmtni sponsiom reipitbliccc, and as 
such are equally binding on king and people too, as long as 
the terms are observed, and they continue the same body 

It is far from impossible to reconcile, if we do not suffer 
ourselves to be entangled in the mazes of metaphysic sophis 
try, the use both of a fixed rule and an occasional deviation; 
the sacredness of a 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 devia 
tion; and even then it is to be effected without a decomposi 
tion of the whole civil and political mass, for the purpose of 
originating a new civil order out of the first elements of 

A state without the means of some change is without the 
means of its conversation. 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 conversation 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; 
I 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 
cacted by the ancient organised states in the shape of their 
old organisation, and not by the organic molecuke of a dis- 
?banded 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 
!:he 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 
ine was derived from the same stock. It was still a line of 
Hereditary descent ; still a hereditary descent in the same 
jlood, though a hereditary descent qualified with Protest- 
ntism. When the legislature altered the direction, but kept 
he 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/^ 
capita or the heir per stripes w r as to succeed ; but whether 
the heir per capita gave way when the heirdom per stripes 
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 foHuna 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 

The gentlemen of the Society for Revolutions 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 autho 
rity 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 sove- 
reigns out of the quiet of their tombs ? Do they mean to 
attaint and disable backwards all the kings that have reigned 
before the Revolution, and consequently to stain the throne i 
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 taliagio non concedendo ? of the petition of right 1 
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 abdi 
cation of his crown ? If he was not, much trouble in parlia 
ment might have been saved at the period these gentlemen 
commemorate. But King James was a bad king with a good 
title, and not a 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 des 
tined to the succession, is the act of the i2th and i3th of 
King William. The terms of this act bind "us and our 
htirS) and our posterity, to them, their fairs, and their pos 
terity" 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 there 
fore secures both a hereditary crown and a 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 
for ever, 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 1 2th and isth 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 a heredi 
tary 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 authorise 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, unconstitu 
tional 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 liberty. 

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 

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 favour 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 main 
tained, what I believe no creature now maintains, " that the 
crown is held by divine hereditary and indefeasible right." 
These old fanactics of single arbitrary power dogmatised 
as if hereditary royalty was the only lawful government in 
;he world, just as our new fanatics of popular arbitrary 
3ower 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 
f monarchy had more of a divine sanction than any other 
mode of government ; and as if a right to govern by inherit 
ance 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 
jottomed 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 

false fact, or promulgating mischievous maxims, on the 

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 
:ause that the declaration of the act, which implied the 
ibdication of King James, was, if it had any fault, rather too 


guarded, and too circumstantial. 1 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 revolutions. 

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 else 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 : I 
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 \ 

1 "That King James the Second, having endeavoured to subvert 
the constitution of the kingdom by breaking the original contract 
between king and people, and, by the advice of Jesuits, and other j 
wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws, and having\ 
withdrawn himself out of t Jit kingdom, hath abdicate { the government, ! 
and the throne is thereby vacant " 



remedies. They left the crown what, in the eye and estima 
tion 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 ist of King 
William, sess. 2nd, called " the act for declaring the rights and 
liberties of tlie subject, and for settling the succession to the crow a" 
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 govern 
ment 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 1 2th and i3th 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 inspec 
tion of parliament, the practical claim of impeachment, they 
thought infinitely a better security not only for their consti 
tutional liberty, but against the vices of administration, than 
the reservation of a right so difficult in the practice, so un 
certain in the issue, and often so mischievous in the conse 
quences, as that of "cashiering their governors." 

Dr. Price, in his sermon, 1 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." Eor a compliment, this new form of address 

js not seem to be very soothing. Those who are servants 
1 Pp. 22-24. 



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, "Hcec commemoratio est quasi ex- 
probatio. n It is not pleasant as compliment; it is not whole 
some 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 domination 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 

I should have considered all this as no more than a sort 
of flippant, vain discourse, in which, as in an unsavoury 
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 

^ 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 towards 
rendering him, as a servant, in any degree responsible. Our 
constitution knows nothing of a magistrate like the Justida 
of Arragon ; nor of any court legally appointed, nor of any 
process legally settled, for submitting the king to the respon 
sibility belonging to all servants. In this he is not dis 
tinguished 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" 

111 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 be then 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 gentle 
men talk so much at their ease, can rarely, if ever, be per- 



formed 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 Re 
volution 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. 
4 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 de 
marcation, 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 honourable 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 our 
selves," 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 secu 
rity 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 ser 
mons 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 ap 
pearance 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 fore 
fathers. Upon that body and stock of inheritance we have 
taken care not to inoculate any scion 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, 1 
are industrious to prove the pedigree of our liberties. They 
endeavour to prove that the ancient charter, the Magna 
1 See Blackstone s Mag)ia C/ia/ la, printed at Oxfuixl, 1759. 


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 re-affirmance 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 towards 
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. 

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 discourses 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 ist 
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 1 into their most serious 
consideration the best means for making such an establish 
ment, 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 

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 what 
ever 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 
1 i W. and M. 


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 prin 
ciple 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 for ever. 
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 trans 
mit 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, 
moulding 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 super 
stition of antiquarians, but by thespirit 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 con- | 


stitution 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 ail 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 con 
trivances 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 canonised forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in it 
self 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 inso 
lence 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 haye chosen our nature rather than 
our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for 
the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and 

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 descrip 
tions 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 con 
stitution, interpose a salutary check to all precipitate resolu 
tions. 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 tempera 
ments preventing the sore evil of 1 a-sh, crude, unqualified 
reformations ; and rendering all the headlong exertions of 
arbitrary power, in the few or in the many, for ever im 
practicable. Through that diversity of members and inter 
ests, 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 moulded 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 
lustre 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 imagina 
tions would have realised 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 low-born servile wretches until the emancipating year 
of 1789. In order to furnish, at the expense of your honour, 
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, honour, and 
loyalty ; that events had been unfavourable 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 
cojntry you worshipped, 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 honour ; or if, diffident of yourselves, and 
not clearly discerning the almost obliterated constitution of 
your ancestors, you had looked to your neighbours 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 recognise 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 4n 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 estab 
lishes 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 became 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 founda 
tions 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 licence of a 
ferocious dissoluteness in manners, and of an insolent 
jirreligion in opinions and practices; and has extended 
| through all ranks of life, as if she were communicating some 
j 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 
I 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 pretences, 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 ri^ht 


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 hold- j ; 
ing out graces, favours, and immunities. 

This was unnatural. The rest is in order. They have I: 
found their punishment in their success. Laws overturned ; I 
tribunals subverted; industry without vigour; 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 dis 
credited 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 recognised 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 crea 
tures 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! no 
thing like it. The fresh ruins of France, which shock our 
feelings wherever we can turn our eyes, are not the devasta 
tion 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, be 
cause 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 shoe-buckles, 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 authorising 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 conse 
quence than all the formalities in the world. If we were 
to know nothing of this assembly but by its title and func 
tion, no colours 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 mys 
terious. 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 revela 
tion, for any such powers. 

After I had read over the list of the persons and descrip 
tions elected into the Tiers Etat, nothing which they after 
wards 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 disposi 
tion 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 talents 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 de 
signs. -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, of permanent property, of 
education, and of such habits as enlarge and liberalise the 

In the calling of the states-general of France, the first 
thing which 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 

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 sucli 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 attorneys, notaries, and the whole train of the 
ministers of municipal litigation, the fomenters and con 
ductors 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 splendour, 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, and 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 understood 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 super- 
eminent 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 over 
borne and swayed by the intrigues and artifices of lawyers, 
than to become their counterpoise. With such a danger 
ous disproportion, the whole must needs be governed by 
them. To the faculty of law was joined a pretty consider- 


able 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 sick beds 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 Elat in the National Assembly; 
in which was scarcely to be perceived the slightest 
traces of what we call the natural landed interest of the 

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 illustri 
ous in rank, in descent, in hereditary and in acquired opu 
lence, in cultivated talents, in military, civil, naval, and 
politic distinction, that the country can afford. But sup 
posing, 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 pro 
fession, which is another priesthood, administrating 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 prepon 
derate so as virtually to become the whole. Their very 
excellence in their peculiar functions may be far from a quali 
fication 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 experi 
ence in mixed affairs, on a comprehensive, connected view of 
the various, complicated, external and internal interests, 
which go to the formation ot 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, how 
ever, 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 funda 
mental law, no strict convention, no respected usage to re 
strain it. Instead of finding themselves obliged to conform 


to a fixed constitution, they have a power to make a constitu 
tion 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 con 
stitution for a great kingdom, and in every part of it, from 
the monarch on the throne to the vestry of a parish? But 
"fools rusk in where angels fear to tread? In such a state 
of unbounded power for undefined and undefinablc 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 representa 
tives 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 their 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-modelling a state; 
. limen 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 
J 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, 
I except in a general scramble. Instead of balancing the 
1 power of the active chicaners in the other assembly, these 
1 ^.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 prepon 
derating 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 begin 
ning 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 indi 
viduals 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 sub 
division, 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 towards 
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 
towards 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 crav 
ing void that is left in their avarice. Confounded by the 
complication of distempered passions, their reason is dis 
turbed ; 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. But 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 be 
comes 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 \vith 
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 common- 


wealth, 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 com 
pliment made to one of the great bad men of the old stamp 
(Cromwell) by his kinsman, a favourite 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 \>y 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, how 
ever shattered, existed All the prizes of honour 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 honour, 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, some 
times their masters. Believe me, Sir, those who attempt to 
level, never equalise. In all societies, consisting of various 
descriptions of citizens, some description must be uppermost. 
The levellers 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, a 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 honourable. If he meant only, that no honest employ- 


ment was disgraceful, he would not have gone beyond the 
truth. But in asserting that anything is honourable, we 
imply some distinction in its favour. The occupation of a 
hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler, cannot be a 
matter of honour 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 indivi 
dually or collectively, are permitted to rule. In this you 
think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with 
nature. 1 

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. 

1 Ecclesiasticus, chap, xxxviii., verses 24, 25. "The wisdom of a 
learned man comeih 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 bullocks? " 

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 spoken." 

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. 


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 
honour. 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 lustre 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 govern 
ment 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 honour 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. 
Bui as ability is a vigorous and active principle, and as 
property is sluggish, inert, and timid, it never can be safe 
from the invasions of ability, unless it be, out of all proper- 


tion, predominant in the representation. It must b<_ 
represented too in great masses of accumulation, or it is no? 
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. 
lUit the many are not capable of making this calculation ; 
and those who lead them to rapine never intend this 

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 trans 
mission. With us the House of Peers is formed upon this 
principle. It is wholly composed of hereditary oroperty 
and hereditary distinction ; and made therefore the Vmrcl 
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 com 
posed, 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 
idolised by creeping sycophants, and the blind, abject 
admirers of power, they are too rashly slighted in shallow 
speculations of the petulant, assuming, short-sighted cox 
combs of philosophy. Some decent, regulated pre 
eminence, some preference (not exclusive appropriation) 
given to birth, is neither unnatural, nor unjust, nor 

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 
attorneys 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 municipali 
ties (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 sub 
jection to the republic of Paris. They will not bear that 
this one body should monopolise 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 pretence 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 endeavour 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 endeavours. 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 
favourable to their designs. The gentlemen of the 
Revolution Society, who were so early in their congratu 
lations, 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 fervour 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 considera 
tion 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 con 
tended for. I did not discern how the present time came 
to be so very favourable 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 un 
pleasant aspect, and are not quite reconcilable to humanity, 
generosity, good faith, and justice, are palliated with so 
much milky good-nature towards the actors, and borne with 
so much heroic fortitude towards the sufferers. It is 
certainly not prudent to discredit the authority of an example 
w r e 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 favour, 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 land-mark 
of the country to be done away in favour 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 participa 
tion in sacrilege? Are all the taxes to be voted grievances, 
and the revenue reduced to a patriotic contribution, or 
patriotic presents? Are silver shoe-buckles to be substi 
tuted 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 organised 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 hold 
ing 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 they are well assorted; and 
France may furnish them for both with precedents in 

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 per 
fection. 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 inform and theory."*- That a represen 
tation 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 a 
usurpation;" that "when the representation is partial, 
the kingdom possesses liberty only partially ; and if ex 
tremely partial, it gives only a semblance; and if not only 
extremely partial, but corruptly chosen, it becomes a 
nuisance. 1 1 Dr. Price considers this inadequacy of repre 
sentation 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 representa 
tion chosen chiefly by the Treasury, and a few thousands 
of the dregs of the people, who are generally paid for 
their votes." 

You will smile here at the consistency of those demo- 
cratists, 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 
1 Discourse on the Love of our Country, 3rd edition, p. 39. 


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 
enamoured 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 funda 
mental 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 down 
right 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, bastardised 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 en 
deavour 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 

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 f 
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 every 
thing 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 under-ground 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." Ilia scjactat in aulasEohts, ct clauso ventorum 
carccre regnct" 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 

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 com 
binations of skill and force, can do in his favour. 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 con 
vention 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 

j 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 repug- 

; nant 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 un- 
covenanted 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-defence, 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 deter 
mining 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, sub 
ject 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 of 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 
organisation 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 institu 
tions. 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 

The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovat- 


ing it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental 
science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short ex 
perience 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 begin 
ning. 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 
i 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 ex 
perience 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. 

. i : These metaphysic rights entering into common life, like 
j |j rays of light which pierce into a dense medium, are, by the 
I |iaws of nature, refracted from their straight line. Indeed 
Jin the gross and complicated mass of human passions and 
n Concerns, the primitive rights of men undergo such a variety 
,f | :>f refractions and reflections, that it becomes absurd to talk 
jipf them as if they continued in the simplicity of their 

I" 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 favourite member. 

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 i 
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 sEtnam 
insiluit) I consider such a frolic rather as an unjustifiable 
poetic licence, than as one of the franchises of Parnassus ; 
and whether he were 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 provo 
catives 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 sccvos das sis numerosa tyrannos. In the ordi 
nary 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 favourite 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 per 
fectly 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 
j most violent and stretched prerogative, and another time the 
wildest democratic ideas of freedom, and pass from the 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 
j in the transit from one form of government to another you 
j 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 extremes; 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 
;heories about the rights of man, that they have totally 
brgotten his nature. Without opening one new avenue to 
:he understanding, they have succeeded in stopping up those 
hat lead to the heart. They have perverted in themselves, 
md in those that attend to them, all the well-placed 
sympathies of the human breast. 

This famous sermon of the Old Jewry breathes nothing but 
his spirit through all the political part. Plots, massacres, 


assassinations, seem to some people a trivial price for 
obtaining a revolution. A 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 magnifi 
cent 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 follow 
ing rapture : 

"What an eventful period is this ! I am thankful that 
have lived to it ; I could almost say, Lord, now lettest thou 
thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salva- 
f{ OHf 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"^ 

1 Another of these reverend gentlemen, who was witness to some ol 
the spectacles which Paris has lately exhibited, expresses himself thus: 
"A king dragged in submissive triumph by his conquering subjects, i< 
one of those appearances of grandeur which seldom rise in the prospeci 
of human affairs, and which, during the remainder of my life, I shal 
think of with wonder and gratification." These gentlemen agre< 
marvellously 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 wit 
ness, "his Majesty in the coach with six horses, and Peters 
riding before the king, triumphing ]) r . Price, when he 
talks as if he had made a discovery, only follows a prece 
dent ; 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." 1 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. They dealt at the Restora 
tion, 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 under 
mined 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 
1 State 7^rials, vol. ii. ; pp. 360, 363. 



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 communica 
tion, 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 congratula 
tion, 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 civilised, martial nation ; if a civilised 
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 humilia 
tion 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 desti 
tute 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 coffee-houses. 
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 carcases 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 ; domi 
neering over them with a strange mixture ot servile petu 
lance 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 king 
doms, has not even the physiognomy and aspect of a grave 
legislative body nee color imperil, nee from ulla senatiis. 
They have a power given to them, like that of the evil prin 
ciple, 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 com 
posing even the majority of that body must feel as I do, not 
withstanding the applauses of the Revolution Society. Miser 
able King ! miserable Assembly ! How must that assembly 
be silently scandalised with those of their members who 
could call a day which seemed to blot the sun out of heaven, 
"// beau jour/" 1 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 towards 
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 
1 6th of October, 1789. 


gentlemen in their houses, that "the Wood spilled was not 
the most pure ! " What must they have felt, when they were 
besieged by complaints of disorders which shook their coun 
try 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 ! 

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 behaviour 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 con 
dolence 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 per 
sonally 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 liberalised by the vote of 
the National Assembly, and is allowed his rank and arms in 
the heralds college of the rights of men, would be too gene 
rous, 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 leze 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 endeavour to forget these 

events and that compliment. But history, who keeps a 

durable record of all our acts, and exercises her awful censure 

j! over the proceedings of all sorts of sovereigns, will not forget 

| either those events, or the era of this liberal refinement in 

I. 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, 

1 and slaughter, lay down, under the pledged security of public 

I faith, to indulge nature in a few hours of respite, and 

j troubled, melancholy repose. From this sleep the Queen 

was first startled by the voice of 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 
carcases. Thence they were conducted into the capital of 
their kingdom. 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, pro-| 
tracted 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 bastile for kings. 

Is this a triumph to be consecrated at altars? to be com 
memorated with grateful thanksgiving ? to be offered to the 
divine humanity with fervent prayer and enthusiastic ejacu 
lation? 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 lo Pa?an of the triumph, 
the animating cry which called "for a// the BISHOPS to be 
hanged on the lamp-posts," l 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 
1 Tons les Evcques a la lanterne. 



appears like the precursor of the Millennium, and the pro 
jected fifth monarchy, in the destruction of all church 
establishments. 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 men, 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. 1 

1 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 ToIIendal 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 assembled plus coupable encore, ne 
meritoient que je me justifie ; mais j ai a cceur que vous, et les personnes 


9 1 

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 

j 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 

| qui pensent comma vous, nc me condamnent pas. Ma sante, je vous 
li jure, me rendoit mes fonctions impossibles; mais meme en les mettant 
j de cote il a etc au-dessus de mes forces de supporter plus longtems 
I 1 horreur qua me causoit ce sang, ces tetcs cette IZV&Q pre.sque egorgee, 
I, ce roi, amene esclave, entrant a Paris, au milieu de ses assassins, et 
I precede des tetes de ses malheureux gardes ces perfides janissaires, ces 
I assassins, ces fcmmes cannibales, ce cri de TOUS LKS EVBQUES A LA 
|| LANTERNE, dans le moment cm le roi entre sa capitale avec deux evequcs 
I de son conseil dans sa voiture tin coup de fusil, qua j ai vu tirer dans 
\TUidescarossesdelareine. M. Bailly appellant cela tin beau jour, 
1 1 assemblee ayant declare froidement le matin, qu il n etoit pas de sa 
I dignite d aller toute entiere environner le roi M. Mirabcau disant 
limpunement dans cette assemble quc le vaisseau de 1 etat, loins d etre 

I arrete dans sa course, s elanceroit avec plus de rapidite quc jamais vers 
sa regeneration M. Barnave, riant avec lui, quand des flots dc sang 
coulaient autour de nous le vertueux Mourner* echappant par miracle 
.a vingt assassins, qui avoicnt votilu faiie de sa tete tin trophee de plus: 
iVoilacequi me fit jurer de ne plus mettre le pied dans celte cavcrne 
\(FAntropophages [the National Assembly] ou je n avois plus de force 
yd elever la voix, ou depuis six semaines je 1 avois eleve e en vain. 

" Moi, Mounier, et tons les honnetes gens, ont pense qua le dernier 

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


to which their parents were exposed, instead of being a 
subject of exultation, adds not a little to my 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 him 
self, 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 civilised subjects, 
and to be more grieved for them than solicitous for himself. 
It derogates little from his fortitude, while it adds infinitely 
to the honour of his humanity. I am very sorry to say it, 
very sorry indeed, that such personages are in a situation 

effort a faire pour le bien etoit d en sortir. Aucune idee de crainte ne 
s est approchee de moi. Je rougirois de m en defend re. J avois encore 
reu sur la route de la part de ce peuple, moins coupable que ceux qui 
1 ont enivre de fureur, des acclamations, et des applaudissements, dont 
d autres auroient etc flattcs, et qui m ont fait fremir. C est a 1 indig- 
nalion, c est a 1 horreur, c est aux convulsions physiques, que le seul 
aspect du sang me fait eprouver que j ai cede. On brave une seul 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. Us me proscriront, ils confisqueront mes 
biens. Je labourerai la terre, et je ne les verrai plus. Voila ma justi 
fication. Vous pourrez 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 dormer." 

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


in which it is not becoming 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 im 
prisonment 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 5 that she feels with the dignity of a Roman 
j matron ; that in the last extremity she will save herself from 
| the last disgrace j and that, if she must fall, she will fall by 
| no ignoble hand. 

It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen 

1 of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles ; and surely 

I 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 

I to move in, glittering like the morning-star, full of life, and 

(splendour, and joy. Oh! what a revolution! and what a 

I heart must I have to contemplate without emotion that 

I elevation and that fall ! Little did I dream when she added 

; titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respect- 

: ful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp 

|;antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom ; little 

fl 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 

, jinen of honour, 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, economist^, and 
calculators has succeeded , and the glory of Europe is 
extinguished for ever. 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 
defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and 
heroic enterprise, is gone ! It is gone, that sensibility of 
principle, that chastity of honour, 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, sub 
sisted 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 f 
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 dominating 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 har 
monised 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 
superadded 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 affec 
tions 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 supple 
ments, 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 pukhra esse poemata, dulcia sunto. There 
ought to be a system of manners in every nation, which a 
well-formed 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 honour, and the honour 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 opera 
tion, we must presume that, on the whole, their operation 
was beneficial. 

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 civilisation, and all the good things which are 
connected with manners and with civilisation, 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 govern 
ments were rather in their causes, than formed. Learn 
ing 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 de 
bauched 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 multitude. 1 

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 experi 
ment 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, honour, 
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 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 

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


It is not clear, whether in England we learned those 
grand and decorous principles and manners, of which con 
siderable 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 nosfrce. 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 apologise for 
harbouring 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 out 
raged. 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 Machiavelian 
policy, whether applied to the attainment 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 put- 


ting 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 theatre, the first 
intuitive glance, without any elaborate process of reasoning, 
would 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 perpe 
trated, 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 
splendour of these triumphs of the rights of men, all natural 
sense of wrong and right. 

But the Reverend Pastor exults in this "leadingin triumph," 
because truly Louis the Sixteenth was "an arbitrary mon 
arch ; " 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 subject 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 out 
rages 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 of 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 usurpa 

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 in 
sinuated 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 punish 
ment 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 

If the French king, or king of the French (or by what 
ever 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 subsequent indignities more cruel than 
murder, such a person would ill deserve even that sub 
ordinate executory trust which 1 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 with reasoning, nor 
prudent in policy, nor safe in practice. Those who could 
make such an appointment mu,st 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 

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 Bastile, 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 
Thalmud, 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 hoards 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 gentle 
man 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 honourable 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 honour 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 observa 
tion, 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 observation, 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 judg 
ment 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 con 
sequence 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, meagre, 
hopping, though loud and troublesome, insects of the 

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 (1 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 \vas 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 subtilised 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; mad 
men 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 under- 


stood long before we were born, altogether as well as they 
will be after tl.. grave has heaped its mould 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 man. 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. 1 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 cor 
rupt 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 

1 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 kin* 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. 


sport for a few holidays, to make us perfectly fit for, 
and justly deserving of, slavery, through the whole course 
of our lives. 

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 them 
selves 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 pre 
viously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and 
virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment 
of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice 
renders a man s virtue his habit ; and not a series of uncon 
nected 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 con 
fidence 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 conveniency, 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 no 
thing 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 

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 in 
your transactions, as yet consist of but a handful of people. 
If unfortunately by their intrigues, their sermons, their pub 
lications, 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 conse 
quence 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 feel 
ing, 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 establish 
ing 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 characterised 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. 1 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 im 
piety. 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 ecclesias 
tical 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. 

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 

1 Sit igitur hoc ab initio persnasum civibus, dominos esse omnium 
rerum ac moderatores, decs ; eaque, quse 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 babere rationem. His enim 
rebus imbut?e montes hand sane abhorrebunt ab utili et h versa sententia. 
Cic. De Legibns, 1. 2. 


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 civilisation amongst us, and among many 
other nations, we are apprehensive (being well aware that 
the mind will not endure a void) that some uncouth, per 
nicious, and degrading superstition might take the 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 

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 for ever 
consecrated the commonwealth, and all that officiate in it. 
This consecration is made, that all who administer in 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 

The consecration of the state, by a state religious establish 
ment, 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 towards it, becomes even more necessary than in 
such societies, where the people, by the terms of their sub 
jection, are confined to private sentiments, and the manage 
ment 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 sove 
reignty, than upon those of single princes. Without in 
struments, 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 them 
selves, 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 
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 favour. 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 towards the conserva 
tion of the people at large, the people at large can never 
become the subject of punishment by any human hand. 1 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 per 
suaded that they are full as little entitled, and far less qualified, 
with safety to themselves, to use any arbitrary power what 
soever ; 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; 
1 Quicquid multis peccatur inultem. 


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 syco 
phants, or courtly flatterers. 

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 then- 
society ; hazarding to leave to those who come after them a 
ruin instead of a habitation and teaching these successors 
as little to respect their contrivances, as they had themselves 
respected the institutions of their forefathers. By this un 
principled 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, redund 
ancies, and errors, is the collected reason of ages, com 
bining the principles of original justice with the infinite 
variety of human concerns, as a heap of old explode- 
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 educa 
tion of his offspring, or in a choice for their future establish 
ment 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 discip 
line 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 ensure a tender and delicate sense 
of honour to beat almost with the first pulses of the heart 
when no man could know what would be the test of 
honour 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, unskilful- 
ness 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 dispen 
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 
t 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, an- 
wild incantations, they may regenerate the paternal constit 
* tion, 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 partner 
ship 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 1 
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 descrip 
tion 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 pnepotenti Deo qui omnem hunc mundum regit, 
nihil eorum quce quidem fiant in terris acceptius quam 
concilia et ccetus hominum jure sociati quje 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 signiory 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; this is, 
with modest splendour 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 indi 
viduals. 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 por 
tion of the general wealth of his country is employed and 

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 so 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 favour (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 accom 
modation; 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 up a close connection through 
life. By this connection we conceive that we attach our 
gentlemen to the church; and we liberalise 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, 
favourable 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 meli 
orating, 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 ground-work), 
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 


i this improvement was our not despising the patrimony of 
knowledge which was left us by our forefathers. 

It is from our attachment to a church establishment that 
the English nation did not think it wise to intrust 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 extrava 
gance, 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 in 
dependent 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 constitu 
tional policy, from their opinion of a duty to make sure 
provision for the consolation of the feeble and the instruc 
tion 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 

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 gave no credit themselves. The Christian states 
men 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 con 
cerning 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 contribu 
tions 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 over-laboured 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 accomplishment. 

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 through 
out 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 honours 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 look 
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 clogs 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 so employed. It is better to cherish virtue and 
lumanity, 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 can 
not 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. AVhat 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 towards those who are often the beginners of their 
own fortune, and not a love of the self-denial and mortifica 
tion of the ancient church, that makes some look askance 
at the distinctions, and honours, 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 Canter 
bury. 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 possessions 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 enlarge 
ment 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 conclusions. 

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 -oods of a 
single unoffending citizen. Who but a tyrant (a name ex 
pressure 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 a *e 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 confiscates 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 con^ 
ition to men in one state of life, and not habituated to 
)ther 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 favour 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 pro 
fane 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 t 
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 surfer in their natural feelings and 
natural persons, on account of what is done towards 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 them? 

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 com 
mit, 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 en 
gagements 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 contra 
dictions caused by the extreme rigour 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 
his 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 un 
fortunate 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 pos 
sessed 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 im 
plies the sovereign dominion, in the fullest sense, over the 
public purse. It goes far beyond the trust even of a tem 
porary and occasional taxation. The acts, however, of that 
dangerous power (the distinctive mark of a boundless des 
potism) 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 ob 
noxious of all the exertions of monarchical authority? Reason 
can furnish nothing to reconcile inconsistency; nor can 
partial favour be accounted for upon equitable principles. 


But the contradiction and partiality which admit no justifi 
cation are not the less without an adequate cause; and that 
cause I do not think it difficult to discover. 

By the vast debt of France a great moneyed interest has 
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 converti 
bility 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 ecclesiastic corporations, all these had 
kept the landed and moneyed 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 country. 

The moneyed 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 splendour 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 heart-burnings 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, gene 
rally 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 
moneyed interest, the greatest because the most applicable 
strength was in the hands of the latter. The moneyed 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 moneyed 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 favours 
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 endeavoured 
to make up by joining in a sort of incorporation of their 
own ; to which the two academies of France, and after 
wards the vast undertaking of the Encyclopaedia, 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. 1 What was not to be done towards their great 
end by any direct or immediate act, might be wrought by a 
longer process through the medium of opinion. To com 
mand that opinion, the first step is to establish a dominion j 
over those who direct it. They contrived to possess them-j 
selves, 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 don< 
them justice ; and in favour of general talents forgave the 
evil tendency of their peculiar principles. This was true 
liberality; which they returned by endeavouring 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 anc 

1 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 th< 
manuscript, by my lost Son. 


to taste than to morals and true philosophy. These atheist 
ical fathers have a bigotry of their own ; and they have 
learnt 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. 

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 accom 
plished by the thunderbolt of despotism, or by the earth 
quake 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. 1 For the same 
purpose for which they intrigued with princes, they culti 
vated, in a distinguished manner, the moneyed 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. 

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 moneyed interest 2 
had no small effect in removing the popular odium and env 
which attended that species of wealth. These writers, lik 
the propagators of all novelties, pretended to a great zeal fo 
the poor and the lower orders, whilst in their satires the 
rendered hateful, by every exaggeration, the faults of courts 
of nobility, and of priesthood. They became a sort o 
demagogues. They served as a link to unite, in favour o 
one object, obnoxious wealth to restless and desperat 

As these two kinds of men appear principal leaders in al 
the late transactions, their junction and politics wall serve t< 
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, ha: 
been taken, of a moneyed interest originating from the 
authority of the crown. All the envy against wealth and 
power was artificially directed against other descriptions o 

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

- Their connection with Turgot and almost all the people of th< 


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 pre 
judice, 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 in 
curred 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. 

Whit had the clergy to do with these transactions? \Vhat 
| had they to do with any public engagement further than the 
[extent of their own debt? To that, to be sure, their estates 
Lvere bound to the last acre. Nothing can lead more to the 
:rue spirit of the Assembly, which fits for public confiscation, 
vith 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 moneyed 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; 
recognising 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 IL 
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 favour of the money 
jobbers, why is the penalty confined to one description ? I 
do not know whether the expenses of the Duke de Choiseu 
have left anything of the infinite sums which he had derivet 
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 

1 All have been confiscated in their turn. 


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 Roche- 
foucault more sacred than that of the Cardinal de Roche- 
foucault? 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 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 * 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 free-man who will not express them. 

Few barbarous conquerors have ever made so terrible a 
revolution in property. None of the heads of the Roman 
factions, when they established "crude/em Warn hastam" in 
all their actions of rapine, have ever set up to sale the goods 
of the conquered citizen to such an enormous amount. It 
must be allowed in favour 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 

1 Not his brother, nor any near relation ; but this mistake does not 
liect the argument. 


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 for 

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 colour 
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 sei/ed 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 Syllas, and had not studied in your new 
schools, did not know what an effectual instrument of des 
potism 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 offences. 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 pre 
liminaries, 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 Me n^ 

I can say nothing in praise of those acts of tyranny, which 
no voice has hitherto evei commended under any of their 
false colours ; yet in these false colours a 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 sympathises 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, \\here ruin must reform. 
Tell me (my Muse) what monstrous dire offence, 
What crimes could any Christian kiny; 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. l 

This same wealth, which is at all times treason and kse 
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 resource but rapine 
remained to preserve its existence? On this point I wish to 
receive some information. When the states met, was the 

1 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 ? 


condition of the finances of France such, that, after econo 
mising on principles of justice and mercy through all 
departments, no fair repartition of burthens 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 nation. 1 

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 D 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 .2,200,000 
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), " Q ue l pays, 
Messieurs, que celui, ou, sans iiupots et avec de simples 

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 ?" 

Cooper s Hill, by Sir JOHN DENHAM. 

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


objets tnapperpts, 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 with 
out 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 parti 
cular 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 favour of those who, instead of moderate, reason 
able, 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 ^"2,200,000 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 1 
at the Jacobins) were from thence justified in laying the 
whole burthen of that deficiency on the clergy, yet allowing 
all this, a necessity of ^2,200,000 sterling will not support 
a confiscation to the amount of five millions. The imposi 
tion of ^2,200,000 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 

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 im 
positions 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 imposi 
tions of no light nature, and no trivial produce. The clergy 

1 In the constitution of Scotland, during the Stuart reigns, a com 
mittee sat for preparing bills; and none could pass but those previously 
approved by them. This committee was called lords of articles. 


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 
twenty-four 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 com 
puted 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 nobility. 

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 con 
nected 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 con 
fiscation 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 pro 
posed to take stock in exchange for the church lands. In 
that project great difficulties arose in equalising 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 stock-holders 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) 
iltogether impracticable. Public exigencies pressed upon 
Ull 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 three 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 wealth 

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 scheme 
to this one object as a centre, and a centre from which after 
wards all their measures radiate, will not think that I dwell 
too long upon this part of the proceedings of the National 

To cut off all appearance cf 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 com 
pensation to an immense amount. Their compensation 
becomes part of the national debt, for the liquidation of 
which there is the one exhaustlcss 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 dis 
cretion 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 cur 
rencies, 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 senti 
ments 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 ratJier 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 demo 
cracy, 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 circum 
stanced) 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 con 
siderable 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. 1 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 

1 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 rjOos TO avTo, /ecu &[j.(pu oe<riroTLKa rdov fieXribvuv, Kalra \f 7]<pi<Tfj.aTa, 
&<nrep e/eet ra tTTLray/aaTa /cat 6 drj/^ayuybs /ecu 6 /coAa, ol aurol Kal 
dvdXoyoi /cat ^tdXicrra e/cdrepot trap e/carepots la"xi 0i>(nv, ol fJiev KoXaKes 
Trapa Tvpavvois, ol de drj/uayuyol Trapa rots S^ots rots rotot/rots. 

"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 favourite, 
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, favourites with the absolute monarch, and 
demagogues with a people such as I have described." Arist. Politic. , 
lib. iv. , cap. 4. 


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 sceptre. 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 con 
solation. They seem deserted by mankind, overpowered 
by a conspiracy of their whole species. 

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 nothin- at all 
to recommend it? I do not often quote Bolingbroke nor 
have his works m general left any permanent impression on 
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 

ic of the present hour. But steady, independent minds 

when they have an object of so serious a concern to man- 


kind 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 accumu 
lated 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 repre 
sentatives 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 then 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 
manufacturers 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 a 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, constitu- 
ition) a despotism rather in appearance than in reality. 

Among the standards upon which the effects of government 
1 Dn any country are to be estimated, I must consider the state 
1 }f its population as not the least certain. No country in 
" vhich population flourishes, and is in progressive improve- 
n nent, can be under a very mischievous government. About 
1 ixty years ago, the Intendants of the generalities of France 
e inade, with other matters, a report of the population of their 

everal 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. Neck or, 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 i 780, 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 autho 
rity 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 tha 
minister s calculation, the French population has increasec 
rapidly; so rapidly, that in the year 1789 he will not consen 
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 sevent 
thousand to twenty-five millions, still a population of twenty 
five millions, and that in an increasing progress, on a spaa 
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, th< 
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 labour under other 
natural disadvantages. In the portions of that territory where 
things are more favourable, as far as I am able to discover, 
the numbers of the people correspond to the indulgence 
of nature. 1 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 

I do not attribute this population to the deposed govern 
ment ; 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 favoured, 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 

state to be the worst of all political institutions, which, by 
experience, is found to contain a principle favourable (how 
ever 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 

1 De P Administration des Finances de la France, par Mons. Necker, 
vol. i., p 288. 



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 com 
parison -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 tota 
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 hundrec 
millions of pounds sterling. 2 

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 or assent to his calculation. 

1 De r Administration des Finances de la France, par Mons. Necker. 

2 Vol. iii. , chap. 8 and chap. 9. 


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 

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 m 

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 com- 

ejmunication through a solid continent of so immense an 

h J extent; when I turn my eyes to the stupendous works of 

sjher ports and harbours, and to her whole naval apparatus, 

nt j whether for war or trade; when I bring before my view the 

jejoumber of her fortifications, constructed with so bold and 

to (masterly a skill, and made and maintained at so prodigious a 

]ii.j:harge, presenting an armed front and impenetrable barrier 

. fl ! o her enemies upon every side ; when I recollect how 

ery small a part of that extensive region is without cultiva- 


tion, 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 manu 
factures 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 anc 
how great are the latent vices that could authorise us at 
once to level so spacious a fabric with the ground. I do 
not recognise 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 negli 
gent, as to be utterly unfit/^r all reformation. I must think 
such a government well deserved to have its excellencies 
heightened, its faults corrected, and its capacities improvec 
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 endeavour towards the pros 
perity 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 rigour 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 favourites, or on the expenses of the 
court, or on the horrors of the Bastile, in the reign of Louis 
the Sixteenth. 1 

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 

1 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 crimes. 


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 favour 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 Cii cean 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 con 
clude that it had been for some time past under the special 
direction of the learned academicians of Laputa and Balni- 
barbi. 1 Already the population of Paris has so declined, 
that M. Necker stated to the National Assembly the pro 
vision 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. No 
thing, I am credibly informed, can exceed the shocking and 
disgusting spectacle of mendicancy displayed in that capital. 

1 See Gulliver s Travels for the idea of countries governed by philo 

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 


Indeed the votes of the National Assembly leave no doubt 
of the fact. They have lately appointed a standing com 
mittee 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. 1 
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 

1 Travaux de charite pour subvenir 

au manque de travail a Paris et Livres. s . d. 

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 1 irnportation de grains 5,671,907 -- 236,329 9 2 
Depenses relatives aux subsistances, 

deduction fait des recouvrements 

qui ont eu lieu - -39,871,790 1,661,32411 8 

Total Liv. 51,082,034 ,2,128,418 i 8 

When I sent this book to the press, I entertained some doubt con 
cerning 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 Calonnc 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 1,661,000 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. 


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. 

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 Hanse-towns were necessitated to confeder 
ate against the nobles in defence 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 exigence in which 
morality submits to the suspension of its own rules in favour 
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 Nay res or Mamelukes of this age, or 
as the Orsim sind 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 pretence 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 

I have observed the affectation, which for many years past 
has prevailed in Paris even to a degree perfectly childish, of 
idolising the memory of your Henry the Fourth. If any 
thing could put one out of humour with that ornament to 
the kingly character, it would he 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 Bastile, 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, honour, courage, patriotism, and 
loyalty were his constant theme. 

But the nobility of France are degenerated since the days 
of Henry the Fourth. That 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 endeavoured 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 honour, 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 behaviour to the inferior classes, they appeared 
to me to comport themselves towards them with good nature, 
and with something more nearly approaching to familiarity 
;han is generally practised 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. In 
stances 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 vigour 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 ad 
mitted 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, 1 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 occupa 
tion 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 honoured 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 favetnus, was the say 
ing 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 splendour and 
in honour. 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 any body so 
much as not to dwell with complacence on the vices of the 
| existing clergy. This they have not done. They find 
! themselves obliged to rake into the histories of former ages 
I (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 favour, 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 offences 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 

Corporate bodies are immortal for the good of the mem 
bers, 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 Henrys 
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 

j 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 

I 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 
aw; 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 com 
munity, 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 fqpl 
n practice. Seldom have two ages the. same fashion in 
their pretexts and the same modes of mischief. Wickedness 
s 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 
Drinciple of life by the change of its appearance, it is 



renovated in its new organs with afresh vigour of a juvenile 
activity. It walks abroad, it continues its ravages, whilst 
you are gibbeting the carcase, 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 colour of abhorring the ill 
principles of antiquated parties, they are authorising 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 murderer. 1 

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


century, better understood, and better employed, will, I 
trust, teach a civilised posterity to abhor the misdeeds of 
both these barbarous ages. It will teach future priests and 
magistrates not to retaliate upon the speculative and in 
active 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 favours 
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 interest 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 have 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 past 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 ot 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 govern 
ment 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 endeavour 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 
s, j churches, to massacre the priests of other descriptions, to 
10 jpull down altars, and to make their way over the ruins of 
ubverted governments to an empire of doctrine, sometimes 
lattering, sometimes forcing, the consciences of men from 
he jurisdiction of public institutions into a submission to 
heir personal authority, beginning with a claim of liberty, 
md ending with an abuse of pow r er? 


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 Europe. 

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 pre 
decessors, and for having assumed a temper of mind am 
manners more suitable to their sacred function. 

When my occasions took me into France, towards th 
close of the late reign, the clergy, under all their forms 
engaged a considerable part of my curiosity. So far frorr 
finding (except from one set of men, not then very numerous 
though very active) the complaints and discontents agains 
that body which some publications had given me reason t( 
expect, I perceived little or no public or private uneasines 
on their account. On further examination, I found th 
clergy, in general, persons of moderate minds and decorou 
manners ; I include the seculars, and the regulars of botl 
sexes. I had not the good fortune to know a great many o 
the parochial clergy ; but in general I received a perfect!; 
good account of their morals, and of their attention to thei 
duties. With some of the higher clergy I had a persona 
acquaintance ; and of the rest in that class, a very good 
means of information. They were, almost all of theiP 
persons of noble birth. They resembled others of their owr 
rank \ and where there was any difference, it was in thei] 
favour. They were more fully educated than the* military 
noblesse; so as by no means to disgrace their profession bj 


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 honour; 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 any 
where) men of great learning and candour; 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 sample. 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 honour 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, per 
sons 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. When 
ever 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 labouring 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 in 
stances 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 rigour 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 pre 
decessor; 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 favour 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 honour 
able) 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 qualifica 
tions, 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, practise 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 prepara 
tory to the utter abolition, under any of its forms, of the Chris 
tian 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 education 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 seignoral 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 proportion. 

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 differ 
ent 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 pre- 


ferred 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 humour, 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 defence 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 them 
selves 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 recom 
mend themselves to their communion by iniquity and cruelty 
towards 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 favour, 
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 favour of their sub 
division, 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 proscription 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 confisca 
tion 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 repro 
bate the doctrine of prescription, which one of the greatest 
of their own lawyers 1 tells us, with great truth, is a part of 
the law of nature. He tells us, that the positive ascertain 
ment 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 
1 Domat. 


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 descrip 
tions 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 good-will of an ale 
house 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 posses 
sions, in the hands of the most respectable personages, or 
than the whole body of the moneyed and commercial interest 
of your country. We entertain a high opinion of the legis 
lative authority; but we have never dreamt that parlia 
ments 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 recognised 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. 1 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. 

When the Anabaptists of Miinster, in the sixteenth 
century, had filled Germany with confusion, by their system 
of levelling, 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. 2 The spirit of proselytism attends this 

1 Speech of Mr. Camus, published by order of the National 

2 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 front 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. 


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 fir^d" 
those who stretch out their arms to them,--vhe--recrjrrfm1md 
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 confra 
ternity, and standards consecrated amidst their rights and 
mysteries ; l who suggest to them leagues of perpetual amity, 

Oubliant leurs phis grdnds interels pour rendre hommage aux vues 
d ordre general qui ont determine I Assemblee Nationale, ils voient, 
sans se plaindre, supprimer cette foule d etablissemens ecclesiastiques par 
lesquels ils subsistoient ; et meme, en perdant leur siege episcopal, la 
seul de toutes ses ressources qui pouvoit, ou plutot qui devoif, en toute 
tquite, leur etre conservee ; condamnes & la phis effrayante misere, sans 
avoir tie ni pu etre en. endus, ils ne murmiirent point, ils restent fideles 
aux principes du plus pur patriotisine ; ils sont encore prets a verser 
leur sang pour le maintien de la Constitution, qui va reduire leur ville 
a la plus deplorable millite." 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. 

1 See the proceedings of the confederation at Nantz. 


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. 

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. 1 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 

1 "Si plures sunt ii quibus improbe datum est, quam illi quibis 
injuste ademptum est, idcirco plus etiam valent ? Non enim numero 
hsec juclicantur sed pondere. Quam atitcm habet cequitatem, ut agrum 
multis annis, aut etiam sceculis ante possessum, qui nullum habuit 
habeat ; qui aulem habuit amittat ? Ac, propter hoc injuring genus, 
Lacedoemonii Lysandrum Ephorum expulerunt : Agin regem (quod 
nunquam antea apud eos acciderat) necaverunt : exque eo tempore tante 
discordiaj secutre sunt, ut et tyranni existerint, et optimates extermina- 
rentur, et preclarissime constituta respublica dilaberetur. Nee vero 
solum ipsa cecidit, sed etiam reliquam Grseciam evertit contagionibus 
malorum, quoe a Lacedsemoniis profectce manarunt latins." After speak 
ing 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 
proeconis. At ille Griecus (id quod fuit sapient is et prsestantis viri 
omnibus consulendum esse putavit : eaque est summa ratio et sapientia 
boni civis, commoda civium non divellere, sed omnes eadem sequitate 
continere." Cic. G/l, 1. 2. 


not provide for them they will be undone by the efforts of 
the most dangerous of all parties ; I mean an extensive, 
discontented moneyed 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 vigour 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 favourable 
to confiscation ; and it is impossible to know under what 
obnoxious names the next confiscations will be authorised. 
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 con 
fused movement is felt, that threatens a general earthquake 
in the political world. Already confederacies and correspon 
dencies of the most extraordinary nature are forming, in 
several countries. 1 In such a state of things we ought to 
hold ourselves upon our guard. In all mutations (if muta 
tions 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. 

But it will be argued that this confiscation in France 

1 See two books entitled, Einige Originahchriften des Illuminatcn- 
ordens System und Folgen des Illuminatenordens. Miinchen, 1787. 


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, supersti 
tious 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 stigmatise with shame and infamy that 
character, and those customs, which before had been made 
the measure of their happiness and honour. 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 inter 
woven 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 carle 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 im 
prove, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. 
Everything else is vulgar in the conception, perilous in the 

There are moments in the fortune of states, when parti 
cular 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 instru 
ments. 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 benevo 
lence. 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 honour, 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 ex 
istence 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 them 
selves 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 magnet 
ism. 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 labour 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 the men but by convert 
ing 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 there 
fore they sell their tools. 

But the institutions savour of superstition in their very 

I 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 

j advantage. You derive benefits from many dispositions 

I and many passions of the human mind, which are of as 
doubtful a colour, 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 inter 
mixture 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 Terra), 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 supersti 
tion 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 con 
ceive 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 thoughts. 

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 
labour. But this idleness is itself the spring of labour; 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 
labourer, 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, un 
seemly, 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 labour 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 pro 
ject are on a par, there is no motive for a change. But m 
the present case, perhaps, they are not upon a par, and the 
difference is in favour 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 miser 
able those through whom they pass, as the expenses of 
those favourites 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 the sweat of the 
peasant, flow as pleasantly and as salubriously, in the con 
struction and repair of the majestic edifices of religion, as 
in the painted booths and sordid sties of vice and luxury; 
as honourably 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 club 
houses, 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 multi 
tude 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 
burthen 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 con 
sideration for those who undertake anything which merits 
the name of a politic enterprise. So far as to the estates of : 

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 other 
wise 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 (what 
ever value you may choose to set upon that duty), and the 
I 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 
j when they fail in their trust, when they slide from their 
j 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 
I estates but their own will and appetite ? Nor are these 
| estates held altogether in the character or with the evils 
supposed inherent in mortmain. They pass from hand to 
1 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 acquisi 
tion of money. 

This letter is 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 estab 
lishments ; 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 practi 
cally they exist. 

I have taken a view of what has been done by the 
governing power in France. I have certainly spoke 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 
favour. 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 them 
selves 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 origin 
ally 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 resolutions. 

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 recognise, 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 dis 
turbed 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 revolu 
tion 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 authorises 
us to examine into the mode of acquiring new power, and 
to criticise on the use that is made of it, with less awe and 
reverence than that which is usually conceded to a settled 
and recognised authority. 

In obtaining and securing their power, the Assembly pro 
ceeds upon principles the most opposite from 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 spi rit has been the very reverse of this. There 
they commit the whole to the mercy of untried specula 
tions ; 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 them 
selves 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 towards 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 land-marks 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 hand 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 short-cuts, 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 labours 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. 1 But 
is it in destroying arid 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 supply 
ing the place of what they have destroyed. To make every 
thing 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 

1 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 : " Toils Jes etablissemens en France 
couronnent le malheur du peitple: pour le rendre heureux il faut le 
renouveler; changer ses idees ; changer ses loix ; changer ses mteurs; . 
changer les homines ; changer les chases ; changer les mots .... tout 
detruire ; oui, tout detruire ; puisque tout est a recreer" This gentle 
man was chosen president in an assembly not sitting at the Quinze-vingt, 
or the Felits Mai sons ; and composed of persons giving themselves out 
to be rational beings ; but neither his ideas, language, nor 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. 


hope have all the wide field of imagination, in which they 
may expatiate with little or no opposition. 

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 excellencies 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 con 
struction 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 move- 


ments towards 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 observations 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 or 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 excel 
lence 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 philo 
sophers 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 them 
selves 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 colour of 
exaggeration. It is undoubtedly true, though it may seem 
paradoxical ; but in general, those who are habitually em 
ployed 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 endeavouring 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 com 
position. That acute though eccentric observer had 
perceived that to strike and interest the public, the 
marvellous must be produced ; that the marvellous of the 
heathen mythology had long since lost its effects; that giants, 
magicians, fairies, and heroes of romance which succeeded, 
had exhausted the portion of credulity which belonged to 
their age; but now nothing was left to the writer but that 
species of the marvellous which might still be produced, and 
with as great an effect as ever, though in another way; that 
is, the marvellous 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; after- 
. wards 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 expediences. 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 endeavour to accommodate the 
new building to an old one, either in the walls or on the 

The French builders, clearing away as mere rubbish what 
ever 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 
1,720 districts, called Communes. These again they sub 
divide, still proceeding by square measurement, into smaller 
districts called Cantons, making in all 6,400. 

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 incon 
veniences for which use had found remedies, and habit had 
supplied accommodation and patience. In this new pavement 
of square within square, and this organisation, and semi- 
organisation, 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 founda 
tion. 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, with 
out 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 contribution. 

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 labour 
paid to the public. Why, this is not much, I readily admit, 
for anything but the utter subversion of your equalising 
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 defence : 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 tyran 
nous 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 labour. Nor have we yet done. There is still 
to be another gradation. 1 These Communes, chosen by the 

1 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 ; 


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 con 
tribution, 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. 

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 sub 
verted ; 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 

but to the author the merit or demerit of these smaller alterations ap 
pears to be of no moment, where the scheme itself is fundamentally 
vicious and absurd. 


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 woiild 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 qualifica 
tions 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 other 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 pre-eminence, 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 sup 
port to dignity, or as security to fortune : for the aristocratic 
mass is generated from purely democratic principles ; and 
the prevalence 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 favour to the rich, in consequence of their contribu 
tion, 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 in 
verted ; that the votes of the masses were rendered equal ; 
and that the votes within each mass were proportioned to 


Let us suppose one man in a district (it is an easy sup 
position) to contribute as much as a hundred of his 
neighbours. Against these he has but one vote. If there 
were but one representative for the mass, his poor neigh 
bours 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 bene 
fiting 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 demo 
cratic 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 demo 
cratic, just in that proportion the rich are endangered. 

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 rela 
tion, 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 oppress 
ing 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 contribu 
tion, that which arises from duties on consumption, is in 
truth a better standard, and follows and discovers wealth 
i 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 independ- 
)- ! ent, sovereign bodies, who were to provide for a federative 
i treasury by distinct contingents, and that the revenue had 
1 not (as it has) many impositions running through the whole, 
;n i which affect men individually, and not corporately, and which, 
- 1 by their nature, confound all territorial limits, something 
ee might be said for the basis of contribution as founded on 
on masses. But of all things, this representation, to be measured 
:!ie by contribution, is the most difficult to settle upon principles 
r " | of equity in a country which considers its districts as mem- 
ty bers of a whole. For a great city, such as Bourdeaux, 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 Bourdeaux, who are scattered 
through all France, pay the import duties of Bourdeaux, 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 contribution : 
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 preference. 

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 towards 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 
\.\\Q primary assemblies, which vary in numbers with the popu 
lation of the canton, and send one deputy to the commune 
for every 200 voters. Nine cantons make a commune. 

Now let us take a canton containing a sea-port town of 
trade, or a great manufacturing town. Let us suppose the 
population of this canton to be 12,700 inhabitants, or 2,193 
voters, forming three primary assemblies, and sending 1cn 
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 1,360 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 terri 
tory of the other two, will have ten voices to six in the elec 
tion 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 aggra 
vated, if we suppose, as we fairly may, the several other 
cantons of the commune to fall proportionately 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 accord 
ing to the same average. The whole paid by the inhabitants 
of the former will be more than the whole paid by the in 
habitants of the latter we may fairly assume one-third 
more. Then the 12,700 inhabitants, or 2,193 voters of the 
canton, will pay as much as 19,050 inhabitants, or 3,289 
voters of the other cantons, which are nearly the estimated 
proportion of inhabitants and voters of five other cantons. 
Now the 2,193 voters will, as I before said, send only ten 
deputies to the assembly; the 3,289 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 

By the same mode of computation we shall find 15,875 
inhabitants, or 2,741 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 
2,193 voters of the one canton. 

Such is the fantastical and unjust inequality between mass 
and mass, in this curious repartition of the rights of repre- 


sentation arising out of territory and contribution. The 
qualifications which these confer are in truth negative quali 
fications that give a right in an inverse proportion to the 
possession of them. 

In this whole contrivance of the three bases, consider H 
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 

I am afraid I have gone too far into their way of con 
sidering 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 mataphysics, 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 whatsoevei 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 rendei 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 indepen 
dent 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 neces 
sity, 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 colour of pro 
viding for the independence of each of their cities. 

When the members who compose these new bodies of 
cantons, communes, and departments, arrangements pur 
posely 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. 1 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 

1 Non, ut olim, universes legiones deducebantur cum tribunis, et cen- 
tunonibus, et sui cujusque ordinis mililibus, ut consensu et caritate 
rempublicam afficerent ; sed ignoti inter se, diversis manipulis, sine 
rectore, sine affectibus mutuis, quasi ex alio gcnere mortalium, rcpcnte 
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 


those corruptions which mark degenerated and worn-out 
republics. Your child comes into the world with the 
symptoms of death; the fades Hippocratica forms the 
character of its physiognomy, and the prognostic of its 

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 under 
graduate, and the mathematics and arithmetic of an excise 
man. 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 com- 


mon sense not to abstract and equalise 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, 1 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. 

So far from this able disposition of some of the old 
1 Qualitas, Relatio, Actio, Passio, Ubi, Quando, Situs, Habitus. 


republican legislators, which follows with a solicitous 
accuracy the moral conditions and propensities of men, 
they have levelled and crushed together all the orders 
which they found, even under the coarse unartificial 
arrangement of the monarchy, in which mode of govern 
ment the classing of the citizens is not of so much im 
portance as in a republic. Tt 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 ascendency 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 disorganisation of the 
whole state. J; 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 disorganise 
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 

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 con 
cerning 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 
J objects, and better means of judging of them, than I can 
I have. I wish that the formal avowal which he refers to, 
made by one of the principal leaders in the Assembly, con 
cerning 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. 1 

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, 
1 See VEtat de la Frame, p. 363. 


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 ; 
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 al 
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 centre 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, eaclj 
province, each city. When did you hear in Great Britain 
of any province suffering from the inequality of its repre 
sentation ; 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 


I 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 ; arid 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 I 
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 grada- J 
tion, it is plain that they do not at all substantially elect to 
the Assembly ; indeed they elect as little in appearance as 

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 any- 
thing 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 yearsfl 
more. By the new French constitution the best and the 
wisest representatives go equally with the worst into this 
Limbus Patriun. 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 a r ter. Just 
as these magistrates begin to learn their trade, like chimney- 


sweepers, they are disqualified for exercising it. Super 
ficial, 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 unfavourable 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 Depart 
ment, 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 prorose 
to hold these republics together. The first, is the confisca 
tion, 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 cement 
ing, 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 pro 
ducing an Oligarchy in every one of the republics. A 
paper circulation, not founded on any real money deposited 
or engaged for, amounting already to four-and-forty 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 circulation. 

In England we feel the influence of the bank, though it is 
only the centre 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 moneyed 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) volatilised; 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 che 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 Deles. 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 or 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 con 
fiscations, 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 Hie" but what will be 
the end? 


HiEC ubi lociitus fanerator Alfhhis, 

/am jam fittunts ntslicns 
Oinnem redegit Idibus pecun : am } 

Qu&rit Kalendis ponere. 

They will cultivate the Caisse d Fglise, under the sacred 
auspices of this prelate, with much more profit than its vine 
yards and its corn-fields. 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 play-table; 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 com 
pelled to take as pay for an old debt will not be received as 
the same when he comes to pay a debt contracted by him 
self; 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 labour 
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 dis 
tempered 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 towns 
people 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 moneyed and Banded circulation ? Where have 
you placed the means of raising and falling the value of 
every man s freehold? Those, whose operations can take 
from, 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 moneyed 
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 con 
tend 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 the things 
which conspire against the country gentleman combine in 
favour 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 

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 case oligarchy they 
are all absorbed, sunk, and lost for ever. 


Though human eyes cannot trace them, one would be 
tempted to think Some great offences in France must cry to 
heaven, which has thought fit to punish it with a sub 
jection to a vile and inglorious domination, in which no 
comfort or compensation is to be found in any even of those 
false splendours, which, playing about other tyrannies, 
prevent mankind from feeling themselves dishonoured 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 

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 uncon 
nected 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 centre 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 ovei the other republics. Paris is 
compact ; she has an enormous strength, wholly dispro- 
portioned 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 drag-net. 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 

To a person who takes a view of the whole, the strength 
of Paris, thus formed, will appear a system of general weak 
ness. 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 
w T ill shortly have no country. No man ever was attached 
by a sense of pride, partiality, or real affection, to a descrip 
tion 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 
neighbourhoods, 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 long. 

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 competency, 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 every 
thing at once, have forgot 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 forgot 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 

Let us now turn our eyes to what they have done to 
wards 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 with 
out 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 authorised 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 bumbailiffs, Serjeants at mace,catchpoles, 
jailers, and hangmen. It is impossible to place anything 
called royalty in a more degrading point of view. A thou 
sand times better had it been for the dignity of this unhappy 
prince, that he had nothing at all to do with the administra 
tion 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 towards it ought to be 
infused by the circumstances attendant on the trust. It 
ought to be environed with dignity, authority, and considera 
tion, 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 honour 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 Riche 
lieu ; 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 great 
ness, 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 vigour 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 Bastile ? 
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 harmonise 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 aggrandised creature, as they 
have done a submitting antagonist 

A king circumstanced as the present, if he is totally stupe 
fied 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 honour. 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 glorio 



Responsibilityprevents 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 humours in the court and 
executive government will continue only through this genera 
tion ; 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 exe 
cutive force (I cannot call it authority) that has even an 
appearance of vigour, 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 government 


You have settled, by an economy as perverted as the 
policy, two 1 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 farther, and to 
have made, what you were obliged to take, a proper instru 
ment, 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 preroga 
tives? I know none more dangerous; nor any one more 
necessary to be so trusted. I do not say that this preroga 
tive 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 constitu 
tion, 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 

3 In reality three, to reckon the provincial republican establishments. 



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 execu 
tive 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. 

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 depart 
ment, 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 sub 
ordinate 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 situation, 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 congratulation sed multa 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 limits. 

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 constitu 
tion, 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, contri 
buted however to this independency 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 independ 
ence 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 humour 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 

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 towards strangers, 
towards the obnoxious rich, towards the minority of routed 
parties, towards all those who in the election have supported 
unsuccessful candidates. It will be impossible to keep the 
new U-ibunals 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 mis 
chievous cause of partiality. 

_ If the parliaments had been preserved, instead of being 
dissolved at so ruinous a change 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 they were dissolved 
in 1771. Those who have again dissolved them would 
have done the same if they couldbut both inquisitions 


having failed, I conclude that gross pecuniary corruption 
must have been rather rare amongst them. 

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 demo 
cracies, and one cause of their ruin, was, that they ruled, as 
you do, by occasional decrees, psephismata. This practice 
soon broke in upon the tenour and consistency of the laws; 
it abated the respect of the people towards them; and 
totally destroyed them in the end. 

Your vesting the power of remonstance, 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 more. 

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 those 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 
Chatekt 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 appella 
tion 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 sub 
mitted 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, indepen 
dent states, to form an awful tribunal, like your late parlia 
ments, 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 instru 
ments 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 constraint. 

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 offences, 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. 1 

Has more wisdom been displayed in the constitution of 
your army than what is discoverable in your plan of judica 
ture? The able arrangement of this part is the more 
difficult, and requires the greater skill and attention, not 
only as a 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 

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


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 depart 
ment 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 constitu 
tion, 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 says: 
" His Majesty has this day sent me to apprize 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 honour 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 moulding 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 colours 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 humilia 
tion. To fill up the measure of all these horrors, the com 
mandants 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 conse 
quences which may be produced by such military insurrec 
tions. 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 resolu 
tions, 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. 


c> 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 [cornices]." 

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 dis 
orders 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 
travellers who have seen the corps whose conduct is the 
best, rather observe in them the absence of mutiny than the 
existence of discipline. 

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 
honour 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 im 
punity is a fact that has not passed out of their minds. 


They do not abandon the principles laid down so ostenta 
tiously 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 vigour 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 authorise 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 solemnit e 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 Punish 
ments, 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, cornices "] of the soldiers, 
and all the disorders arising from idleness, luxury, dissipa 
tion, 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. 1 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. 

Concerning the likelihood of this improvement in dis 
cipline, by the free conversation of the soldiers with muni 
cipal festive societies, which is thus officially encouraged 

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


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 endeavours towards 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 administra 
tion (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 authorise 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 municipal 
ities. 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 fibres 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. 1 Si isti 
mihi largiantiir ut repueriscam, et in eorum amis vagiam, 
valde recusem ! 

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 display 
ing the debility of the Assembly. You cannot deliberate 
on the confusion of the army of the state, without disclosing 

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



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 Mons. de la Tour du Pin. He attributes 
the salvation of the municipalities to the good behaviour 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 con 
sequences, 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 municipal. 

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 municipali 
ties, 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 com 
mences 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 behaviour. 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 pro 
portion of them ? When such matters are in deliberation 
it is no extravagant supposition that they will incline to the 
opinion most favourable 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. 1 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 monopolised 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 sorts of rent 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 pro 
positions which infer universal consequences, and then you 

1 Courier Frar^ois, 3oth July, 1790. Assembled Nationale, Numero 


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 

The leaders teach the people to abhor and reject all 
feodality 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 
quit-rents and personal duties, which you have permitted 
them to redeem (but have furnished no money for the 
redemption), are as nothing to those burthens 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 pro 
prietors, made by a barbarous conqueror to his barbarous 
instruments ; and that the most grievous effects of the con 
quest are the land rents of every kind, as without question 
they are. 

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 monopolised to foster the pride and luxury 
of any men, who by nature are no better than themselves, 
and who, if they do not labour 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 duresse and 
force ; and that when the people re-entered 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 towards 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 superscrip 
tion, 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 
honours, 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 endeavoured 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 meta 
morphosed, 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 honours, 
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 honour, 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 favour 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 sabre and to bayonet us into a sub 
mission 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 national 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 titles and family 
ensigns. It would be only to follow up the principle of 
their reasonings, and to complete the analogy of their con 
duct. 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 conscien 
tiously 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, methodised 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 who 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 their 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, uncon 
nected 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. 1 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 co 
herence 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. 

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 establish 
ments, I shall say something of the ability showed by your 
legislators with regard to the revenue. 

In their proceedings relative to this object, if possible, 
1 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 
^145,000 sterling out of the public treasure. 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. 


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 occupa 
tion 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 administra 
tion the sphere of every active virtue. Public virtue, beino; 
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 characterise 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 labour, 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 ad 
minister, 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 for ever, by the clearness and candour 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 in 
crease 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 eHit 
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.-^ o,,i 
vestram rempublicam lantam amisistis tarn cito 1 

The sophisters and declaimers, as soon as the Assembly 
met, began with decrying the ancient constitution of the 
revenue m 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 
Th,s 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 through 
out 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 contri 
butions, perhaps equivalent, were totally disinclined to bear 
any part of the burthen, 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 equalising it, or compensating the provinces, or for 
conducting their minds to any scheme of accommodation 
with the 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 skilful in demolishing as the Assembly could 
be. They relieved themselves by throwing off the whole 
burthen. 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 indivi 
duals 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 common 
wealth, bore the whole burthen 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 honour 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 neces 
sities, 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 regu 
lation 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 imita 
tion 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 favourable. 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 has 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 judica 
tures? Have they even carefully compared the present 
pension list with the former? These politicians have been 
cruel, not economical. Comparing the expenses 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. 1 

1 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 ; 


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 aneient 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 engage 
ments with another; turning his very penury into his 
resource; and paying his interest with his rags? 

and the tremendous display that he has made of the havoc and devasta 
tion 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 rigour, 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. 


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 ass/ gnats. 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 pro 
fession ? 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 inefficacy 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 gar ire, 
quid illifacere? assignare postea assignare ; ensuita assign- 


are. 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 1 ) 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 so. 

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 com 
monly 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 
1 La Bruyere of Bossuet. 


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 
candour in the statement of the security ; everything which 
could aid the recovery of the demand. To take things in 
their most favourable 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 circum 
stances ? 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 

This would be to proceed like men of business, methodi 
cally 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- 

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 i4th 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 fulfil their engage 
ments 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 towards 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 what 
soever. 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 decep 
tion. 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 i4th 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. 1 

In order to persuade the world of the bottomless resource 

1 "Ce n est point a 1 assemblee entiere que je m adresse ici ; je ne 
parle qu a ceux qui 1 egarent, en lui cachant sous des gazes seduisantes 
le but ou ils 1 entrainent. C est a eux que je dis : votre objet, vous n en 
disconviendrez pas, c est d oter tout espoir au clerge, et 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 ; et, au 
contraire, vous faites ce qui ne conduit qu a 1 accabler de nouvelles 
charges. Vous avez rejete, a son prejudice, une offre de 400 millions, 
dont 1 acceptation pouvoit devenir un moyen de soulagement en sa 
faveur; et a cette ressource, aussi profitable que legitime, vous avez 
substitue une injustice ruineuse, qui, de votre propre aveu, charge le 
tre sor public, et par consequent le peuple, d un surcroit de depense 


of ecclesiastical confiscation, the Assembly have proceeded 
to other confiscations of estates in offices, which could not 
be done with any common colour without being com 
pensated 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 judi 
cature ; 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 ever 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 dili 
gence, and that of their legion of unknown under-agents, 
they have chosen to commit the charge of the forfeited 
estates, and 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 

annuelle de 50 millions au moins, et d un remboursement de 150 

" Malheureux peuple ! voila ce que vous vaut en dernier resultat 1 ex- 
propriation de 1 Eglise, et la durete des decrets taxateurs du traitement 
des ministres d une religion bienfaisante ; et desormais ils seront a votre 
charge: leurs charites soulageoient les pauvres ; et vous allez etre 
imposes pour subvenir a leur entretien ! " De FEtat de la France, p. 
8 1. See also p. 92, and the following pages. 


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 flood-gates 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 approba 
tion 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 his recommenda 
tion. 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 willcertainly ix&JudcRus 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 pre-occupied 
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 sup 
posed, 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 
flight of commerce something to captivate. It was where 
withal 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 favour 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 argu 
ment, 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 Escompie, and on all these old, exploded con 
trivances 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 proceed 
ings, 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 

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 laboured 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 un 
conquerable 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 \vere 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 dilapida 
tion of their public estate, is a cruel and insolent imposi 
tion. 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 contribu 
tion? My mind is made up to decide in favour 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 acquisi 
tion 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 labour to obtain 
what by labour 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 unprosperous. 

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 liberalise 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 govern- 
ment; 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 
stigmatised 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 labours 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 funda 

Whatever they are, I wish my countrymen rather to 
recommend to our neighbours the example of the British 
constitution, than to take models from them for the im 
provement 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 
m 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 man 
kind. 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 com 
monwealth 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 observa 
tion 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 tenour 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 endeavours 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 honours, 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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SE-: r APK 24 

DC Burke, Edmund 

150 Reflections on the 

B8 Revolution in France