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(and there were enough of them) were hardly thought sufficient ground for such a confiscation as it was for his purposes to make. He therefore, procured the formal surrender of these estates. All these operose proceedings were adopted by one of the most decided tyrants in the rolls of history, as necessary preliminaries, before he could venture, by bribing the members of his two servile houses with a share of the spoil, and holding out to them an eternal immunity from taxation, to demand a confirmation of his iniquitous proceedings by an act of parliament. Had fate reserved him to our times, four technical terms would have done his business, and saved him all this trouble ; he needed nothing more than one short form of incantation--" Philosophy, Light, Liberality, the Rights of Men."
I can say nothing in praise of those acts of tyranny, which no voice has hitherto ever commended under any of their false colours; yet in these false colours an homage was paid by despotism to justice. The power which was above all fear and all remorse was not set above all shame. Whilst shame keeps its watch. Virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart; nor will Moderation be utterly exiled from the minds of tyrants.
I believe every honest man sympathizes in his reflections with our political poet on that occasion, and will pray to avert the omen whenever these acts of rapacious despotism present themselves to his view or his imagination:
« May no such storm « Fall on our times, where ruin must reforın.
« Tell me (my muse) what monstrous, dire offence,
This same wealth, which is at all times treason and lefe 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 condition
of * The rest of the passage is this“ Who having spent the treasures of his crown, “ Condemns their luxury to seed his own. “ And yet this act, to varnish o'er the same .“ 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 same “ 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 aëry contemplations dwell ; " And, like the block, unmoved lay: but ours, “ As much too active, like the stork devours. “ Is there no temp'rate region can be known, “ Betwixt their frigid, and our torrid zone?
of the finances of France fuch, that, after deco. nomising (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 fufficient, you well know it might easily have been made. Mr. Neckar, in the budget which he laid before the Orders assembled ac Versailles, made a detailed exposition of the state of the French nation *.
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 ban lance with its expences. He stated the permanent charges of all descriptions, including the interest of a new loan of four hundred millions,
** Could we not wake from that lethargic dream,
Cooper's Hill, by Sir John Denham. ✷ Rapport de Mons. le directeur général des finances, fait par ordre du Roi à Versailles. Mai 5, 1789.
at 531,444,000 livres; the fixed revenue at
appercus, on peut faire disparoitre un deficit
If this representation of Mons. Neckar was false, then the assembly are in the highest degree culpable for having forced the king to accept as his minister, and since the king's deposition, for having employed as their minister, a man who had been capable of abusing so notoriously the confidence of his master and their own; in a matter too of the highest moment, and directly appertaining to his particular office. But if the representation was exact (as, having always along with you conceived a high degree of respect for Mr. Neckar, I make no doubt it was) then what can be said in favour of those, who, instead of moderate, reasonable, and general contribution, have in cold blood, and impelled by
no necessity, had recourse to a partial and cruel confiscation ?
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 56 millions, (or £2,200,000 sterling) as at first stated by Mr. Necker. Let us allow that all the resources he opposed to that deficiency were impudent and groundless fictions; and that the assembly (or their lords of articles at the Jacobins) were from thence justified in laying the whole burthen of that deficiency on the clergy,-—yet allowing all this, a necessity of for 2,200,000 sterling will not support a confiscation to the amount of five millions. The imposition of foi 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 managers.
* In the constitution of Scotland during the Stuart reigns, a committee fat for preparing bills; and none could pass, bat those previously approved by them. This committee was called lords of articles.