Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

the moment any difference arifes between your national affembly and any part of the nation, you must have recourfe to force. Nothing elfe is left to you; or rather you have left nothing elfe to yourselves. You fee by the report of your war minifter, that the diftribution of the army is in a great measure made with a view of internal coercion.* You must rule by an army; and you have infufed 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 ufe you refolve to make of it. The king is to call out troops to act against his people, when the world has been told, and the affertion is ftill ringing in our ears, that troops ought not to fire on citi, zens. The colonies affert to themselves an independent conftitution and a free trade. They must be conftrained by troops. In what chapter of your code of the rights of men, are they able to read, that it is a part of the rights of men to have their commerce monopolized and retrained for the benefit of others. As the colonists rife on you, the negroes rife on them. Troops again-Maffacre, torture, hanging! Thefe are your rights of men! Thefe are the fruits of metaphyfic declarations wantonly made, and fhamefully retracted! It was but the other day that the farmers of land in one of your provinces refused to pay fome forts of rents to the lord of the foil. In confequence of this you decree, that the country people fhall pay all rents and dues, except those which as grievances you have abolished; and if they refufe, then you order the king to march troops against them. You lay down metaphyfic propofitions which infer univerfal confequences, and then you attempt to limit logic by defpotifm. The leaders of the prefent fyftem tell them of their rights, as men, to take fortreffes, to murder guards, to feize on kings without the least appearance of authority even from the affembly, whilft, as the fovereign legillative body, that affembly was fitting in the name of the nation and yet these leaders prefume 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 guarantied by their own approbation.


Courier François, 30 July, 1790. Affemblée Nationale, Numero 210.

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, fo the people find them fparing in the extreme with regard to redrefs. They know that not only certain quit-rents and perfonal duties, which you have permitted them to redeem (but have furnished no money for the redemption) are as nothing to thofe burthens for which you have made no provifion at all. They know, that almost the whole system of landed property in its origin is feudal; that it is the diftribution of the poffeffions of the original proprietors, made by a barbarous conqueror to his barbarous inftruments; and that the moft grievous effects of the conqueft are the land rents of every kind, as without queftion they are.

The peasants, in all probability, are the defcendants of these ancient proprietors, Romans or Gauls. But if they fail, in any degree, in the titles which they make on the principles of antiquaries and lawyers, they retreat into the citadel of the rights of men. There they find that men are equal; and the earth, the kind and equal mother of all, ought not to be monopolized to fofter the pride and luxury of any men, who by nature are no better than themfelves, and who, if they do not labour for their bread, are worse. They find, that by the laws of nature the occupant and fubduer of the foil is the true proprietor; that there is no prescription against nature; and that the agreements (where any there are) which have been made with their landlords, during the time of slavery, are only the effect of dureffe and force; and that when the people re-entered into the rights of men, those agreements were -made as void as every thing else which had been settled under the prevalence of the old feudal and aristocratic tyranny. They will tell you that they fee 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 fucceffion and prefcription, they tell you, from the fpeech of Mr. Camus, published by the national affembly 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 fucceffion, they will tell you, that the fucceffion of those who have cultivated the foil is the true pedigree of property, and not rotten parchments and filly fubftitutions; that the lords have enjoyed their ufurpation too long; and that if they allow to these lay monks any charitable penfion, they ought to be thankful to the bounty of the true proprietor, who is fo generous towards a falfe claimant to his goods.

When the peasants give you back that coin of fophiftic reason, on which you have fet your image and fupercription, you cry it down as bafe money, and tell them you will pay for the future with French guards, and dragoons, and huffars. You hold up, to chaftife them, the fecond-hand authority of a king, who is only the inftrument 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 fupport of feudal dignities, feudal titles, and feudal offices. When you took down the cause as a grievance, why fhould the more grievous effect remain? As there are now no hereditary honours, and no diftinguished families, why are we taxed to maintain what you tell us ought not to exift? You have fent 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 thefe your rent-gatherers refpectable to us? No. You have fent them to us with their arms reversed, their fhields broken, their impreffes defaced; and fo difplumed, degraded, and metamorphofed, fuch unfeathered twolegged things, that we no longer know them. They are strangers to us. They do not even go by the names of our ancient lords. Phyfically they may be the fame men; though we are not quite fure of that, on your new philofophic doctrines of perfonal identity. In all other refpects they are totally changed. We do not


fee why we have not as good a right to refuse them their rents, as you have to abrogate all their honours, titles, and diftinctions. This we have never commiffioned you to do; and it is one inftance, among many indeed, of your affumption of undelegated power. We fee 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 tranfmitted as law to us. Through you, thefe burghers difpofe of the lives and fortunes of us all. Why fhould not you attend as much to the defires of the laborious husbandman with regard to our rent, by which we are affected in the most ferious manner, as you do to the demands of these infolent burghers, relative to diftinctions 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 neceffities. Is it among the rights of man to pay tribute to his equals ? Before this meafure of yours, we might have thought we were not perfectly equal. We might have entertained fome old, habitual, unmeaning prepoffeffion in favour of thofe landlords; but we cannot conceive with what other view than that of destroying all refpe& 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 refpect, and now you fend troops to fabre and to bayonet us into a submission to fear and force, which you did not fuffer us to yield to the mild authority of opinion.

The ground of fome of these arguments is horrid and ridiculous to all rational ears; but to the politicians of metaphyfics who have opened schools for fophiftry, and made establishments for anarchy, it is folid and conclufive. It is obvious, that on a mere confideration of the right, the leaders in the affembly would not in the least have scrupled to abrogate the rents along with the titles and family enfigns. It would be only to follow up the principle of their reasonings, and to complete the analogy of their conduct. But they had newly poffeffed themselves of a great body of landed property by confifcation. They had this commodity at market; and the


market would have been wholly deftroyed, if they were to permit the husbandmen to riot in the speculations with which they fo freely intoxicated themselves. The only fecurity which property enjoys in any one of its defcriptions, is from the interefts of their rapacity with regard to fome other. They have left nothing but their own arbitrary pleasure to determine what property is to be protected and what fubverted. Neither have they left any principle by which any of their municipalities can be bound to obedience; or even confcientiously obliged not to feparate from the whole, to become independent, or to connect itself with fome other state. The people of Lyons, it feems, have refufed lately to pay taxes. Why should they not? What lawful authority is there left to exact them? The king impofed some of them. The old ftates, methodifed by orders, settled the more ancient. They may fay to the affembly, Who are you, that are not our kings, nor the states we have elected, nor fit on the principles on which we have elected you ? And who are we, that when we fee the gabelles which you have ordered to be paid, wholly fhaken off, when we fee the act of difobedience 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 fame powers, the validity of which you have approved in others? To this the answer is, We will fend troops. The last reafon of kings, is always the first with your affembly. This military aid may ferve for a time, whilft the impreffion of the increase of pay remains, and the vanity of being umpires in all difputes is flattered. But this weapon will fnap fhort, unfaithful to the hand that employs it. The affembly keep a fchool where, fyftematically, and with unremitting perfeverance, they teach principles, and form regulations deftructive to all fpirit of fubordination, civil and military-and then they expect that they fhall 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 confidered in it



« AnteriorContinuar »