« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
leaders in all the late transactions, their junction and politicks will serve to account, not upon any principles of law or of policy, but as a cause, for the general fury with which all the landed property of ecclesiastical corporations has been attacked; and the great care which, contrary to their pretended principles, has been taken, of a monied interest originating from the authority of the crown. All the envy against wealth and power, tas artificially directed against other descriptions of riches. On what other principle than that which I have stated can we account for an appearance so extraordinary and unnatural as that of the ecclesiastical possessions, which had stood so many succession of ages and shocks of civil violences, and were guarded at once by justice, and by prejudice, being applied to the payment of debts, coniparatively recent, invidious, and contracted by a decried and subverted government?
Was the publick estate a sufficient stake for the publick debts ? Assume that it was not, and that a loss must be incurred somewhere. When the only estate lawfully possessed, and which the con tracting 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; P 2
and not third parties who had no concern with the transaction. Upon any insolvency they ought to suffer who were weak enough to lend üpon bad security, or they who fraudulently held out a security that was not valid. Laws are acquainted with no other rules of decision. But by the new institute of the rights of men, the only persons, who in equity ought to suffer, are the only persons who are to be saved harmless : those are to answer the debt who neither were lenders nor borrowers, mortgagers nor mortgagees.
What had the clergy to do with these transactions? What had they to do with any publick engagement further than the extent of their own debt? To that, to be sure, their estates were bound to the last acre. Nothing can lead more to the true spirit of the assembly, which fits for publick confiscation, with its new equity, and its new morality, than an attention to their proceeding with regard to this debt of the clergy. The body of confiscators, true to that monied interest for which they were false to every other, have found the clergy competent to incúr a legal debt. Of course they declared them l'eyally 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 de
ficiencies to the publick creditor, besides the publick at large, they must be those who managed the agreement. Why therefore are not the estates of all the comptrollers general confiscated *? Why not those of the long succession of ministers, financiers, and bankers who have been enriched whilst the nation was impoverished by their dealings and their counsels? Why is not the estate of Mr. La: borde declared forfeited rather than of the archbishop of Paris, v?ho has had nothing to do in the creation or in the jobbing of the publick 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 wher ther the expences of the duke de Choiseul have left any thing of the infinite sums which he had derived from the bounty of bis 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’Air guillon had been snatched (as it was generally thought) from the block by the hand of a protectiag despotism. He was a minister, and had some concern in the affairs of that prodigal period. Why do I not see his estate delivered up to the municipalities in which it is situated? The noble • Al bave been confiscated in their tura.
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 publick debt? Why is the estate of the duke de Rochefoucault more sacred than that of the cardinal de Rochefoucault? The former is, I doubt not, a worthy person; and (if it were not a sort of profaneness to talk of the use, as affecting the title to property) he makes a good use of his revenues; but it is no disrespect to him to say, what authentick 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 publick-spirited. Can one hear of the proscription of such persons, and the confiscation of their effects, without indignation and horrour? 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 “ crudelem illam hastam” in all their auctions of rapine, have ever set up to sale the goods of the con. quered citizen to such an enormous amount. It must be allowed in favour of those tyrants of anti
* Not his brother, nor any near relation ; but this mistake does not affect the argument.
quity, that what was done by them could hardly be said to be done in cold blood. Their passions were inflamed, their tempers soured, their understandings confused, with the spirit of revenge, with the innumerable reciprocated and recent inflictions and retaliations of blood and rapine. They were driven beyond a!l 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 forgiveness.
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 seized upon five millions sterling of annual rent, and turned forty or fifty thousand human creatures out of their houses, because “such was your plea“sure.” The tyrant Harry the eighth of England, as he was not better enlightened than the Roman Marius's and Sylla's, and had not studied in your new schools, did not know what an effectual in