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strument of despotism was to be found in that grand magazine of offensive weapons, the rights of
When he resolved to rub the abbies, as the club of the Jacobins have robbed all the ecclesiasticks, 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 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 incanta
tion_" Philosophy, Light, Liberality, the Rights
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 reform. “ Tell me (my muse) what monstrous, dire offence, " What crimes could any Christian`king incense “ To such a rage? Was't luxury, or lust ? “ Was he so temperate, so chaste, so just ? “ Were these their crimes? they were his own
“ much more,
“ But wealth is crime enough to him that's poor'*."
• The rest of the passage is this “ Who having spent the treasures of his crown, “ Condemns their luxury to feed his own.
And yet this act, to varnish o'er the shame “Of sacrilege, must bear devotion's name.
This same wealth, which is at all times treason and lese nation to indigent and rapacious despo
“ No crime so bold, but would be understood
grope “ Than, led by a false guide, to err, by day? “ Whu sees these dismal heaps, but would demand, “ What barbarous invader sack'd 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.
tism, 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 finances of France such, that, after æconomising 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. Mr. Necker, in the budget which he laid before the orders assembled at 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 balance with its expences. He stated the permanent charges of all descriptions, including the interest of a new loan of four hundred millions, at 531,444,000 livres ; the fixed revenue at 475,294,000, making the deficiency 56, 150,000, or short of 2,200,000 sterling. But to balance it, he brought forward savings and improvements of revenue (considered as entirely
• Rapport de Mons. le Directeur-Général des Finances, fait par ordre du Roi à Versailles. Mai 5, 1789.
been oppressive and unjust, but it would not have been aitogether ruinous to those on whom it was imposed; and therefore it would not have answered the real purpose of the managers.
Perhaps persons, unacquainted with the state of France, on hearing the clergy and the noblesse were privileged in point of taxation, may be led to imagine, that previous to the revolution these bodies had contributed nothing to the state. This is a great mistake. They certainly did not contribute equally with each other, nor either of them equally with the commons. They both however contributed largely. Neither nobility nor clergy enjoyed any exemption from the excise on consumable commodities, from duties of custom, or from any of the other numerous indirect impositions, which in France, as well as here, make so very large a proportion of all pay: ments to the publick. The noblesse paid the capitation. They paid also a land-tax, called the twertieth penny, to the height sometimes of three, sometimes of four shillings in the pound; both of them direct impositions of no light nature, and no trivial produce. The clergy of the provinces annexed by conquest to France, (which in extent make about an eighth part of the whole, but in wealth a much larger proportion) paid likewise to the capitation and the twentieth penny, at the rate paid by the nobility. The clergy in the old