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The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 1 (of 6) - The Ancient Regime
by Hippolyte A. Taine
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Other dues are also ancient taxes, but he still performs the service for which they are a quittance. The king, in fact, suppresses many of the tolls, twelve hundred in 1724, and the suppression is kept up. A good many still remain to the profit of the seignior,—on bridges, on highways, on fords, on boats ascending or descending, several being very lucrative, one of them producing 90,000 livres[1225]. He pays for the expense of keeping up bridge, road, ford and towpath. In like manner, on condition of maintaining the market-place and of providing scales and weights gratis, he levies a tax on provisions and on merchandise brought to his fair or to his market.—At Angouleme a forty-eighth of the grain sold, at Combourg near Saint-Malo, so much per head of cattle, elsewhere so much on wine, eatables and fish[1226] Having formerly built the oven, the winepress, the mill and the slaughterhouse, he obliges the inhabitants to use these or pay for their support, and he demolishes all constructions, which might enter into competition with him[1227]. These, again, are evidently monopolies and octrois going back to the time when he was in possession of public authority.

Not only did he then possess the public authority but also possessed the soil and the men on it. Proprietor of men, he is so still, at least in many respects and in many provinces. "In Champagne proper, in the Senonais, in la Marche, in the Bourbonnais, in the Nivernais, in Burgundy, in Franche-Comte, there are none, or very few domains, no signs remaining of ancient servitude. . . . A good many personal serfs, or so constituted through their own gratitude, or that of their progenitors, are still found."[1228] There, man is a serf, sometimes by virtue of his birth, and again through a territorial condition. Whether in servitude, or as mortmains, or as cotters, one way or another, 1,500,000 individuals, it is said, wore about their necks a remnant of the feudal collar; this is not surprising since, on the other side of the Rhine, almost all the peasantry still wear it. The seignior, formerly master and proprietor of all their goods and chattels and of all their labor, can still exact of them from ten to twelve corvees per annum and a fixed annual tax. In the barony of Choiseul near Chaumont in Champagne, "the inhabitants are required to plow his lands, to sow and reap them for his account and to put the products into his barns. Each plot of ground, each house, every head of cattle pays a quit-claim; children may inherit from their parents only on condition of remaining with them; if absent at the time of their decease he is the inheritor." This is what was styled in the language of the day an estate "with excellent dues."—Elsewhere the seignior inherits from collaterals, brothers or nephews, if they were not in community with the defunct at the moment of his death, which community is only valid through his consent. In the Jura and the Nivernais, he may pursue fugitive serfs, and demand, at their death, not only the property left by them on his domain, but, again, the pittance acquired by them elsewhere. At Saint-Claude he acquires this right over any person that passes a year and a day in a house belonging to the seigniory. As to ownership of the soil we see still more clearly that he once had entire possession of it. In the district subject to his jurisdiction the public domain remains his private domain; roads, streets and open squares form a part of it; he has the right to plant trees in them and to take trees up. In many provinces, through a pasturage rent, he obliges the inhabitants to pay for permits to pasture their cattle in the fields after the crop, and in the open common lands, (les terres vaines et vagues). Unnavigable streams belong to him, as well as islets and accumulations formed in them and the fish that are found in them. He has the right of the chase over the whole extent of his jurisdiction, this or that commoner being sometimes compelled to throw open to him his park enclosed by walls.

One more trait serves to complete the picture. This head of the State, a proprietor of man and of the soil, was once a resident cultivator on his own small farm amidst others of the same class, and, by this title, he reserved to himself certain working privileges which he always retained. Such is the right of banvin, still widely diffused, consisting of the privilege of selling his own wine, to the exclusion of all others, during thirty or forty days after gathering the crop. Such is, in Touraine, the right of preage, which is the right to send his horses, cows and oxen "to browse under guard in his subjects' meadows." Such is, finally, the monopoly of the great dove-cot, from which thousands of pigeons issue to feed at all times and seasons and on all grounds, without any one daring to kill or take them. Through another effect of the same qualification he imposes quit-claims on property on which he has formerly given perpetual leases, and, under the terms cens, censives (quit-rents), carpot (share in wine), champart (share in grain), agrier (a cash commission on general produce), terrage parciere (share of fruits). All these collections, in money or in kind, are as various as the local situations, accidents and transactions could possibly be. In the Bourbonnais he has one-quarter of the crop; in Berry twelve sheaves out of a hundred. Occasionally his debtor or tenant is a community: one deputy in the National Assembly owned a fief of two hundred casks of wine on three thousand pieces of private property.[1229] Besides, through the retrait censuel (a species of right of redemption), he can "retain for his own account all property sold on the condition of remunerating the purchaser, but previously deducting for his benefit the lord's dues (lods and ventes)." The reader, finally, must take note that all these restrictions on property constitute, for the seignior, a privileged credit as well on the product as on the price of the ground, and, for the copyholders, an unprescriptive, indivisible and irredeemable debt.-Such are the feudal. To form an idea of them in their totality we must always imagine the count, bishop or abbot of the tenth century as sovereign and proprietor in his own canton. The form which human society then takes grows out of the exigencies of near and constant danger with a view to local defense. By subordinating all interests to the necessities of living, in such a way as to protect the soil by fixing on the soil, through property and its enjoyment, a troop of brave men under the leadership of a brave chieftain. The danger having passed away the structure became dilapidated. For a pecuniary compensation the seigniors allowed the economical and tenacious peasant to pick off it a good many stones. Through constraint they suffered the king to appropriate to himself the public portion. The primitive foundation remains, property as organized in ancient times, the fettered or exhausted land supporting a social conformation that has melted away, in short, an order of privileges and of thralldom of which the cause and the purpose have disappeared. [1230]



V. They may be justified by local and general services.

All this does not suffice to render this order detrimental or even useless. In reality, the local chief who no longer performs his ancient service may perform a new one in exchange for it. Instituted for war when life was militant, he may serve in quiet times when the regime is pacific, while the advantage to the nation is great in which this transformation is accomplished; for, retaining its chiefs, it is relieved of the uncertain and perilous operation which consists in creating others. There is nothing more difficult to establish than a government, that is to say, a stable government: this involves the command of some and the obedience of all, which is against nature. That a man in his study, often a feeble old person, should dispose of the lives and property of twenty or thirty million men, most of whom he has never seen; that he should order them to pay away a tenth or a fifth of their income and they should do it; that he should order them to go and slaughter or be slaughtered and that they should go; that they should thus continue for ten years, twenty years, through every kind of trial, defeat, misery and invasion, as with the French under Louis XIV, the English under Pitt, the Prussians under Frederick II., without either sedition or internal disturbances, is certainly a marvelous thing. And, for a people to remain free it is essential that they should be ready to do this always. Neither this fidelity nor this concord is due to sober reflection (la raison raisonnante); reason is too vacillating and too feeble to bring about such a universal and energetic result. Abandoned to itself and suddenly restored to a natural condition, the human flock is capable only of agitation, of mutual strife until pure force at length predominates, as in barbarous times, and until, amidst the dust and outcry, some military leader rises up who is, generally, a butcher. Historically considered it is better to continue so than to begin over again. Hence, especially when the majority is uncultivated, it is beneficial to have chiefs designated beforehand through the hereditary custom by which people follow them, and through the special education by which they are qualified. In this case the public has no need to seek for them to obtain them. They are already at hand, in each canton, visible, accepted beforehand; they are known by their names, their title, their fortune, their way of living; deference to their authority is established. They are almost always deserving of this authority; born and brought up to exercise it they find in tradition, in family example and in family pride, powerful ties that nourish public spirit in them; there is some probability of their comprehending the duties with which their prerogative endows them.

Such is the renovation, which the feudal regime admits of. The ancient chieftain can still guarantee his pre-eminence by his services, and remain popular without ceasing to be privileged. Once a captain in his district and a permanent gendarme, he is to become the resident and beneficent proprietor, the voluntary promoter of useful undertakings, obligatory guardian of the poor, the gratuitous administrator and judge of the canton, the unsalaried deputy of the king, that is to say, a leader and protector as previously, through a new system of patronage accommodated to new circumstances. Local magistrate and central representative, these are his two principal functions, and, if we extend our observation beyond France we find that he exercises either one or the other, or both together.

NOTES:

[Footnote 1201: See note 1 at the end of the volume]

[Footnote 1202: One league (lieu) ca. 4 km. (SR.)]

[Footnote 1203: Suger "Vie de Louis VI.," chap. VIII.—Philippe I. became master of the Chateau de Montlhery only by marrying one of his sons to the heiress of the fief. He thus addressed his successor: "My child, take good care to keep this tower of which the annoyances have made me grow old, and whose frauds and treasons have given me no peace nor rest'.]

[Footnote 1204: Leonce de Lavergne, "Les Assemblees Povinciales," p. 19.—Consult the official statement of the provincial assemblies, and especially the chapters treating of the vingtiemes (an old tax of one-twentieth on incomes.-TR.)]

[Footnote 1205: A report made by Treilhard in the name of the ecclesiastic committee, (Moniteur, 19th December, 1789): The religious establishments for sale in Paris alone were valued at 150 millions. Later (in the session of the 13th February, 1791), Amelot estimates the property sold and to be sold, not including forests, at 3,700 millions. M. de Bouille estimates the revenue of the clergy at 180 millions. (Memoires, p.44). {French currency is so well known to readers in general it is not deemed necessary to reduce statements of this kind to the English or American standard, except in special cases.-TR.]

[Footnote 1206: A report by Chasset on Tithes, April, 1790. Out of 123 millions 23 go for the costs of collection: but, in estimating the revenue of an individual the sums he pays to his intendants, overseers and cashiers are not deducted.—Talleyrand (October 10, 1789) estimates the revenue of real property at 70 millions and its value at 2,100 millions. On examination however both capital and revenue are found considerably larger than at first supposed. (Reports of Treilbard and Chasset). Moreover, in his valuation, Talleyrand left out habitations and their enclosures as well as a reservation of one-fourth of the forests. Besides this there must be included in the revenue before 1789 the seigniorial rights enjoyed by the Church. Finally, according to Arthur Young, the rents which the French proprietor received were not two and a half per cent. as nowadays but three and three quarters per cent—The necessity of doubling the figures to obtain a present money valuation is supported by innumerable facts, and among others the price of a day's labor, which at that time was nineteen sous. (Arthur Young). (Today, in 1999, in France the minimum legal daily wage is around 300 francs. 20 sous constituted a franc. So the sums referred to by Taine under the Revolution must be multiplied with at least 300 in order to compare them with 1990 values. To obtain dollars multiply with 50. SR.)]

[Footnote 1207: National archives, among the papers of the ecclesiastical committee, box (portfolios) 10, 11, 13, 25.—Beugnot's Memoirs, I. 49, 79.—Delbos, "L'Eglise de France," I. 399.—Duc de Levis, "Souvenirs et Portraits," p.156.]

[Footnote 1208: Leonce de Lavergne, "Economie Rurale en France," p.24.—Perin, "La Jeunesse de Robespierre," (Statements of grievances in Artois), p.317. ( In French "cahiers des doleances"—statements of local complaints and expectations—prepared all over France for use by their delegates for the Etats Generaux. SR.)]

[Footnote 1209: Boiteau, "Etat de la France en 1789," p.47. Voltaire, "Politique et Legislation," the petition of the serfs of St. Claude.]

[Footnote 1210: Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," II. 272.]

[Footnote 1211: De Bouille, "Memoires," p.41. It must not be forgotten that these figures must be doubled to show corresponding sums of the present day. 10,000 livres (francs) rental in 1766 equal in value 20,000 in 1825. (Madame de Genlis, "Memoirs," chap. IX). Arthur Young, visiting a chateau in Seine-et-Marne, writes: "I have been speaking to Madame de Guerchy; and I have learned from this conversation that to live in a chateau like this with six men servants, five maids, eight horses, a garden and a regular table, with company, but never go to Paris, might be done for 1,000 louis per annum. It would in England cost 2,000. At the present day in France 24,000 francs would be 50,000 and more." Arthur Young adds: "There are gentlemen (noblesse) that live in this country on 6,000 or 8000 and keep two men, two maids, three horses and a cabriolet." To do this nowadays would require from 20,000 to 25,000.—It has become much more expensive, especially due to the rail-ways, to live in the provinces. "According to my friends du Rouergue," he says again, "I could live at Milhau with my family in the greatest abundance on 100 louis (2,000 francs); there are noble families supporting themselves on revenues of fifty and even twenty-five louis." At Milhau, to day, prices are triple and even quadruple.—In Paris, a house in the Rue St. Honore which was rented for 6,000 francs in 1787 is now rented for 16,000 francs.]

[Footnote 1212: "Rapports de l'Agence du clerge de 1780 a 1785." In relation to the feudal rights the abolition of which is demanded in Boncerf's work, the chancellor Seguier said in 1775: "Our Kings have themselves declared that they are, fortunately, impotent to make any attack on property."]

[Footnote 1213: Leonce de Lavergne, "Les Assemblees provinciales," p.296. Report of M. Schwendt on Alsace in 1787.—Warroquier, "Etat de la France en 1789," I.541.—Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," I. 19, 102.—Turgot, (collection of economists), "Reponse aux observations du garde des sceaux sur la suppression des corvees," I. 559.]

[Footnote 1214: This term embraces various taxes originating in feudal times, and rendered particularly burdensome to the peasantry through the management of the privileged classes.—TR.]

[Footnote 1215: The arpent measures between one and one and a half acres.—TR]

[Footnote 1216: De Tocqueville, "L'Ancien Regime et la Revolution," p. 406. "The inhabitants of Montbazon had subjected to taxation the stewards of the duchy which belonged to the Prince de Rohan. This prince caused this abuse to be stopped and succeeded in recovering the sum of 5,344 livres which he had been made to pay unlawfully under this right"]

[Footnote 1217: Necker, "Administration des Finances:" ordinary taxation (la taille) produced 91 millions; les vingtiemes 76,500,000; the capitation tax 41,500,000.]

[Footnote 1218: Raudot, "La France avant la Revolution," p. 51.—De Bouille, "Memoires," p. 44.—Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," II, p. 181. The above relates to what was called the clergy of France, (116 dioceses). The clergy called foreign, consisted of that of the three bishoprics and of the regions conquered since Louis XIV; it had a separate regime and paid somewhat like the nobles.—The decimes which the clergy of France levied on its property amounted to a sum of 10,500,000 livres.]

[Footnote 1219: De Toqueville, ib. 104, 381, 407.—Necker, ib. I. 102.—Boiteau, ib. 362.—De Bouille, ib. 26, 41, and the following pages. Turgot, ib. passim.—Cf. passim.—Cf. Book V, ch. 2, on the taillage.]

[Footnote 1220: See "La France ecclesiastique, 1788," for these details.]

[Footnote 1221: Official statements and manuscript reports of the States-General of 1789. "Archives nationales," vol. LXXXVIII pp. 23, 85, 121, 122, 152. Proces-verbal of January 12, 1789.]

[Footnote 1222: Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," V. II. pp. 271, 272. "The house Orleans, he says, is in possession of the excises." He estimates this tax at 51,000,000 for the entire kingdom.]

[Footnote 1223: Beugnot, "Memoires," V. I. p. 77. Observe the ceremonial system with the Duc de Penthievre, chapters I., III. The Duc d'Orleans organizes a chapter and bands of canonesses. The post of chancellor to the Duc d'Orleans is worth 100,000 livres per annum, ("Gustave III. et la cour de France," by Geffroy, I. 410.)]

[Footnote 1224: De Tocqueville, ibid. p.40.—Renauldon, advocate in the bailiwick of Issoudun, "Traite historique et pratique des droits seigneuriaux, 1765," pp. 8, 10, 81 and passim.—Statement of grievance of a magistrate of the Chatelet on seigniorial judgments, 1789.—Duvergier, "Collection des Lois," Decrees of the 15-28 March, 1790, on the abolition of the feudal regime, Merlin of Douai, reporter, I. 114 Decrees of 19-23 July, 1790, I. 293. Decrees of the 13-20 April, 1791, (I. 295.)]

[Footnote 1225: National archives, G, 300, (1787). "M. de Boullongne, seignior of Montereau, here possesses a toll-right consisting of 2 deniers (farthings) per ox, cow, calf or pig; 1 per sheep; 2 for a laden animal; 1 sou and 8 deniers for each four-wheeled vehicle; 5 deniers for a two-wheeled vehicle, and 10 deniers for a vehicle drawn by three, four, or five horses; besides a tax of 10 deniers for each barge, boat or skiff ascending the river; the same tax for each team of horses dragging the boats up; 1 denier for each empty cask going up." Analogous taxes are enforced at Varennes for the benefit of the Duc de Chatelet, seignior of Varennes.]

[Footnote 1226: National archives, K, 1453, No.1448: A letter by M. de Meulan, dated June 12, 1789. This tax on grain belonged at that time to the Comte d'Artois.—Chateaubriand, "Memoires," I.73.]

[Footnote 1227: Renauldon, ibid.. 249, 258. "There are few seignioral towns which have a communal slaughter-house. The butcher must obtain special permission from the seignior."—The tax on grinding was an average of a sixteenth. In many provinces, Anjou, Berry, Maine, Brittany, there was a lord's mill for cloths and barks.]

[Footnote 1228: Renauldon, ibid.. pp. 181, 200, 203; observe that he wrote this in 1765. Louis XVI. suppressed serfdom on the royal domains in 1778; and many of the seigniors, especially in Franche-Comte, followed his example. Beugnot, "Memoires," V. I. p.142.—Voltaire, "Memoire au roi sur les serfs du Jura."—"Memoires de Bailly," II. 214, according to an official report of the Nat. Ass., August 7, 1789. I rely on this report and on the book of M. Clerget, curate of Onans in Franche-Comte who is mentioned in it. M. Clerget says that there are still at this time (1789) 1,500,000 subjects of the king in a state of servitude but he brings forward no proofs to support these figures. Nevertheless it is certain that the number of serfs and mortmains is still very great. National archives, H; 723, registers on mortmains in Franche-Comte in 1788; H. 200, registers by Amelot on Burgundy in 1785. "In the sub-delegation of Charolles the inhabitants seem a century behind the age; being subject to feudal tenures, such as mort-main, neither mind nor body have any play. The redemption of mortmain, of which the king himself has set the example, has been put at such an exorbitant price by laymen, that the unfortunate sufferers cannot, and will not be able to secure it.]

[Footnote 1229: Boiteau, ibid.. p. 25, (April, 1790),—Beugnot, "Memoires," I. 142.]

[Footnote 1230: See END-NOTE 2 at the end of the volume]



CHAPTER III. LOCAL SERVICES DUE BY THE PRIVILEGED CLASSES.



I. Examples in Germany and England.—These services are not rendered by the privileged classes in France.

Let us consider the first one, local government. There are countries at the gates of France in which feudal subjection, more burdensome than in France, seems lighter because, in the other scale, the benefits counterbalance disadvantages. At Munster, in 1809, Beugnot finds a sovereign bishop, a town of convents and a large seigniorial mansion, a few merchants for indispensable trade, a small bourgeoisie, and, all around, a peasantry composed of either colons or serfs. The seignior deducts a portion of all their crops in provisions or in cattle, and, at their deaths, a portion of their inheritances. If they go away their property revert to him. His servants are chastised like Russian moujiks, and in each outhouse is a trestle for this purpose "without prejudice to graver penalties," probably the bastinado and the like. But "never did the culprit entertain the slightest idea of complaint or appeal." For if the seignior whips them as the father of family he protects them "as the father of a family, ever coming to their assistance when misfortune befalls them, and taking care of them in their illness." He provides an asylum for them in old age; he looks after their widows, and rejoices when they have plenty of children. He is bound to them by common sympathies they are neither miserable nor uneasy; they know that, in every extreme or unforeseen necessity, he will be their refuge.[1301] In the Prussian states and according to the code of Frederick the Great, a still more rigorous servitude is atoned for by similar obligations. The peasantry, without their seignior's permission, cannot alienate a field, mortgage it, cultivate it differently, change their occupation or marry. If they leave the seigniory he can pursue them in every direction and bring them back by force. He has the right of surveillance over their private life, and he chastises them if drunk or lazy. When young they serve for years as servants in his mansion; as cultivators they owe him corvees and, in certain places, three times a week. But, according to both law and custom, he is obliged "to see that they are educated, to succor them in indigence, and, as far as possible, to provide them with the means of support." Accordingly he is charged with the duties of the government of which he enjoys the advantages, and, under the heavy hand which curbs them, but which sustains them, we do not find his subjects recalcitrant. In England, the upper class attains to the same result by other ways. There also the soil still pays the ecclesiastic tithe, strictly the tenth, which is much more than in France.[1302] The squire, the nobleman, possesses a still larger portion of the soil than his French neighbor and, in truth, exercises greater authority in his canton. But his tenants, the lessees and the farmers, are no longer his serfs, not even his vassals; they are free. If he governs it is through influence and not by virtue of a command. Proprietor and patron, he is held in respect. Lord-lieutenant, officer in the militia, administrator, justice, he is visibly useful. And, above all, he lives at home, from father to son; he belongs to the district. He is in hereditary and constant relation with the local public through his occupations and through his pleasures, through the chase and caring for the poor, through his farmers whom he admits at his table, and through his neighbors whom he meets in committee or in the vestry. This shows how the old hierarchies are maintained: it is necessary, and it suffices, that they should change their military into a civil order of things and find modern employment for the chieftain of feudal times.



II. Resident Seigniors.

Remains of the beneficent feudal spirit.—They are not rigorous with their tenants but no longer retain the local government.—Their isolation.—Insignificance or mediocrity of their means of subsistence.—Their expenditure.—Not in a condition to remit dues.—Sentiments of peasantry towards them.

If we go back a little way in our history we find here and there similar nobles.[1303] Such was the Duc de Saint-Simon, father of the writer, a real sovereign in his government of Blaye, a respected by the king himself. Such was the grandfather Mirabeau, in his chateau of Mirabeau in Provence, the haughtiest, most absolute, most intractable of men, "demanding that the officers whom he appointed in his regiment should be favorably received by the king and by his ministers," tolerating the inspectors only as a matter of form, but heroic, generous, faithful, distributing the pension offered to himself among six wounded captains under his command, mediating for poor litigants in the mountain, driving off his grounds the wandering attorneys who come to practice their chicanery, "the natural protector of man even against ministers and the king. A party of tobacco inspectors having searched his curate's house, he pursues them so energetically on horseback that they hardly escape him by fording the Durance. Whereupon, "he wrote to demand the dismissal of the officers, declaring that unless this was done every person employed in the Excise should be driven into the Rhine or the sea; some of them were dismissed and the director himself came to give him satisfaction." Finding his canton sterile and the settlers on it idle he organized them into groups, women and children, and, in the foulest weather, puts himself at their head, with his twenty severe wounds and neck supported by a piece of silver. He pays them to work making them clear off the lands, which he gives them on leases of a hundred years, and he makes them enclose a mountain of rocks with high walls and plant it with olive trees. "No one, under any pretext could be excused from working unless he was ill, and in this case under treatment, or occupied on his own property, a point in which my father could not be deceived, and nobody would have dared to do it." These are the last offshoots of the old, knotty, savage trunk, but still capable of affording shelter. Others could still be found in remote cantons, in Brittany and in Auvergne, veritable district commanders, and I am sure that in time of need the peasants would obey them as much out of respect as from fear. Vigor of heart and of body justifies its own ascendancy, while the superabundance of energy, which begins in violence, ends in beneficence.

Less independent and less harsh a paternal government subsists elsewhere, if not in the law at least through custom. In Brittany, near Treguier and Lannion, says the bailiff of Mirabeau,[1304] "the entire staff of the coast-guard is composed of people of quality and of stock going back a thousand years. I have not seen one of them get irritated with a peasant-soldier, while, at the same time, I have seen on the part of the latter an air of filial respect for them. . . . It is a terrestrial paradise with respect to patriarchal manners, simplicity and true grandeur; the attitude of the peasants towards the seigniors is that of an affectionate son with his father; and the seigniors in talking with the peasants use their rude and coarse language, and speak only in a kind and genial way. We see mutual regard between masters and servants." Farther south, in the Bocage, a wholly agricultural region, and with no roads, where ladies are obliged to travel on horseback and in ox-carts, where the seignior has no farmers, but only twenty-five or thirty metayers who work for him on shares, the supremacy of the great is no offense to their inferiors. People live together harmoniously when living together from birth to death, familiarly, and with the same interests, occupations and pleasures; like soldiers with their officers, on campaigns and under tents, in subordination although in companionship, familiarity never endangering respect. "The seignior often visits them on their small farms,[1305] talks with them about their affairs, about taking care of their cattle, sharing in the accidents and mishaps which likewise seriously affect him. He attends their children's weddings and drinks with the guests. On Sunday there are dances in the chateau court, and the ladies take part in them." When he is about to hunt wolves or boars the curate gives notice of it in the sermon; the peasants, with their guns gaily assemble at the rendezvous, finding the seignior who assigns them their posts, and strictly observing the directions he gives them. Here are soldiers and a captain ready made. A little later, and of their own accord, they will choose him for commandant in the national guard, mayor of the commune, chief of the insurrection, and, in 1792, the marksmen of the parish are to march under him against "the blues" as, at this epoch against the wolves. Such are the remnants of the good feudal spirit, like the scattered remnants of a submerged continent. Before Louis XIV., the spectacle was similar throughout France. "The rural nobility of former days," says the Marquis de Mirabeau, "spent too much time over their cups, slept on old chairs or pallets, mounted and started off to hunt before daybreak, met together on St. Hubert's, and did not part until after the octave of St. Martin's. . . . These nobles led a gay and hard life, voluntarily, costing the State very little, and producing more through its residence and manure than we of today with our tastes, our researches, our cholics and our vapors. . The custom, and it may be said, the obsession of making presents to the seigniors, is well known. I have, in my lifetime, seen this custom everywhere disappear, and rightly so. . . . The seigniors are no longer of any consequence to them; is quite natural that they should be forgotten by them as they forget. . . . The seignior being no longer known on his estates everybody pillages him, which is right."[1306] Everywhere, except in remote comers, the affection and unity of the two classes has disappeared; the shepherd is separated from his flock, and pastors of the people end in being considered its parasites.

Let us first follow them into the provinces. We here find only the minor class of nobles and a portion of those of medium rank; the rest are in Paris.[1307] There is the same line of separation in the church: abbes-commendatory, bishops and archbishops very seldom live at home. The grand-vicars and canons live in the large towns; only priors and curates dwell in the rural districts. Ordinarily the entire ecclesiastic or lay staff is absent; residents are furnished only by the secondary or inferior grades. What are their relations with the peasant? One point is certain, and that is that they are not usually hard, nor even indifferent, to him. Separated by rank they are not so by distance; neighborhood is of itself a bond among men. I have read in vain, but I have not found them the rural tyrants, which the declaimers of the Revolution portray them. Haughty with the bourgeois they are generally kind to the villager. "Let any one travel through the provinces," says a contemporary advocate, "over the estates occupied by the seigniors. Out of one hundred one may be found tyrannizing his dependents; all the others, patiently share the misery of those subject to their jurisdiction. . . They give their debtors time, remit sums due, and afford them every facility for settlement. They mollify and temper the sometimes over-rigorous proceedings of the fermiers, stewards and other men of business."[1308] An Englishwoman, who observes them in Provence just after the Revolution, says that, detested at Aix, they are much beloved on their estates. "Whilst they pass the first citizens with their heads erect and an air of disdain, they salute peasants with extreme courtesy and affability." One of them distributes among the women, children and the aged on his domain wool and flax to spin during the bad season, and, at the end of the year, he offers a prize of one hundred livres for the two best pieces of cloth. In numerous instances the peasant-purchasers of their land voluntarily restore it for the purchase money. Around Paris, near Romainville, after the terrible storm of 1788 there is prodigal alms-giving; "a very wealthy man immediately distributes forty thousand francs among the surrounding unfortunates." During the winter, in Alsace and in Paris, everybody is giving; "in front of each hotel belonging to a well-known family a big log is burning to which, night and day, the poor can come and warm themselves." In the way of charity, the monks who remain on their premises and witness the public misery continue faithful to the spirit of their institution. On the birth of the Dauphin the Augustins of Montmorillon in Poitou pay out of their own resources the tailles and corvees of nineteen poor families. In 1781, in Provence, the Dominicans of Saint Maximin support the population of their district in which the tempest had destroyed the vines and the olive trees. "The Carthusians of Paris furnish the poor with eighteen hundred pounds of bread per week. During the winter of 1784 there is an increase of alms-giving in all the religious establishments; their farmers distribute aid among the poor people of the country, and, to provide for these extra necessities, many of the communities increase the rigor of their abstinences." When at the end of 1789, their suppression is in question, I find a number of protests in their favor, written by municipal officers, by prominent individuals, by a crowd of inhabitants, workmen and peasants, and these columns of rustic signatures are eloquent. Seven hundred families of Cateau-Cambresis[1309] send in a petition to retain "the worthy abbes and monks of the Abbey of St. Andrew, their common fathers and benefactors, who fed them during the tempest." The inhabitants of St. Savin, in the Pyrenees, "portray with tears of grief their consternation" at the prospect of suppressing their abbey of Benedictines, the sole charitable organization in this poor country. At Sierk, Thionville, "the Chartreuse," say the leading citizens, "is, for us, in every respect, the Ark of the Lord; it is the main support of from more than twelve to fifteen hundred persons who come it every day in the week. This year the monks have distributed amongst them their own store of grain at sixteen livres less than the current price." The regular canons of Domievre, in Lorrraine, feed sixty poor persons twice a week; it is essential to retain them, says the petition, "out of pity and compassion for poor beings whose misery cannot be imagined; where there no regular convents and canons in their dependency, the poor cry with misery."[1310] At Moutiers-Saint-John, near Semur in Burgundy, the Benedictines of Saint-Maur support the entire village and supply it this year with food during the famine. Near Morley in Barrois, the abbey of Auvey, of the Cistercian order, "was always, for every village in the neighborhood, a bureau of charity." At Airvault, in Poitou, the municipal officers, the colonel of the national guard, and numbers of "peasants and inhabitants" demand the conservation of the regular canons of St. Augustin. "Their existence," says the petition, "is absolutely essential, as well for our town as for the country, and we should suffer an irreparable loss in their suppression." The municipality and permanent council of Soissons writes that the establishment of Saint-Jean des Vignes "has always earnestly claimed its share of the public charges. This is the institution which, in times of calamity, welcomes homeless citizens and provides them with subsistence. It alone bears the expenses of the assembly of the bailiwick at the time of the election of deputies to the National Assembly. A company of the regiment of Armagnac is actually lodged under its roof. This institution is always found wherever sacrifices are to be made." In scores of places declarations are made that the monks are "the fathers of the poor." In the diocese of Auxerre, during the summer of 1789, the Bernardines of Rigny "stripped themselves of all they possessed in favor of the inhabitants of neighboring villages: bread, grain, money and other supplies, have all been lavished on about twelve hundred persons who, for more than six weeks, never failed to present themselves at their door daily. . . Loans, advances made on farms, credit with the purveyors of the house, all has contributed to facilitating their means for relieving the people." I omit many other traits equally forcible; we see that the ecclesiastical and lay seigniors are not simple egoists when they live at home. Man is compassionate of ills of which he is a witness; absence is necessary to deaden their vivid impression; they move the heart when the eye contemplates them. Familiarity, moreover, engenders sympathy; one cannot remain insensible to the trials of a poor man to whom, for over twenty years, one says good-morning every day on passing him, with whose life one is acquainted, who is not an abstract unit in the imagination, a statistical cipher, but a sorrowing soul and a suffering body.—And so much the more because, since the writings of Rousseau and the economists, a spirit of humanity, daily growing stronger, more penetrating and more universal, has arisen to soften the heart. Henceforth the poor are thought of, and it is esteemed an honor to think of them. We have only to read the registers of the States-General[1311] to see that spirit of philanthropy spreads from Paris even to the chateaux and abbeys of the provinces. I am satisfied that, except for a few country squires, either huntsmen or drinkers, carried away by the need of physical exercise, and confined through their rusticity to an animal life, most of the resident seigniors resembled, in fact or in intention, the gentry whom Marmontel, in his moral tales, then brought on the stage. Fashion took this direction, and people in France always follow the fashion. There is nothing feudal in their characters; they are "sensible" people, mild, very courteous, tolerably cultivated, fond of generalities, and easily and quickly roused, and very much in earnest. For instance like that amiable logician the Marquis de Ferrieres, an old light-horseman, deputy from Saumur in the National Assembly, author of an article on Theism, a moral romance and genial memoirs of no great importance; nothing could be more remote from the ancient harsh and despotic temperament. They would be glad to relieve the people, and they try to favor them as much as they can.[1312] They are found detrimental, but they are not wicked; the evil is in their situation and not in their character. It is their situation, in fact, which, allowing them rights without exacting services, debars them from the public offices, the beneficial influence, the effective patronage by which they might justify their advantages and attach the peasantry to them.

But on this ground the central government has taken their place. For a long time now have they been rather feeble against the intendant, unable to protect their parish. Twenty gentlemen cannot not assemble and deliberate without the king's special permission.[1313] If those of Franche-Comte happen to dine together and hear a mass once a year, it is through tolerance, and even then this harmless group may assemble only in the presence of the intendant. Separated from his equals, the seignior, again, is further away from his inferiors. The administration of the village is of no concern to him; he is not even tasked with its supervision. The apportionment of taxes, the militia contingent, the repairs of the church, the summoning and presiding over a parish assembly, the making of roads, the establishment of charity workshops, all this is the intendant's business or that of the communal officers whom the intendant appoints or directs.[1314] Except through his justiciary rights, so much curtailed, the seignior is an idler in public matters.[1315] If, by chance, he should desire to act in an official capacity, to make some reclamation for the community, the bureaus of administration would soon make him shut up. Since Louis XIV, the higher officials have things their own way; all legislation and the entire administrative system operate against the local seignior to deprive him of his functional efficiency and to confine him to his naked title. Through this separation of functions and title his pride increases, as he becomes less useful. His vanity deprived of its broad pasture-ground, falls back on a small one; henceforth he seeks distinctions and not influence. He thinks only of precedence and not of government.[1316] In short, the local government, in the hands of peasants commanded by bureaucrats, has become a common, offensive lot of red tape. "His pride would be wounded if he were asked to attend to it. Raising taxes, levying the militia, regulating the corvees, are servile acts, the works of a secretary." He accordingly abstains, remains isolated on his manor and leaves to others a task from which he is excluded and which he disdains. Far from protecting his peasantry he is scarcely able to protect himself or to preserve his immunities. Or to avoid having his poll-tax and vingtiemes reduced. Or to obtain exemption from the militia for his domestics, to keep his own person, dwelling, dependents, and hunting and fishing rights from the universal usurpation which places all possessions and all privileges in the hands of "Monseigneur l'intendant" and Messieurs the sub-delegates. And the more so because he is often poor. Bouille estimates that all the old families, save two or three hundred, are ruined.[1317] I Rouergue several of them live on an income of fifty and even twenty-five louis, (1000 and 500 francs). In Limousin, says an intendant at the beginning of the century, out of several thousands there are not fifteen who have twenty thousand livres income. In Berry, towards 1754, "three-fourths of them die of hunger." In Franche-Comte the fraternity to which we have alluded appears in a humorous light, "after the mass each one returning to his domicile, some on foot and others on their Rosinantes." In Brittany "lots of gentlemen found as excisemen, on the farms or in the lowest occupations." One M. de la Morandais becomes the overseer of an estate. A certain family with nothing but a small farm "attests its nobility only by the pigeon-house; it lives like the peasants, eating nothing but brown bread." Another gentleman, a widower, "passes his time in drinking, living licentiously with his servants, and covering butter-pots with the handsomest title-deeds of his lineage." All the chevaliers de Chateaubriand," says the father, "were drunkards and beaters of hares." He himself just makes shift to live in a miserable way, with five domestics, a hound and two old mares "in a chateau capable of accommodating a hundred seigniors with their suites." Here and there in the various memoirs we see these strange superannuated figures passing before the eye, for instance, in Burgundy, "gentlemen huntsmen wearing gaiters and hob-nailed shoes, carrying an old rusty sword under their arms dying with hunger and refusing to work."[1318] Elsewhere we encounter "M. de Perignan, with his red garments, wig and ginger face, having dry stone wails built on his domain, and getting intoxicated with the blacksmith of the place;" related to Cardinal Fleury, he is made the first Duc de Fleury.-Everything contributes to this decay, the law, habits and customs, and, above all, the right of primogeniture. Instituted for the purpose of maintaining undivided sovereignty and patronage it ruins the nobles since sovereignty and patronage have no material to work on. "In Brittany," says Chateaubriand, "the elder sons of the nobles swept away two-thirds of the property, while the younger sons shared in one-third of the paternal heritage."[1319] Consequently, "the younger sons of younger sons soon come to the sharing of a pigeon, rabbit, hound and fowling-piece. The entire fortune of my grandfather did not exceed five thousand livres income, of which his elder son had two-thirds, three thousand three hundred livres, leaving one thousand six hundred and sixty-six livres for the three younger ones, upon which sum the elder still had a preciput claim."[1320] This fortune, which crumbles away and dies out, they neither know how, nor are they disposed, to restore by commerce, manufactures or proper administration of it; it would be derogatory. "High and mighty seigniors of dove-cote, frog-pond and rabbit-warren," the more substance they lack the more value they set on the name.-Add to all this winter sojourn in town, the ceremonial and expenses caused by vanity and social requirements, and the visits to the governor and the intendant. A man must be either a German or an Englishman to be able to pass three gloomy, rainy months in a castle or on a farm, alone, in companionship with peasants, at the risk of becoming as awkward and as fantastic as they.[1321] They accordingly run in debt, become involved, sell one piece of ground and then another piece. A good many alienate the whole, excepting their small manor and their seigniorial dues, the cens and the lods et ventes, and their hunting and justiciary rights on the territory of which they were formerly proprietors.[1322] Since they must support themselves on these privileges they must necessarily enforce them, even when the privilege is burdensome, and even when the debtor is a poor man. How could they remit dues in grain and in wine when these constitute their bread and wine for the entire year? How could they dispense with the fifth and the fifth of the fifth (du quint et du requint) when this is the only coin they obtain? Why, being needy should they not be exacting? Accordingly, in relation to the peasant, they are simply his creditors; and to this end come the feudal regime transformed by the monarchy. Around the chateau I see sympathies declining, envy raising its head, and hatreds on the increase. Set aside in public matters, freed from taxation, the seignior remains isolated and a stranger among his vassals; his extinct authority with his unimpaired privileges form for him an existence apart. When he emerges from it, it is to forcibly add to the public misery. From this soil, ruined by the tax-man, he takes a portion of its product, so much it, sheaves of wheat and so many measures of wine. His pigeons and his game eat up the crops. People are obliged to grind in his mill, and to leave with him a sixteenth of the flour. The sale of a field for the sum of six hundred livres puts one hundred livres into his pocket. A brother's inheritance reaches a brother only after he has gnawed out of it a year's income. A score of other dues, formerly of public benefit, no longer serve but to support a useless private individual. The peasant, then as today, is eager for gain, determined and accustomed to do and to suffer everything to save or gain a crown. He ends by looking angrily on the turret in which are preserved the archives, the rent-roll, the detested parchments by means of which a Man of another species, favored to the detriment of the rest, a universal creditor and paid to do nothing, grazes over all the ground and feeds on all the products. Let the opportunity come to enkindle all this covetousness, and the rent-roll will burn, and with it the turret, and with the turret, the chateau.



III. Absentee Seigniors.

Vast extent of their fortunes and rights.—Possessing greater advantages they owe greater services.-Reasons for their absenteeism.—Effect of it.—Apathy of the provinces.— Condition of their estates.—They give no alms.—Misery of their tenants.—Exactions of their agents.—Exigencies of their debts.—State of their justiciary.—Effects of their hunting rights.—Sentiments of the peasantry towards them.

The spectacle becomes still gloomier, on passing from the estates on which the seigniors reside to those on which they are non-residents. Noble or ennobled, lay and ecclesiastic, the latter are privileged among the privileged, and form an aristocracy inside of an aristocracy. Almost all the powerful and accredited families belong to it whatever may be their origin and their date.[1323] Through their habitual or frequent residence near the court, through their alliances or mutual visits, through their habits and their luxuries, through the influence which they exercise and the enmities which they provoke, they form a group apart, and are those who possess the most extensive estates, the leading suzerainties, and the most complete and comprehensive jurisdictions. Of the court nobility and of the higher clergy, they number perhaps, a thousand in each order, while their small number only brings out in higher relief the enormity of their advantages. We have seen that the appanages of the princes of the blood comprise a seventh of the territory; Necker estimates the revenue of the estates enjoyed by the king's two brothers at two millions.[1324] The domains of the Ducs de Bouillon, d'Aiguillon, and some others cover entire leagues, and, in immensity and continuity, remind one of those, which the Duke of Sutherland and the Duke of Bedford now possess in England. With nothing else than his forests and his canal, the Duke of Orleans, before marrying his wife, as rich as himself, obtains an income of a million. A certain seigniory, le Clermontois, belonging to the Prince de Conde, contains forty thousand inhabitants, which is the extent of a German principality; "moreover all the taxes or subsidies occurring in le Clermontois are imposed for the benefit of His Serene Highness, the king receiving absolutely nothing."[1325] Naturally authority and wealth go together, and, the more an estate yields, the more its owner resembles a sovereign. The archbishop of Cambray, Duc de Cambray, Comte de Cambresis, possesses the suzerainty over all the fiefs of a region which numbers over seventy-five thousand inhabitants. He appoints one-half of the aldermen of Cambray and the whole of the administrators of Cateau. He nominates the abbots to two great abbeys, and presides over the provincial assemblies and the permanent bureau, which succeeds them. In short, under the intendant, or at his side, he maintains a pre-eminence and better still, an influence somewhat like that to day maintained over his domain by grand duke incorporated into the new German empire. Near him, in Hainaut, the abbe of Saint-Armand possesses seven-eighths of the territory of the provostship while levying on the other eighth the seigniorial taxes of the corvees and the dime. He nominates the provost of the aldermen, so that, in the words of the grievances, "he composes the entire State, or rather he is himself the State."[1326] I should never end if I were to specify all these big prizes. Let us select only those of the prelacy, and but one particular side, that of money. In the "Almanach Royal," and in "La France Ecclesiastique" for 1788, we may read their admitted revenues. The veritable revenue, however, is one-half more for the bishoprics, an double and triple for the abbeys; and we must again double the veritable revenue in order to estimate its value in the money of to day.[1327]. The one hundred and thirty-one bishops and arch-bishops possess in the aggregate 5, 600, 000 livres of episcopal income and 1,200,000 livres in abbeys, averaging 50,000 livres per head as in the printed record, and in reality 100,000. A bishop thus, in the eyes of his contemporaries, according to the statement of spectators cognizant of the actual truth, was "a grand seignior, with an income of 100,000 livres."[1328] Some of the most important sees are magnificently endowed. That of Sens brings in 70,000 livres; Verdun, 74,000; Tours, 82,000; Beauvais, Toulouse and Bayeux, 90,000; Rouen, 100,000; Auch, Metz and Albi, 120,000; Narbonne, 160,000; Paris and Cambray, 200,000 according to official reports, and probably half as much more in sums actually collected. Other sees, less lucrative, are, proportionately, still better provided. Imagine a small provincial town, oftentimes not even a petty sub-prefecture of our times,—Conserans, Mirepoix, Lavaur, Rieux, Lombez, Saint-Papoul, Comminges, Lucon, Sarlat, Mende, Frejus, Lescar, Belley, Saint-Malo, Treguier, Embrun, Saint-Claude,—and, in the neighborhood, less than two hundred, one hundred, and sometimes even less than fifty parishes, and, as recompense for this slight ecclesiastical surveillance, a prelate receiving from 25,000 to 70,000 livres, according to official statements; from 37,000 to 105,000 livres in actual receipts; and from 74,000 to 210,000 livres in the money of to day. As to the abbeys, I count thirty-three of them producing to the abbe from 25,000 to 120,000 livres, and twenty-seven which bring from 20,000 to 100,000 livres to the abbess. Weigh these sums taken from the Almanach, and bear in mind that they must be doubled, and more, to obtain the real revenue, and be quadrupled, and more, to obtain the actual value. It is evident, that, with such revenues, coupled with the feudal rights, police, justiciary and administrative, which accompany them, an ecclesiastic or lay grand seignior is, in fact, a sort of prince in his district. He bears too close a resemblance to the ancient sovereign to be entitled to live as an ordinary individual. His private advantages impose on him a public character. His rank, and his enormous profits, makes it incumbent on him to perform proportionate services, and that, even under the sway of the intendant, he owes to his vassals, to his tenants, to his feudatories the support of his mediation, of his patronage and of his gains.

To do this he must be in residence, but, generally, he is an absentee. For a hundred and fifty years a kind of all-powerful attraction diverts the grandees from the provinces and impels them towards the capital. The movement is irresistible, for it is the effect of two forces, the greatest and most universal that influence mankind, one, a social position, and the other the national character. A tree is not to be severed from its roots with impunity. Appointed to govern, an aristocracy frees itself from the land when it no longer rules. It ceases to rule the moment when, through increasing and constant encroachments, almost the entire justiciary, the entire administration, the entire police, each detail of the local or general government, the power of initiating, of collaboration, of control regarding taxation, elections, roads, public works and charities, passes over into the hands of the intendant or of the sub-delegate, under the supreme direction of the comptroller-general or of the king's council.[1329] Civil servants, men "of the robe and the quill," colorless commoners, perform the administrative work; there is no way to prevent it. Even with the king's delegates, a provincial governor, were he hereditary, a prince of the blood, like the Condes in Burgundy, must efface himself before the intendant; he holds no effective office; his public duties consist of showing off and providing entertainment. Besides he would badly perform any others. The administrative machine, with its thousands of hard, creaking and dirty wheels, as Richelieu and Louis XIV, fashioned it, can work only in the hands of workmen who may be dismissed at any time therefore unscrupulous and prompt to give way to the judgment of the State. It is impossible to allow oneself to get mixed up with rogues of that description. He accordingly abstains, and abandons public affairs to them. Unemployed, bored, what could he now do on his domain, where he no longer reigns, and where dullness overpowers him? He betakes himself to the city, and especially to the court. Moreover, only here can he pursue a career; to be successful he has to become a courtier. It is the will of the king, one must frequent his apartments to obtain his favors; otherwise, on the first application for them the answer will be, "Who is he? He is a man that I never see." In the king's eyes there is no excuse for absence, even should the cause is a conversion, with penitence for a motive. In preferring God to the king, he has deserted. The ministers write to the intendants to ascertain if the gentlemen of their province "like to stay at home," and if they "refuse to appear and perform their duties to the king." Imagine the grandeur of such attractions available at the court, governments, commands, bishoprics, benefices, court-offices, survivor-ships, pensions, credit, favors of every kind and degree for self and family. All that a country of 25 millions men can offer that is desirable to ambition, to vanity, to interest, is found here collected as in a reservoir. They rush to it and draw from it.—And the more readily because it is an agreeable place, arranged just as they would have it, and purposely to suit the social aptitudes of the French character. The court is a vast permanent drawing room to which "access is easy and free to the king's subjects;" where they live with him, "in gentle and virtuous society in spite of the almost infinite distance of rank and power;" where the monarch prides himself on being the perfect master of a household.[1330] In fact, no drawing room was ever so well kept up, nor so well calculated to retain its guests by every kind of enjoyment, by the beauty, the dignity and the charm of its decoration, by the selection of its company and by the interest of the spectacle. Versailles is the only place to show oneself off; to make a figure, to push one's way, to be amused, to converse or gossip at the head-quarters of news, of activity and of public matters, with the elite of the kingdom and the arbiters of fashion, elegance and taste. "Sire," said M. de Vardes to Louis XIV, "away from Your Majesty one not only feels miserable but ridiculous." None remain in the provinces except the poor rural nobility; to live there one must be behind the age, disheartened or in exile. The king's banishment of a seignior to his estates is the highest disgrace; to the humiliation of this fall is added the insupportable weight of boredom. The finest chateau on the most beautiful site is a frightful "desert"; nobody is seen there save the grotesques of a small town or the village peasants.[1331]

"Exile alone," says Arthur Young, "can force the French nobility to do what the English prefer to do, and that is to live on their estates and embellish them."

Saint-Simon and other court historians, on mentioning a ceremony, repeatedly state that "all France was there"; in fact, every one of consequence in France is there, and each recognizes the other by this sign. Paris and the court become, accordingly, the necessary sojourn of all fine people. In such a situation departure begets departure; the more a province is forsaken the more they forsake it. "There is not in the kingdom," says the Marquis de Mirabeau, "a single estate of any size of which the proprietor is not in Paris and who, consequently, neglects his buildings and chateaux."[1332] The lay grand seigniors have their hotels in the capital, their entresol at Versailles, and their pleasure-house within a circuit of twenty leagues; if they visit their estates at long intervals, it is to hunt. The fifteen hundred commendatory abbes and priors enjoy their benefices as if they were so many remote farms. The two thousand seven hundred vicars and canons visit each other and dine out. With the exception of a few apostolic characters the one hundred and thirty-one bishops stay at home as little as they can; nearly all of them being nobles, all of them men of society, what could they do out of the world, confined to a provincial town? Can we imagine a grand seignior, once a gay and gallant abbe and now a bishop with a hundred thousand livres income, voluntarily burying himself for the entire year at Mende, at Comminges, in a paltry cloister? The interval has become too great between the refined, varied and literary life of the great center, and the monotonous, inert, practical life of the provinces. Hence it is that the grand seignior who withdraws from the former cannot enter into the latter, and he remains an absentee, at least in feeling.

A country in which the heart ceases to impel the blood through its veins presents a somber aspect. Arthur Young, who traveled over France between 1787 and 1789, is surprised to find at once such a vital center and such dead extremities. Between Paris and Versailles the double file of vehicles going and coming extends uninterruptedly for five leagues from morning till night.[1333] The contrast on other roads is very great. Leaving Paris by the Orleans road, says Arthur Young, "we met not one stage or diligence for ten miles; only two messageries and very few chaises, not a tenth of what would have been met had we been leaving London at the same hour." On the highroad near Narbonne, "for thirty-six miles," he says, "I came across but one cabriolet, half a dozen carts and a few women leading asses." Elsewhere, near St. Girons, he notices that in two hundred and fifty miles he encountered in all, "two cabriolets and three miserable things similar to our old one-horse post chaise, and not one gentleman." Throughout this country the inns are execrable; it is impossible to hire a wagon, while in England, even in a town of fifteen hundred or two thousand inhabitants, there are comfortable hotels and every means of transport. This proves that in France "there is no circulation." It is only in very large towns that there is any civilization and comfort. At Nantes there is a superb theater "twice as large as Drury-Lane and five times as magnificent. Mon Dieu! I cried to myself, do all these wastes, moors, and deserts, that I have passed for 300 miles lead to this spectacle?. . . In a single leap you pass from misery to extravagance,...the country deserted, or if a gentleman in it, you find him in some wretched hole to save that money which is lavished with profusion in the luxuries of a capital." "A coach," says M. de Montlosier, "set out weekly from the principal towns in the provinces for Paris and was not always full, which tells us about the activity in business. There was a single journal called the Gazette de France, appearing twice a week, which represents the activity of minds."[1334] Some magistrates of Paris in exile at Bourges in 1753 and 1754 give the following picture of that place:

"A town in which no one can be found with whom you can talk at your ease on any topic whatever, reasonably or sensibly. The nobles, three-fourths of them dying of hunger, rotting with pride of birth, keeping apart from men of the robe and of finance, and finding it strange that the daughter of a tax-collector, married to a counselor of the parliament of Paris, should presume to be intelligent and entertain company. The citizens are of the grossest ignorance, the sole support of this species of lethargy in which the minds of most of the inhabitants are plunged. Women, bigoted and pretentious, and much given to play and to gallantry."[1335]

In this impoverished and benumbed society, among these Messieurs Thibaudeau, the counselor, and Harpin, the tax-collector, among these vicomtes de Sotenville and Countesses d'Escarbagnas, lives the Archbishop, Cardinal de Larochefoucauld, grand almoner to the king, provided with four great abbeys, possessing five hundred thousand livres income, a man of the world, generally an absentee, and when at home, finding amusement in the embellishing of his gardens and palace, in short, the golden pheasant of an aviary in a poultry yard of geese.[1336] Naturally there is an entire absence of political thought. "You cannot imagine," says the manuscript, "a person more indifferent to all public matters." At a later period, in the very midst of events of the gravest character, and which most nearly concern them, there is the same apathy. At Chateau-Thierry on the 4th of July, 1789,[1337] there is not a cafe in which a new paper can be found; there is but one at Dijon; at Moulins, the 7th of August, "in the best cafe in the town, where I found near twenty tables set for company, but as for a newspaper I might as well have demanded an elephant." Between Strasbourg and Besancon there is not a gazette. At Besancon there is "nothing but the Gazette de France, for which, this period, a man of common sense would not give one sol,. . . and the Courier de l'Europe a fortnight old; and well-dressed people are now talking of the news of two or three weeks past, and plainly by their discourse know nothing of what is passing. At Clermont "I dined, or supped, five times at the table d'hote with from twenty to thirty merchants, trade men, officers, etc., and it is not easy for me to express the insignificance,—the inanity of their conversation. Scarcely any politics are mentioned at a moment when every bosom ought to beat with none but political sensations. The ignorance or the stupidity of these people must be absolutely incredible; not a week passes without their country abounding with events[1338] that are analyzed an debated by the carpenters and blacksmiths of England." The cause of this inertia is manifest; interrogated on their opinions, all reply: "We are of the provinces and we must wait to know what is going on in Paris." Never having acted, they do no know how to act. But, thanks to this inertia, they let themselves be driven. The provinces form an immense stagnant pond, which, by a terrible inundation, may be emptied exclusively on one side, and suddenly; the fault lies with the engineers who failed to provide it with either dikes or outlets.

Such is the languor or, rather, the prostration, into which local life falls when the local chiefs deprive it of their presence, action or sympathy. I find only three or four grand seigniors taking a part in it, practical philanthropists following the example of English noblemen; the Duc d'Harcourt, who settles the lawsuits of his peasants; the Duc de Larochefoucauld-Liancourt who establishes a model farm on his domain, and a school of industrial pursuits for the children of poor soldiers; and the Comte de Brienne, whose thirty villages are to demand liberty of the Convention.[1339] The rest, for the most part liberals, content themselves with discussions on public affairs and on political economy. In fact, the difference in manners, the separation of interests, the remoteness of ideas are so great that contact between those most exempt from haughtiness and their immediate tenantry is rare, and at long intervals. Arthur Young, needing some information at the house of the Duc de Larochefoucauld himself, the steward is sent for. "At an English nobleman's, there would have been three or four farmers asked to meet me, who would have dined with the family amongst the ladies of the first rank. I do not exaggerate when I say that I have had this at least an hundred times in the first houses of our islands. It is, however, a thing that in the present style of manners in France would not be met with from Calais to Bayonne except, by chance, in the house of some great lord that had been much in England, and then not unless it was asked for. The nobility in France have no more idea of practicing agriculture, and making it a subject of conversation, except on the mere theory, as they would speak of a loom or a bowsprit, than of any other object the most remote from their habits and pursuits." Through tradition, fashion and deliberation, they are, and wish only to be, people of society; their sole concern is to talk and to hunt. Never have the leaders of men so unlearned the art of leading men; the art which consists of marching along the same pathway with them, but at the head, and directing their labor by sharing in it.—Our Englishman, an eye-witness and competent, again writes: "Thus it is whenever you stumble on a grand seignior, even one that was worth millions, you are sure to find his property desert. Those of the Duc de Bouillon and of the Prince de Soubise are two of the greatest properties in France; and all the signs I have yet seen of their greatness are heaths, moors, deserts, and brackens. Go to their residence, wherever it may be, and you would probably find them in the midst of a forest very well peopled with deer, wild boars and wolves." "The great proprietors," says another contemporary,[1340] "attracted to and kept in our cities by luxurious enjoyments know nothing of their estates," save "of their agents whom they harass for the support of a ruinous ostentation. How can ameliorations be looked for from those who even refuse to keep things up and make indispensable repairs?" A sure proof that their absence is the cause of the evil is found in the visible difference between the domain worked under absent abbe-commendatory and a domain superintended by monks living on the spot "The intelligent traveler recognizes it" at first sight by the state of cultivation. "If he finds fields well enclosed by ditches, carefully planted, and covered with rich crops, these fields, he says to himself; belong to the monks. Almost always, alongside of these fertile plains, is an area of ground badly tilled and almost barren, presenting a painful contrast; and yet the soil is the same, being two portions of the same domain; he sees that the latter is the portion of the abbe-commendatory." "The abbatial manse." said Lefranc de Pompignan, "frequently looks like the property of a spendthrift; the monastic manse is like a patrimony whereon nothing is neglected for its amelioration," to such an extent that "the two-thirds" which the abbe enjoys bring him less than the third reserved by his monks.—The ruin or impoverishment of agriculture is, again, one of the effects of absenteeism. There was, perhaps, one-third of the soil in France, which, deserted as in Ireland, was as badly tilled, as little productive as in Ireland in the hands of the rich absentees, the English bishops, deans and nobles.

Doing nothing for the soil, how could they do anything for men? Now and then, undoubtedly, especially with farms that pay no rent, the steward writes a letter, alleging the misery of the farmer. There is no doubt, also, that, especially for thirty years back, they desire to be humane; they descant among themselves about the rights of man; the sight of the pale face of a hungry peasant would give them pain. But they never see him; does it ever occur to them to fancy what it is like under the awkward and complimentary phrases of their agent? Moreover, do they know what hunger is? Who amongst them has had any rural experiences? And how could they picture to themselves the misery of this forlorn being? They are too remote from him to that, too ignorant of his mode of life. The portrait they conceive of him is imaginary; never was there a falser representation of the peasant; accordingly the awakening is to be terrible. They view him as the amiable swain, gentle, humble and grateful, simple-hearted and right-minded, easily led, being conceived according to Rousseau and the idylls performed at this very epoch in all private drawing rooms.[1341] Lacking a knowledge him they overlook him; they read the steward's letter and immediately the whirl of high life again seizes them and, after a sigh bestowed on the distress of the poor, they make up their minds that their income for the year will be short. A disposition of this kind is not favorable to charity. Accordingly, complaints arise, not against the residents but against the absentees.[1342] "The possessions of the Church, says a letter, serve only to nourish the passions of their holders." "According to the canons, says another memorandum, every beneficiary must give a quarter of his income to the poor; nevertheless in our parish there is a revenue of more than twelve thousand livres, and none of it is given to the poor unless it is some small matter at the hands of the curate." "The abbe de Conches gets one-half of the tithes and contributes nothing to the relief of the parish." Elsewhere, "the chapter of Ecouis, which owns the benefice of the tithes is of no advantage to the poor, and only seeks to augment its income." Nearby, the abbe of Croix-Leufroy, "a heavy tithe-owner, and the abbe de Bernay, who gets fifty-seven thousand livres from his benefice, and who is a non-resident, keep all and scarcely give enough to their officiating curates to keep them alive." "I have in my parish, says a curate of Berry,[1343] six simple benefices of which the titularies are always absent. They enjoy together an income of nine thousand livres; I sent them in writing the most urgent entreaties during the calamity of the past year; I received from one them two louis only, and most of them did not even answer me." Stronger is the reason for a conviction that in ordinary times they will make no remission of their dues. Moreover, these dues, the censives, the lods et ventes, tithes, and the like, are in the hands of a steward, and he is a good steward who returns a large amount of money. He has no right to be generous at his master's expense, and he is tempted to turn the subjects of his master to his own profit. In vain might the soft seignorial hand be disposed to be easy or paternal; the hard hand of the proxy bears down on the peasants with all its weight, and the caution of a chief gives place to the exactions of a clerk.—How is it then when, instead of a clerk on the domain, a fermier is found, an adjudicator who, for an annual sum, purchases of seignior the management and product of his dues? In election of Mayenne,[1344] and certainly also in many others, the principal domains are rented in this way. Moreover there are a number of dues, like the tolls, the market-place tax, that on the flock apart, the monopoly of the oven and of the mill which can scarcely be managed otherwise; the seignior must necessarily employ an adjudicator who spares him the disputes and trouble of collecting.[1345] This happens often and the demands and the greed of the contractor, who is determined to gain or, at least, not to lose, falls on the peasantry:

"He is a ravenous wolf," says Renauldon, "let loose on the estate. He draws upon it to the last sou, he crushes the subjects, reduces them to beggary, forces the cultivators to desert. The owner, thus rendered odious, finds himself obliged to tolerate his exactions to able to profit by them."

Imagine, if you can, the evil which a country usurer exercises, armed against them with such burdensome rights; it is the feudal seigniory in the hands of Harpagon, or rather of old Grandet. When, indeed, a tax becomes insupportable we see, by the local complaints, that it is nearly always a fermier who enforces it.[1346] It is one of these, acting for a body of canons, who claims Jeanne Mermet's paternal inheritance on the pretense that she had passed her wedding night at her husband's house. One can barely find similar exactions in the Ireland of 1830, on those estates where, the farmer-general renting to sub-farmers and the latter to others still below them. The poor tenant at the foot of the ladder himself bore the full weight of it, so much the more crushed because his creditor, crushed himself measured the requirements he exacted by those he had to submit to.

Suppose that, seeing this abuse of his name, the seignior is desirous of withdrawing the administration of his domains from these mercenary hands. In most cases he is unable to do it: he too deeply in debt, having appropriated to his creditors a certain portion of his land, a certain branch of his income. For centuries, the nobles are involved through their luxury, their prodigality, their carelessness, and through that false sense of honor, which consists in looking upon attention to accounts as the occupation of an accountant. They take pride in their negligence, regarding it, as they say, living nobly.[1347] "Monsieur the archbishop," said Louis XVI. to M. de Dillon, "they say that you are in debt, and even largely." "Sire," replied the prelate, with the irony of a grand seignior, "I will ask my intendant and inform Your Majesty." Marshal de Soubise has five hundred thousand livres income, which is not sufficient for him. We know the debts of the Cardinal de Rohan and of the Comte Artois;[1348] their millions of income were vainly thrown into this gulf. The Prince de Guemenee happens to become bankrupt on thirty-five millions. The Duke of Orleans, the richest proprietor in the kingdom, owed at his death seventy-four millions. When became necessary to pay the creditors of the emigrants out of the proceeds of their possessions, it was proved that most of the large fortunes were eaten up with mortgages.[1349] Readers of the various memoirs know that, for two hundred years, the deficiencies had to be supplied by marriages for money and by the favors of the king.—This explains why, following the king's example, the nobles converted everything into money, and especially the places at their disposition, and, in relaxing authority for profit, why they alienated the last fragment of government remaining in their hands. Everywhere they thus laid aside the venerated character of a chief to put on the odious character of a trafficker. "Not only," says a contemporary,[1350] "do they give no pay to their officers of justice, or take them at a discount, but, what is worse, the greater portion of them make a sale of these offices." In spite of the edict of 1693, the judges thus appointed take no steps to be admitted into the royal courts and they take no oaths. "What is the result? Justice, too often administered by knaves, degenerates into brigandage or into a frightful impunity."—Ordinarily the seignior who sells the office on a financial basis, deducts, in addition, the hundredth, the fiftieth, the tenth of the price, when it passes into other hands; and at other times he disposes of the survivorship. He creates these offices and survivorships purposely to sell them. "All the seigniorial courts, say the registers, are infested with a crowd of officials of every description, seigniorial sergeants, mounted and unmounted officers, keepers of the provostship of the funds, guards of the constabulary. It is by no means rare to find as many as ten in an arrondissement which could hardly maintain two if they confined themselves within the limits of their duties." Also "they are at the same time judges, attorneys, fiscal-attorneys, registrars, notaries," each in a different place, each practicing in several seigniories under various titles, all perambulating, all in league like thieves at a fair, and assembling together in the taverns to plan, prosecute and decide. Sometimes the seignior, to economize, confers the title on one of his own dependents: "At Hautemont, in Hainaut, the fiscal-attorney is a domestic." More frequently he nominates some starveling advocate of a petty village in the neighborhood on wages which would not suffice to keep him alive a week." He indemnifies himself out of the peasants. Processes of chicanery, delays and willful complications in the proceedings, sittings at three livres the hour for the advocate and three livres the hour for the bailiff. The black brood of judicial leeches suck so much the more eagerly, because the more numerous, a still more scrawny prey, having paid for the privilege of sucking it.[1351] The arbitrariness, the corruption, the laxity of such a regime can be divined. "Impunity," says Renauldon, "is nowhere greater than in the seigniorial tribunals. . . . The foulest crimes obtain no consideration there," for the seignior dreads supplying the means for a criminal trial, while his judges or prosecuting attorneys fear that they will not be paid for their proceedings. Moreover, his jail is often a cellar under the chateau; "there is not one tribunal out of a hundred in conformity with the law in respect of prisons;" their keepers shut their eyes or stretch out their hands. Hence it is that "his estates become the refuge of all the scoundrels in the canton." The effect of his indifference is terrible and it is to react against him: to-morrow, at the club, the attorneys whom he has multiplied will demand his head, and the bandits whom he has tolerated will place it on the end of a pike.

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