* when the usurping State, instead of protecting private property, destroys or seizes it;
* when it takes for itself the property of many of the great corporations;
* when it suppresses legally established credits without indemnity;
* when, by dint of expenditure and the burdens this creates, it becomes insolvent;
* when, through its paper-money and forced circulation, it annuls indebtedness in the hands of the creditor, and allows the debtor to go scot-free;
* when it arbitrarily seizes current capital;
* when it makes forced loans and requisitions;
* when its tax on productions surpasses the cost of production and on merchandise the profit on its sale;
* when it constrains the manufacturer to manufacture at a loss and the merchant to sell at a loss;
* when its principles, judged by its acts, indicate a progression from partial to a universal confiscation.—
Ineluctably every phase of disease engenders the evil which follows: it is like a poison the effects of which spread or pass onwards. Each function, affected by the derangement of the adjacent one, becoming disturbed in its turn. The perils, mutilation and suppression of property diminish available securities as well as the courage that risks them, that is to say, the mode of, and disposition to, make advances. Through a lack of funds, useful enterprises languish, die out or are not undertaken. Consequently, the production, supply, and sale of indispensable articles slacken, become interrupted and cease altogether. There is less soap and sugar and fewer candles at the grocery, less wood and coal in the wood-yard, fewer oxen and sheep in the markets, less meat at the butcher's, less grain and flour at the corn-exchange, and less bread at the bakeries. As articles of prime necessity are scarce they become dear; as people contend for them their dearness increases; the rich man ruins himself in the struggle to get hold of them, while the poor man never gets any, and the bare necessities become unattainable.
II. Conditions in 1793. A Lesson in Market Economics.
Economical effect of the Jacobin policy from 1789 to 1793. —Attacks on property.—Direct attacks.—Jacqueries, effective confiscations and proclamation of the socialist creed. —Indirect attacks.—Bad administration of the public funds. —Transformation of taxation and insignificance of the returns.—Increased expenditures.—The War-budget and subsistence after 1793.—Paper money.—Enormous issues of it.—Credit of the Assignats run down.—Ruin of Public creditors and of all private credit.—Rate of interest during the Revolution.—Stoppage of trade and industry.—Bad management of new land-owners.—Decrease of productive labor.—Only the small rural land-owner works advantageously.—Why he refuses Assignats.—He is no longer obliged to sell his produce at once.—High cost of food.—It reaches a market with difficulty and in small quantities. —The towns buy at a high price and sell at a low one.—Food becomes dearer and famine begins.—Prices during the first six months of 1793.
Such is the hardship in France at the moment when the Jacobin conquest has been completed, a misery of which the Jacobins are the cause due to the systematic war they have waged against property during the preceding four years.
From below, they have provoked, excused, amnestied, or tolerated and authorized all the popular attacks on property, countless insurrections, seven successive jacqueries, some of them so extensive as to cover eight or ten departments at the same time. The last one let loose on all France a universal and lasting brigandage, the arbitrary rule of paupers, vagabonds and ruffians; every species of robbery, from a refusal to pay rents and leases to the sacking of chateaux and ordinary domiciles, even to the pillage of markets and granaries. Free scope was given to mobs which, under a political pretext, tax and ransom the "suspects" of all classes at pleasure, not alone the noble and the rich but the peaceable farmer and well-to-do artisan. In short, the country reverted back to a natural state, the sovereignty of appetites, greed and lust, to mankind's return to a savage, primitive life in the forests. Only a short time before, in the month of February, 1793, through Marat's recommendation, and with the connivance of the Jacobin municipality, the Paris riff-raff had broken into twelve hundred groceries and divided on the spot, either gratis or at the price it fixed, sugar, soap, brandy and coffee.
From above, they had undertaken, carried out and multiplied the worst assaults on property, vast spoliations of every sort; the suppression of hundreds of millions of incomes and the confiscation of billions of capital; the abolition without indemnity of tithes and quitrents; the expropriation of the property of the clergy, of emigres, that of the order of Malta, that of the pious, charitable and educational associations and endowments, even laic; seizures of plate, of the sacred vessels and precious ornaments of the churches. And, because they have the power, others still more vast. After August 10, their newspapers in Paris and their commissioners in the departments, have preached
"the agrarian law, the holding of all property in common, the leveling of fortunes, the right of each fraction of the sovereign people" to help itself by force to all food and stores at the expense of the owner, to hunt down the rich, proscribe "land-owners, leading merchants, financiers and all men in possession of whatever is superfluous."
Rousseau's dogma that "the fruit belongs to everybody and the soil to no one" is established at an early date as a maxim of State in the Convention, while in the deliberations of the sovereign assembly socialism, openly avowed, becomes ascendant, and, afterwards, supreme. According to Robespierre,
"whatever is essential to preserve life is common property to society at large. It is only the excess which may be given up to individuals and surrendered to commercial enterprise."
With still greater solemnity, the pontiff of the sect, in the Declaration of Rights which, unanimously adopted by the all-powerful Jacobin club, is to serve as the corner-stone of the new institutions, pens the following formula heavy with their consequences:
"Society must provide for the support of all its members. The aid required by indigence is a debt of the rich to the poor. The right of property is limited, and applies only to that portion which the law guarantees. Every ownership, any trade, which bears prejudicially on the existence of our fellow-creatures is necessarily illicit and immoral."
The meaning of this is more than clear: the Jacobin populace, having decided that the possession of, and trade in, groceries was prejudicial to its existence, the grocers' monopoly is, therefore, immoral and illicit, and consequently, it pillages their shops. Under the rule of the populace and of the "Mountain," the Convention applies the theory, seizes capital wherever it can be found, and notifies the poor, in its name,
"that they will find in the pocket-books of the rich whatever they need to supply their wants."
Over and above these striking and direct attacks, an indirect and hidden attack, even more significant, which slowly undermines the basis of all present and future property. State affairs are everybody's affairs, and, when the State ruins itself, everybody is ruined along with it. For, it is the country's greatest debtor and its greatest creditor, while there is no debtor so free of seizure and no creditor so absorbing, since, making the laws and possessing the force, it can, firstly, repudiate indebtedness and send away the fund-holder with empty hands, and next, increase taxation and empty the taxpayer's pocket of his last penny. There is no greater menace to private fortunes than the bad administration of the public fortune. Now, under the pressure of Jacobin principles and of the Jacobin faction, the trustees of France have administered the country as if they purposely meant to ruin their ward; every known means for wasting a fortune have been brought into play by them.—In the first place, they have deprived him of three-fourths of his income. To please the people and enforce the theory, the taxes on articles consumed, on salt, with the excise subsidies and the octroi duties on liquors, meat, tobacco, leather and gunpowder, have been abolished, while the new imposts substituted for the old ones, slowly fixed, badly apportioned and raised with difficulty have brought in no returns. On the 1st of February, 1793, the Treasury had received on the real and personal taxation of 1791, but one hundred and fifty millions instead of three hundred millions. On the same taxes for 1792, instead of three hundred millions it had obtained nothing at all. At this date, and during the four years of the Revolution, the total arrears of taxation amounted to six hundred and thirty-two millions—a bad debt that can hardly be recovered, and, in fact, it is already reduced one-half, since, even if the debtor could and was disposed to pay, he would pay in assignats, which, at this time, were at a discount of fifty per cent.—In the second place, the new managers had quadrupled the public expenditure. What with the equipment and excursions of the National Guards federations, patriotic festivals and parades, the writing, printing and publication of innumerable documents, reimbursements for suppressed offices, the installation of new administrations, aid to the indigent and to its charity workshops, purchases of grain, indemnities to millers and bakers, it was under the necessity of providing for the cost of the universal demolition and reconstruction. Now, the State had, for the most part, defrayed all these expenses. At the end of April, 1793, it had already advanced to the city of Paris alone, one hundred and ten million francs, while the Commune, insolvent, kept constantly extorting fresh millions. By the side of this gulf, the Jacobins had dug another, larger still, that of the war. For the first half of the year 1793 they threw into this pit first, one hundred and forty millions, then one hundred and sixty millions, and then one hundred and ninety million francs; in the second six months of 1793 the war and provisions swallowed up three hundred million francs per month, and the more they threw into the two gulfs the deeper they became.
Naturally, when there is no collecting a revenue and expenses go on increasing, one is obliged to borrow on one's resources, and piecemeal, as long as these last. Naturally, when ready money is not to be had on the market, one draws notes and tries to put them in circulation; one pays tradesmen with written promises in the future, and thus exhausts one's credit. Such is paper money and the assignats, the third and most efficient way for wasting a fortune and which the Jacobins did not fail to make the most of.—Under the Constituent Assembly, through a remnant of good sense and good faith, efforts were at first made to guarantee the fulfillment of written promises the holders of assignats were almost secured by a first mortgage on the national possessions, which had been given to them coupled with an engagement not to raise more money on this guarantee, as well as not to issue any more assignats. But they did not keep faith. They rendered the security afforded by this mortgage inoperative and, as all chances of re-payment disappeared, its value declined. Then, on the 27th of April, 1792, according to the report of Cambon, there begins an unlimited issue; according to the Jacobin financiers, nothing more is necessary to provide for the war than to turn the wheel and grind out promises to pay: in June, 1793, assignats to the amount of four billion three hundred and twenty millions have already been manufactured, and everybody sees that the mill must grind faster. This is why the guarantee, vainly increased, no longer suffices for the monstrous, disproportionate mortgage; it exceeds all limits, covers nothing, and sinks through its own weight. At Paris, the assignat of one hundred francs is worth in specie, in the month of June, 1791, eighty-five francs, in January, 1792, only sixty-six francs, in March, 1792, only fifty. three francs; rising in value at the end of the Legislative Assembly, owing to fresh confiscations, it falls back to fifty-five francs in January, 1793, to forty-seven francs in April, to forty francs in June, to thirty-three francs in July.—Thus are the creditors of the State defrauded of a third, one-half, and two-thirds of their investment, and not alone the creditors of the State but every other creditor, since every debtor has the right to discharge his obligations by paying his debts in assignats. Enumerate, if possible, all who are defrauded of private claims, all money-lenders and stockholders who have invested in any private enterprise, either manufacturing or mercantile, those who have loaned money on Contracts of longer or shorter date, all sellers of real estate, with stipulations in their deeds for more or less remote payment, all landowners who have leased their grounds or buildings for a term of years, all holders of annuities on private bond or on an estate, all manufacturers, merchants and farmers who have sold their wares, goods and produce on time, all clerks on yearly salaries and even all other employees, underlings, servants and workmen receiving fixed salaries for a specified term. There is not one of these persons whose capital, or income payable in assignats, is not at once crippled in proportion to the decline in value of assignats, so that not only the State falls into bankruptcy but likewise every creditor in France, legally bankrupt along with it through its fault.
In such a situation how can any enterprise be commenced or maintained? Who dares take a risk, especially when disbursements are large and returns remote? Who dares lend on long credits—? If loans are still made they are not for a year but for a month, while the interest which, before the Revolution was six, five or even four per cent. per annum, is now two per cent. a month on securities." It soon runs up higher and, at Paris and Strasbourg we see it rising, as in India and the Barbary States, to four, five, six and even seven per cent. a month.
What holder of raw material, or of manufactured goods, would dare make entries on his books as usual and allow his customer the indispensable credit of three months? What large manufacturer would presume to make goods up, what wholesale merchant would care to make shipments, what man of wealth or with a competence would build, drain and construct dams and dykes, repair, or even maintain them with the positive certainty of delays in getting back only one-half his outlays and with the increasing certainty of getting nothing?
During a few years the large establishments collapsed in droves:
* After the ruin of the nobles and the departure of wealthy foreigners, every craft dependent on luxurious tastes, those of Paris and Lyons, which were the standard for Europe, all the manufactories of rich fabrics and furniture, and other artistic, elegant and fashionable articles.
* After the insurrection of the blacks in St. Domingo, and other troubles in the West Indies, the great colonial trade and remarkable prosperity of Nantes and Bordeaux, including all the industrial enterprises by which the production, transportation and circulation of cotton, sugar and coffee were affected;
* After the declaration of war with England, the shipping interest;
* After the declaration of war with all Europe, the commerce of the continent.
Failure after failure, an universal crash, utter cessation of extensively organized and productive labor: instead of productive industries, I see none now but destructive industries, those of the agricultural and commercial vermin, those of dealers in junk and speculators who dismantle mansions and abbeys, and who demolish chateaux and churches so as to sell the materials as cheap as dirt, who bargain away national possessions, so as to make a profit on the transaction. Imagine the mischief a temporary owner, steeped in debt, needy and urged on by the maturity of his engagements, can and must do to an estate held under a precarious title and of suspicious acquirement, which he has no idea of keeping, and from which, meanwhile, he derives every possible benefit: not only does he put no spokes in the mill-wheel, no stones in the dyke, no tiles on the roof, but he buys no manure, exhausts the soil, devastates the forest, alienates the fields, and dismembers the entire farm, damaging the ground and the stock of tools and injuring the dwelling by selling its mirrors, lead and iron, and oftentimes the window-shutters and doors. He turns all into cash, no matter how, at the expense of the domain, which he leaves in a run-down condition, unfurnished and for a long time unproductive. In like manner, the communal possessions, ravaged, pillaged and then pieced out and divided off, are so many organisms which are sacrificed for the immediate relief of the village poor, but of course to the detriment of their future productiveness and an abundant yield.
Alone, amongst these millions of men who have stopped working, or work the wrong way, the petty cultivator labors to advantage; free of taxes, of tithes and of feudal imposts, possessing a scrap of ground which he has obtained for almost nothing or without stretching his purse strings, he works in good spirits. He is sure that henceforth his crop will no longer be eaten up by the levies of the seignior, of the decimateur and of the King, that it will belong to him, that it will be wholly his, and that the worse the famine in the towns, the dearer he will sell his produce. Hence, he has ploughed more vigorously than ever; he has even cleared waste ground; getting the soil gratis, or nearly so, and having to make but few advances, having no other use for his advances, consisting of seed, manure, the work of his cattle and of his own hands, he has planted, reaped and raised grain with the greatest energy. Perhaps other articles of consumption will be scarce; it may be that, owing to the ruin of other branches of industry, it will be hard to get dry-goods, shoes, sugar, soap, oil, candles, wine and brandy; it may happen that, owing to the bungling way in which agricultural transformations have been effected, all produce of the secondary order, meat, vegetables, butter and eggs, may become scarce. In any event, French foodstuffs par excellence is on hand, standing in the field or stored in sheaves in the barns; in 1792 and 1793, and even in 1794, there is enough grain in France to provide every French inhabitant with his daily bread.
But that is not enough. In order that each Frenchman may obtain his bit of bread every day, it is still essential that grain should reach the markets in sufficient quantities, and that the bakers should every day have enough flour to make all the bread that is required; moreover, the bread offered for sale in the bakeries should not exceed the price which the majority of consumers can afford to pay. Now, in fact, through a forced result of the new system, neither of these conditions is fulfilled.—In the first place, wheat, and hence bread, is too dear. Even at the old rate, these would still be too dear for the innumerable empty or half-empty purses, after so many attacks on property, industry and trade, now that so many hundreds of workmen and employees are out of work, now that so many land-owners and bourgeois receive no rents, now that incomes, profits, wages and salaries have diminished by hundreds of thousands. But wheat, and, consequently, bread, has not remained at old rates. Formerly a sack of wheat in Paris was worth 50 francs. In February, 1793, it is worth sixty-five francs; in May, 1793, one hundred francs and then one hundred and fifty; and hence bread, in Paris, early in 1793, instead of being three sous the pound, costs six sous, in many of the southern departments seven and eight sous, and in other places ten and twelve sous. The reason is, that, since August 10, 1792, after the King's fall and the wrenching away of the ancient keystone of the arch which still kept the loosened stones of the social edifice in place, the frightened peasant would no longer part with his produce; he determined not to take assignats, not to let his grain go for anything but ringing coin. To exchange good wheat for bad, dirty paper rags seemed to him a trick, and justly so, for, on going to town every month he found that the dealers gave him less merchandise for these rags. Being distrustful and a hoarder, he must have good, old fashioned crowns, with the ancient effigy, so as to lay them away in a jar or old woollen stocking; give him specie or he will keep his grain. For he is not, as formerly, obliged to part with it as soon as it is cut, to pay taxes and rent; the bailiff and sheriff are no longer there to constrain him; in these times of disorder and demagoguism, under impotent or partial authorities, neither the public nor the private creditor has the power to compel payment, while the spurs which formerly impelled the farmer to seek the nearest market are blunted or broken. He therefore stays away, and he has excellent reasons for so doing. Vagabonds and the needy stand by the roadside and at the entrances of the towns to stop and pillage the loaded carts; in the markets and on the open square, women cut open bags of grain with their scissors and empty them, or the municipality, forced to do it by the crowd, fixes the price at a reduced rate.—The larger a town, the greater the difficulty in supplying its market; for its provisions are drawn from a distance; each department, each canton, each village keeps its own grain for itself by means of legal requisitions or by brutal force; it is impossible for wholesale dealers in grain to make bargains; they are styled monopolists, and the mob, breaking into their storehouses, hangs them out of preference. As the government, accordingly, has proclaimed their speculations "crimes," it is going to interdict their trade and substitute itself for them.—But this substitution only increases the penury still more; in vain do the towns force collections, tax their rich men, raise money on loan, and burden themselves beyond their resources; they only make the matter worse. When the municipality of Paris expends twelve thousand francs a day for the sale of flour at a low price in the markets, it keeps away the flour-dealers, who cannot deliver flour at such low figures; the result is that there is not flour enough in the market for the six hundred thousand mouths in Paris; when it expends seventy-five thousand francs daily to indemnify the bakers, it attracts the outside population, which rushes into Paris to get bread cheap, and for the seven hundred thousand mouths of Paris and the suburbs combined, the bakers have not an adequate supply. Whoever comes late finds the shop empty; consequently, everybody tries to get there earlier and earlier, at dawn, before daybreak, and then five or six hours before daybreak in February, 1793, long lines of people are already waiting at the bakers' door, these lines growing longer and longer in April, while in June they are enormously long. Naturally, for lack of bread, people fall back on other aliments, which also grow dearer; add to this the various contrivances and effects of Jacobin politics which still further increase the dearness of food of all sorts, and also of every other necessary article: for instance, the extremely bad condition of the roads, which renders transportation slower and more costly; the prohibition of the export of coin and hence the obtaining of food from abroad; the decree which obliges each industrial or commercial association, at present or to come, to "pay annually into the national treasury one-quarter of the amount of its dividends;" the revolt in Vendee, which deprives Paris of six hundred oxen a week; the feeding of the armies, which takes one-half of the cattle brought to the Poissy market; shutting off the sea and the continent, which ruins manufacturers and extensive commercial operations; the insurrections in Bordeaux, Marseilles and the South, which still further raise the price of groceries, sugar, soap, oil, candles, wine and brandy.—Early in 1793, a pound of beef in France is worth on the average, instead of six sous twenty sous; in May, at Paris, brandy which, six months before, cost thirty-five sous, costs ninety-four sous; in July, a pound of veal, instead of five sous, costs twenty-two sous. Sugar, from twenty sous, advances to four francs ten sous; a candle costs seven sous. France, pushed on by the Jacobins, approaches the depths of misery, entering the first circle of its Inferno; other circles follow down deeper and deeper, narrower still and yet more somber; under Jacobin impulsion is she to descend to the lowest?
First and general cause of privations.—The socialist principle of the Revolutionary government.—Measures against large as well as small properties.—Expropriation of all remaining corporations, enormous issues of paper-money. forced rates of its circulation, forced loans, requisitions of coin and plate, revolutionary taxes, suppression of special organs of labor on a large scale.—New measures against small proprietorship.—The Maximum, requisitions for food and labor.—Situation of the shop-keeper, cultivator and laborer.—Effect of the measures on labor on a small scale. Stoppage of sales.
Obviously, if the people is not being fed properly and in places not at all, it is because one of the central and most important fibers of the economical machine has been incapacitated. It is evident that this fiber controls the sentiment by which man holds on to his property, fears to risk it, refuses to depreciate it, and tries to increase it. Obviously in the real human being, such as he actually is made up, this intense sentiment, tenacious, always stirring and active, is the magazine of inward energy which provides for three-fourths, almost the whole, of that unremitting effort, that calculating attention, that determined perseverance which leads the individual to undergo privation, to contrive and to exert himself, to turn to profitable account the labor of his hands, brain and capital, and to produce, save and create for himself and for others various resources and comforts.
(It is probable that disinterested motives, pure love for one's neighbor, for humanity, for country, do not form a hundredth part of the total energy that produces human activity. It must not be forgotten that the actions of men are alloyed with motives of a lower order, such as love of fame, the desire of self-admiration and of self-approval, fear of punishment and hope of reward beyond the grave, all of these being interested motives, and without which disinterested motives would be inoperative excepting in two or three souls among ten thousand.)
Thus far, in society as a whole, this sentiment has been only partially touched, and the injury has mainly been to the well-to-do or rich classes. At first only one-half of its useful energy has been destroyed since only those services rendered by the rich and wealthy classes have been dispensed with. Little else than the labor of the capitalist, proprietor or contractor has been suppressed, whose far-reaching, combined, comprehensive labor, the rewards of which consist of objects of luxury and convenience, ensure for society that abundant supplies are always on hand, through ready and spontaneous distribution of indispensable commodities. There remains (for the Jacobins) to crush out what is left of this laborious and nutritive fiber; the remnant of useful energy has to be destroyed down to its extirpation among the people. Here there must be a suppression, as far as possible, of all manual, rude labor even on a small scale, and of its rudimentary fruits; the discouragement of the insignificant shopkeeper, mechanic and ploughman must be effected; the corner-grocer must be prevented from selling his sugar and candles, and the cobbler from mending shoes: the miller must think of giving up his mill and the wagoner of abandoning his cart; the farmer must be convinced that the best thing he can do is to get rid of his horses, eat his pork himself, let his oxen famish and leave his crops to rot on the ground.—The Jacobins are to do all this, for it is the inevitable result of the theory that they have proclaimed and which they apply. According to this theory the stern, strong, deep-seated instinct through which the individual stubbornly holds on to what he has, to what he makes for himself and for those that belong to him, is just the unwholesome fiber that must be rooted out or paralyzed at any cost; its true name is "egoism, incivism," and its operations consist of outrages on the community, which is the sole legitimate proprietor of property and products, and, yet more, of all persons and services. Body and soul, all belongs to the State, nothing to individuals, and, if need be, the State has the right to take not only lands and capital, but, again, to claim and tax at whatever rate it pleases all corn and cattle, all vehicles and the animals that draw them, all candles and sugar; it has the right to appropriate to itself and tax at whatever rate it pleases, the labor of shoemaker, tailor, miller, wagoner, ploughman, reaper and thrasher. The seizure of men and things is universal, and the new sovereigns do their best at it; for, in practice, necessity urges them on; insurrection thunders at their door; their supporters, all crackbrains with empty stomachs, the poor and the idle, and the Parisian populace, listen to no reason and blindly insist on things haphazard; they are bound to satisfy their patrons at once, to issue one on top of the other all the decrees they call for, even when impracticable and mischievous to starve the provinces so as to feed the city, to starve the former to-morrow so as to feed the latter to-day.—Subject to the clamors and menaces of the street they dispatch things rapidly; they cease to care for the future, the present being all that concerns them; they take and take forcibly; they uphold violence by brutality, they support robbery with murder; they expropriate persons by categories and appropriate objects by categories, and after the rich they despoil the poor.—During fourteen months the revolutionary government thus keeps both hands at work, one hand completing the confiscation of property, large and medium, and the other proceeding to the entire abolition of property even on a small scale.
Against large or medium properties it suffices to extend and aggravate the decrees already passed.—The spoliation of the last of existing corporations must be effected: the government, confiscates the property of hospitals, communes, and all scientific or literary associations.
To this we must add the spoliation of State credits and all other credits: it issues in fourteen months 5 100 millions of assignats, at one time and with one decree 1,400 million and another time 2,000 millions. It thus condemns itself to complete future bankruptcy. It also calls in the 1,500 million of assignats bearing the royal stamp (a face royale) and thus arbitrarily converts and reduces the public debt on the Grand Ledger, which is already, in fact, a partial and declared bankruptcy. Six months imprisonment for whoever refuses to accept assignats at par, twenty years in irons if the offence is repeated and the guillotine if there is an incivique intention or act, which suffices for all other creditors.
The spoliation of individuals, a forced loan of a billion on the rich, requisitions for coin against assignats at par, seizures of plate and jewels in private houses, revolutionary taxes so numerous as not only to exhaust the capital, but likewise the credit, of the person taxed, and the resumption by the State of the public domain pledged to private individuals for the past three centuries. How many years of labor are requisite to bring together again so much available capital, to reconstruct in France and to refill once again those private reservoirs which are to contain the accumulated savings essential for the out-flow required to drive the great wheel of each general enterprise? Take into account, moreover, the enterprises which are directly destroyed, root and branch, by revolutionary executions, enforced against the manufacturers and traders of Lyons, Marseilles and Bordeaux, proscribed in a mass, guillotined, imprisoned, or put to flight, their factories stopped, their storehouses put under sequestration, with their stocks of brandy, soap, silk, muslins, leather, paper, serges, cloth, canvas, cordage and the rest; the same at Nantes under Carrier, at Strasbourg under Saint-Just, and everywhere else.—"Commerce is annihilated," writes a Swiss merchant, from Paris, and the government, one would say, tries systematically to render it impossible. On the 27th of June, 1793, the Convention closes the Bourse; on the 15th of April, 1794, it suppresses "financial associations" and "prohibits all bankers, merchants and other persons from organizing any establishment of the said character under any pretext or title whatsoever." On the 8th of September, 1793, the Commune places seals "in all the counting-houses of bankers, stockbrokers, agents and silver-dealers," and locks up their owners; as a favor, considering that they are obliged to pay the drafts drawn on them, they are let out, but provisionally, and on condition that they remain under arrest at home, "under the guard of two good citizens," at their own expense. Such is the case in Paris and in other cities, not alone with prominent merchants, but likewise with notaries and lawyers, with whom funds are on deposit and who manage estates; a sans-culotte with his pike stands in their cabinet whilst they write, and he accompanies them in the street when they call on their clients. Imagine the state of a notary's office or a counting-room under a system of this sort! The master of it winds up his business as soon as he can, no matter how, makes no new engagements and does as little as possible. Still more inactive than he, his colleagues, condemned to an indefinite listlessness, under lock and key in the common prison, no longer attend to their business.—There is a general, total paralysis of those natural organs which, in economic life, produce, elaborate, receive, store, preserve, exchange and transmit in large quantities; and as an after effect, embarrass, saturate, or weaken all the lesser subordinate organs to which the superior ones no longer provide outlets, intermediary agencies or aliment.
It is now the turn of the small enterprises. Whatever their sufferings may be they are ordered to carry their work out as in normal times, and they will be forced to do this. The Convention, pursuing its accustomed rigid logical course with its usual shortsightedness, lays on them its violent and inept hands; they are trodden down, trampled upon and mauled for the purpose of curing them. Farmers are forbidden to sell their produce except in the markets, and obliged to bring to these a quota of so many sacks per week, military raids compelling them to furnish their quotas. Shopkeepers are ordered "to expose for sale, daily and publicly, all goods and provisions of prime necessity" that they have on hand, while a maximum price is established, above which no one shall sell "bread, flour and grain, vegetables and fruits, wine, vinegar, cider, beer and brandy, fresh meat, salt meat, pork, cattle, dried, salted, smoked or pickled fish, butter, honey, sugar, sweet-oil, lamp-oil, candles, firewood, charcoal and other coal, salt, soap, soda, potash, leather, iron, steel, castings, lead, brass, hemp, linen, woolens, canvas and woven stuffs, sabots, shoes and tobacco." Whoever keeps on hand more than he consumes is a monopolist and commits a capital crime; the penalty, very severe, is imprisonment or the pillory, for whoever sells above the established price: such are the simple and direct expedients of the revolutionary government, and such is the character of its inventive faculty, like that of the savage who hews down a tree to get at its fruit.—Consequently, after the first application of the "maximum" the shopkeeper is no longer able to carry on business; his customers, attracted by the sudden depreciation in price of his wares, flock to his shop and empty it in a few days; having sold his goods for half what they cost him, he has got back only one-half of his advances; therefore, he can only one-half renew his assortment, less than a half, since he has not paid his bills, and his credit is declining, the (Jacobin) representatives on mission having taken all his coin, plate and assignats. Hence, during the following month, buyers find on his unfurnished counters nothing but rubbish and refuse.
In like manner, after the proclamation of the maximum, the peasant refuses to bring his produce to market, while the revolutionary army is not everywhere on hand to take it from him by force: he leaves his crop unthrashed as long as he can, and complains of not finding the men to thrash it. If necessary, he hides it or feeds it out to his animals. He often barters it away for wood, for a side of bacon or in payment for a day's work. At night, he carts it off six leagues to a neighboring district, where the local maximum is fixed at a higher rate. He knows who, in his own vicinity, still has specie in his pocket and he underhandedly supplies him with his stores. He especially conceals his superabundance and, as formerly, pretends to be poor and suffering. He is on good terms with the village authorities, with the mayor and national agent who are as interested as he is in evading the law, and, on a bribe being necessary, he gives it. At last, he allows himself to be sued, and his property attached; he goes to prison and tires the authorities out with his obstinacy. Hence, from week to week, less flour and grain and fewer cattle come to market, while meat becomes scarcer at the butcher's, and bread at the baker's.—Having thus paralyzed the lesser organs of supply and demand the Jacobins now have only to paralyze labor itself, the skilled hands, the active and vigorous arms. This is simply done by replacing the independent private workshop by the compulsory national workshop in this way replacing piece-work by work by the day, and the attentive, energetic workman who minds his business and expects to earn money in return by inattentive apathic workmen pressed into a poorly paid service but paid even when they botch the job or laze about.—This is what the Jacobins do by forcibly commanding the services of all sorts of laborers, "all who help handle, transport and retail produce and articles of prime necessity," "country people who usually get in the crops," and, more particularly, thrashers, reapers, carters, rafts men, and also shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths and the rest.—At every point of the social organism, the same principle is applied with the same result. Substitute everywhere an external, artificial and mechanical constraint for the inward, natural and animating stimulant, and you get nothing but an universal atrophy. Deprive people of the fruits of their labor, and yet more, force them to produce by fear, confiscate their time, their painstaking efforts and their persons, reduce them to the condition of fellahs, create in them the sentiments of fellahs, and you will have nothing but the labor and productions of fellahs, that is to say, a minimum of labor and production, and hence, insufficient supplies for sustaining a very dense population, which, multiplied through a superior and more productive civilization, will not long subsist under a barbarous, inferior and unproductive regime. When this systematic and complete expropriation terminates we see the final result of the system, no longer a dearth, but famine, famine on a large scale, and the destruction of lives by millions.—Among the Jacobins, some of the maddest who are clear-sighted, on account of their fury, Guffroy, Antonelle, Jean Bon Saint-Andre, Collot d'Herbois, foresee the consequences and accept them along with the principle. Others, who avoid seeing it, are only the more determined in the application of it. However, they all work together with all their might to aggravate the misery of which the lamentable spectacle is so vainly exposed under their eyes.
Famine.—In the provinces.—At Paris.—People standing in lines under the Revolutionary government to obtain food. —Its quality.—Distress and chagrin.
Collot d'Herbois wrote from Lyons on November 6, 1793: "There is not two days' supply of provisions here." On the following day: "The present population of Lyons is one hundred and thirty thousand souls at least, and there is not sufficient subsistence for three days." Again the day after: "Our situation in relation to food is deplorable." Then, the next day: "Famine is beginning."—Near by, in the Montbrison district, in February, 1794, "there is no food or provisions left for the people;" all has been taken by requisition and carried off, even seed for planting, so that the fields lie fallow.—At Marseilles, "since the maximum, everything is lacking; even the fishermen no longer go out (on the sea) so that there is no supply of fish to live on."—At Cahors, in spite of multiplied requisitions, the Directory of Lot and Representative Taillefer state that "the inhabitants, for more than eight days, are reduced wholly to maslin bread composed of one-fifth of wheat and the rest of barley, barley-malt and millet."—At Nimes, to make the grain supply last, which is giving out, the bakers and all private persons are ordered not to sift the meal, but to leave the bran in it and knead and bake the "dough such as it is."—At Grenoble, "the bakers have stopped baking; the country people no longer bring wheat in; the dealers hide away their goods, or put them in the hands of neighborly officials, or send them off."—"It goes from bad to worse," write the agents of Huningue; one might say even, that they would give this or that article to their cattle rather than sell it in conformity with the tax."—The inhabitants of towns are everywhere put on rations, and so small a ration as to scarcely keep them from dying with hunger. "Since my arrival in Tarbes," writes another agent, "every person is limited to half a pound of bread a day, composed one-third of wheat and two-thirds of corn meal." The next day after the fete in honor of the tyrant's death there was absolutely none at all. "A half-pound of bread is also allowed at Evreux, "and even this is obtained with a good deal of trouble, many being obliged to go into the country and get it from the farmers with coin." And even "they have got very little bread, flour or wheat, for they have been obliged to bring what they had to Evreux for the armies and for Paris."
It is worse at Rouen and at Bordeaux: at Rouen, in Brumaire, the inhabitants have only one quarter of a pound per head per diem of bread; at Bordeaux, "for the past three months," says the agent, "the people sleep at the doors of the bakeries, to pay high for bread which they often do not get... There has been no baking done to-day, and to-morrow only half a loaf will be given to each person. This bread is made of oats and beans... On days that there is none, beans, chestnuts and rice are distributed in very small quantities," four ounces of bread, five of rice or chestnuts. "I, who tell you this, have already eaten eight or ten meals without bread; I would gladly do without it if I could get potatoes in place of it, but these, too, cannot be had." Five months later, fasting still continues, and it lasts until after the reign of Terror, not alone in the town, but throughout the department. "In the district of Cadillac, says Tallien, "absolute dearth prevails; the citizens of the rural districts contend with each other for the grass in the fields; I have eaten bread made of dog-grass." Haggard and worn out, the peasant, with his pallid wife and children, resorts to the marsh to dig roots, while there is scarcely enough strength in his arms to hold the plough.—The same spectacle is visible in places which produce but little grain, or where the granaries have been emptied by the revolutionary drafts. "In many of the Indre districts," writes the representative on missions, "food is wanting absolutely. Even in some of the communes, many of the inhabitants are reduced to a frightful state of want, feeding on acorns, bran and other unhealthy food.... The districts of Chatre and Argenton, especially, will be reduced to starvation unless they are promptly relieved.... The cultivation of the ground is abandoned; most of the persons in the jurisdiction wander about the neighboring departments in search of food."—And it is doubtful whether they find it. In the department of Cher, "the butchers can no longer slaughter; the dealers' stores are all empty." In Allier, "the slaughterhouses and markets are deserted, every species of vegetable and aliment having disappeared; the inns are closed." In one of the Lozere districts, composed of five cantons, of which one produces an extra quantity of rye, the people live on requisitions imposed on Gard and the Upper Loire; the extortions of the representatives in these two departments "were distributed among the municipalities, and by these to the most indigent: many entire families, many of the poor and even of the rich, suffered for want of bread during six or eight days, and this frequently." Nevertheless they do not riot; they merely supplicate and stretch forth their hands "with tears in their eyes. "—Such is the diet and submission of the stomach in the provinces. Paris is less patient. For this reason, all the rest is sacrificed to it, not merely the public funds, the Treasury from which it gets one or two millions per week, but whole districts are starved for its benefit, six departments providing grain, twenty six departments providing pork, at the rate of the maximum, through requisitions, through the prospect of imprisonment and of the scaffold in case of refusal or concealment, under the predatory bayonets of the revolutionary army. The capital, above all, has to be fed. Let us see, under this system of partiality, how people live in Paris and what they feed on.
"Frightful crowds" at the doors of the bakeries, then at the doors of the butchers and grocers, then at the markets for butter, eggs, fish and vegetables, and then on the quay for wine, firewood and charcoal—such is the steady refrain of the police reports.—And this lasts uninterruptedly during the fourteen months of revolutionary government: long lines of people waiting in turn for bread, meat, oil, soap and candles, "queues for milk, for butter, for wood, for charcoal, queues everywhere!" "There was one queue beginning at the door of a grocery in the Petit Carreau stretching half way up the rue Montorgueil." These queues form at three o'clock in the morning, one o'clock and at midnight, increasing from hour to hour. Picture to yourself, reader, the file of wretched men and women sleeping on the pavement when the weather is fine and when not fine, standing up on stiff tottering legs; above all in winter, "the rain pouring on their backs," and their feet in the snow, for so many weary hours in dark, foul, dimly lighted streets strewed with garbage; for, for want of oil, one half of the street lamps are extinguished, and for lack of money, there is no repaving, no more sweeping, the offal being piled up against the walls. The crowd draggles along through it, likewise, nasty, tattered and torn, people with shoes full of holes, because the shoemakers do no more work for their customers, and in dirty shirts, because no more soap can be had to wash with, while, morally as well as physically, all these forlorn beings elbowing each other render themselves still fouler.—Promiscuousness, contact, weariness, waiting and darkness afford free play to the grosser instincts; especially in summer, natural bestiality and Parisian mischievousness have full play. "Lewd women" pursue their calling standing in the row; it is an interlude for them; "their provoking expressions, their immoderate laughter," is heard some distance off and they find it a convenient place: two steps aside, on the flank of the row, are "half open doors and dark alleys" which invite tete-a-tete; many of these women who have brought their mattresses "sleep there and commit untold abominations." What an example for the wives and daughters of steady workmen, for honest servants who hear and see! Men stop at each row and choose their dulcinea, while others, less shameless, pounce on the women like bulls and kiss them one after the other." Are not these the fraternal kisses of patriotic Jacobins? Do not Mayor Pache's wife and daughter go to the clubs and kiss drunken sans-culottes? And what says the guard?—It has enough to do to restrain another blind and deaf animal instinct, aroused as it is by suffering, anticipation and deception.
On approaching each butcher's stall before it opens "the porters, bending under the weight of a side of beef, quicken their steps so as not to be assailed by the crowd which presses against them, seeming to devour the raw meat with their eyes." They force a passage, enter the shop in the rear, and it seems as if the time for distributing the meat had come; the gendarmes, spurring their horses to a gallop, scatter the groups that are too dense; "rascals, in pay of the Commune," range the women in files, two and two, "shivering" in the cold morning air of December and January, awaiting their turn. Beforehand, however, the butcher, according to law, sets aside the portion for the hospitals, for pregnant women and others who are confined, for nurses, and besides, notwithstanding the law, he sets aside another portion for the revolutionary committee of the section, for the assistant commissioner and superintendent, for the pashas and semi pashas of the quarter, and finally for his rich customers who pay him extra. To this end, "porters with broad shoulders form an impenetrable rampart in front of the shop and carry away whole oxen;" after this is over, the women find the shop stripped, while many, after wasting their time for four mortal hours," go away empty handed.—With this prospect before them the daily assemblages get to be uneasy and the waves rise; nobody, except those at the head of the row, is sure of his pittance those that are behind regard enviously and with suppressed anger the person ahead of them. First come outcries, then jeering and then scuffling; the women rival the men in struggling and in profanity, and they hustle each other. The line suddenly breaks; each rushes to get ahead of the other; the foremost place belongs to the most robust and the most brutal, and to secure it they have to trample down their neighbors.
There are fisticuffs every day. When an assemblage remains quiet the spectators take notice of it. In general "they fight, snatch bread out of each other's hands; those who cannot get any forcing whoever gets a loaf weighing four pounds to share it in small pieces. The women yell frightfully.... Children sent by their parents are beaten," while the weak are pitched into the gutter. "In distributing the meanest portions of food it is force which decides," the strength of loins and arms; "a number of women this morning came near losing their lives in trying to get four ounces of butter.—More sensitive and more violent than men, "they do not, or will not, listen to reason, they pounce down like harpies" on the market wagons; they thrash the drivers, strew the vegetables and butter on the ground, tumble over each other and are suffocated through the impetuosity of the assault; some, "trampled upon, almost crushed, are carried off half dead." Everybody for himself. Empty stomachs feel that, to get anything, it is important to get ahead, not to await for the distribution, the unloading or even the arrival of the supplies.—"A boat laden with wine having been signaled, the crowd rushed on board to pillage it and the boat sunk," probably along with a good many of its invaders. Other gatherings at the barriers stop the peasants' wagons and take their produce before they reach the markets. Outside the barriers, children and women throw stones at the milkmen, forcing them to get down from their carts and distribute milk on the spot. Still further out, one or two leagues off on the highways, gangs from Paris go at night to intercept and seize the supplies intended for Paris. "This morning," says a watchman, "all the Faubourg St. Antoine scattered itself along the Vincennes road and pillaged whatever was on the way to the city; some paid, while others carried off without paying.... The unfortunate peasants swore that they would not fetch anything more," the dearth thus increasing through the efforts to escape it.
In vain the government makes its requisitions for Paris as if in a state of siege, and fixes the quantity of grain on paper which each department, district, canton, and commune, must send to the capital.—Naturally, each department, district, canton and commune strives to retain its own supplies, for charity begins at home. Especially in a village, the mayor and members of a municipality, themselves cultivators, are lukewarm when the commune is to be starved for the benefit of the capital. They declare a less return of grain than there really is; they allege reasons and pretexts. They mystify or suborn the commissioner on provisions, who is a stranger, incompetent and needy; they make him drink and eat, and, now and then, fill his pocket book. He slips over the accounts, he gives the village receipts on furnishing three-quarters or a half of the demand, often in spoilt or mixed grain or poor flour, while those who have no rusty wheat get it of their neighbors. Instead of parting with a hundred quintals they part with fifty, while the quantity of grain in the Paris markets is not only insufficient, but the grain blackens or sprouts and the flour grows musty. In vain the government makes clerks and depositaries of butchers and grocers, allowing them five or ten per cent. profit on retail sales of the food it supplies them with at wholesale, and thus creates in Paris, at the expense of all France, an artificial drop in prices. Naturally, the bread which, thanks to the State, costs three sous in Paris, is furtively carried out of Paris into the suburbs, where six sous are obtained for it. There is the same furtive leakage for other food furnished by the State on the same conditions to other dealers; the tax is a burden which forces them to go outside their shops. Food finds its level like water, not alone outside of Paris, but in Paris itself.
* Naturally, "the grocers peddle their goods" secretly, "sugar, candles, soap, butter, dried vegetables, meat pies and the rest," amongst private houses, in which these articles are bought at any price.
* Naturally, the butcher keeps his large pieces of beef and choice morsels for the large eating houses, and for rich customers who pay him whatever profit he asks.
* Naturally, whoever is in authority, or has the power, uses it to supply himself first, largely, and in preference; we have seen the levies of the revolutionary committees, superintendents and agents; as soon as rations are allotted to all mouths, each potentate will have several rations delivered for his mouth alone; in the meantime the patriots who guard the barriers appropriate all provisions that arrive, and the next morning, should any scolding appear in the orders of the day, it is but slight.
Such are the two results of the system: not only is the food which is supplied to Paris scant and poor, but the regular consumers of it, those who take their turn to get it, obtain but a small portion, and that the worst. A certain inspector, on going to the corn market for a sample of flour, writes "that it cannot be called flour; it is ground bran," and not a nutritive substance; the bakers are forced to take it, the markets containing for the most part no other supply than this flour."—Again, three weeks later, "Food is still very scarce and poor in quality. The bread is disagreeable to the taste and produces maladies with which many citizens are suffering, like dysentery and other inflammatory ailments." The same report, three months later during the month of Nivose: "Complaints are constantly made of the poor quality of flour, which, it is said, makes a good many people ill; it causes severe pain in the intestines, accompanied with a slow fever.—During Ventose, "the scarcity of every article is extremely great," especially of meat. Some women in the Place Maubert, pass six hours in a line waiting for it, and do not get the quarter of a pound; in many stalls there is none at all, not "an ounce" being obtainable to make broth for the sick. Workmen do not get it in their shops and do without their soup; they live on "bread and salted herrings." A great many people groan over "not having eaten bread for a fortnight;" women say that "they have not had a dish of meat and vegetables (pot au feu) for a month." Meanwhile "vegetables are astonishingly scarce and excessively dear.... two sous for a miserable carrot, and as much for two small leeks." Out of two thousand women who wait at the central market for a distribution of beans, only six hundred receive any. Potatoes increase in price in one week from two to three francs a bushel, and oatmeal and ground peas triple in price. "The grocers have no more brown sugar, even for the sick," and sell candles and soap only by the half pound.—A fortnight later candles are wholly wanting in certain quarters, except in the section storehouse, which is almost empty, each person being allowed only one. A good many households go to rest at sundown for lack of lights and do not cook any dinner for lack of coal. Eggs, especially, are "honored as invisible divinities," while the absent butter "is a god." "If this lasts," say the workmen, "we shall have to cut each other's throats, since there is nothing left to live on." "Sick women, children in their cradles, lie outstretched in the sun," in the very heart of Paris, in rue Vivienne, on the Pont-Royal, and remain there "late in the night, demanding alms of the passers-by." "One is constantly stopped by beggars of both sexes, most of them healthy and strong," begging, they say, for lack of work. Without counting the feeble and the infirm who are unable to stand in a line, whose sufferings are visible, who gradually waste away and die without a murmur at home, "one encounters in the streets and markets" only famished and eager visages, "an immense crowd of citizens running and dashing against each other," crying out and weeping, "everywhere presenting an image of despair."
V. Revolutionary Remedies.
Revolutionary remedies.—Rigor against the refractory. —Decrees and orders rendering the State the only depositary and distributor of food.—Efforts made to establish a conscription of labor.—Discouragement of the Peasant.—He refuses to cultivate.—Decrees and orders compelling him to harvest.—His stubbornness.—Cultivators imprisoned by thousands.—The Convention is obliged to set them at liberty.—Fortunate circumstances which save France from extreme famine.
This penury only exists, say the Jacobins, because the laws against monopoly, and sales above the "maximum" prices are not being obeyed to the letter of the law. The egoism of the cultivator and the cupidity of dealers are not restrained by fear and delinquents escape too frequently from the legal penalty. Let us enforce this penalty rigorously; let us increase the punishment against them and their instruments; let us screw up the machine and give them a new wrench. A new estimate and verification of the food supply takes place, domiciliary searches, seizures of special stores regarded as too ample, limited rations for each consumer, a common and obligatory mess table for all prisoners, brown, egalite bread, mostly of bran, for every mouth that can chew, prohibition of the making of any other kind, confiscation of boulters and sieves, the "individual," personal responsibility of every administrator who allows the people he directs to resist or escape providing the demanded supplies, the sequestration of his property, imprisonment, fines, the pillory and the guillotine to hurry up requisitions, or stop free trading,—every terrifying method is driven to the utmost against the farmers and cultivators of the soil.
After April, 1794, crowds of this class are found filling the prisons to overflowing; the Revolution has struck them also. They stroll about in the court yard, and wander through the corridors with a sad, stupefied expression, no longer comprehending the way things are going on in the world. In vain are efforts made to explain to them that "their crops are national property and that they are simply its depositaries;" never had this new principle entered into, nor will it enter, their rude brains; always, through habit and instinct, will they work against it.—Let them be spared the temptation. Let us (the Jacobins) relieve them from, and, in fact, take their crops; let the State in France become the sole depositary and distributor of grain; let it solely buy and sell grain at a fixed rate. Consequently, at Paris, the Committee of Public Safety first puts "in requisition all the oats that can be found in the Republic; every holder of oats is required to deposit his stock on hand within eight days, in the storehouse indicated by the district administration "at the maximum" price; otherwise he is "a 'suspect' and must be punished as such." In the meantime, through still more comprehensive orders issued in the provinces, Paganel in the department of Tarn, and Dartigoyte in those of Gers and the Upper-Garonne, enjoin each commune to establish public granaries. "All citizens are ordered to bring in whatever produce they possess in grain, flour, wheat, maslin, rye, barley, oats, millet, buckwheat" at the "maximum" rate. Nobody shall keep on hand more than one month's supply, fifty pounds of flour or wheat for each person; in this way, the State, which holds in its hands the keys of the storehouses, may "carry out the salutary equalization of provisions" between department and department, district and district, commune and commune, individual and individual. A storekeeper will look after each of these well filled granaries; the municipality will itself deliver rations and, moreover, "take suitable steps to see that beans and vegetables, as they mature, be economically distributed under its supervision," at so much per head, and always at the rate of the "maximum." Otherwise, dismissal, imprisonment and prosecution "in the extraordinary criminal tribunal. "-This being accomplished, and the fruits of labor duly allotted, there remains only the allotment of labor itself. To effect this, Maignet, in Vaucluse, and in the Bouches du Rhone, prescribes for each municipality the immediate formation of two lists, one of day laborers and the other of proprietors. "All proprietors in need of a cultivator by the day," are to appear and ask for one at the municipality, which will assign the applicant as many as he wants, "in order on the list," with a card for himself and numbers for the designated parties. The laborer who does not enter his name on the list, or who exacts more than the "maximum" wages, is to be sentenced to the pillory with two years in irons. The same sentence with the addition of a fine of three hundred livres, is for every proprietor who employs any laborer not on the list or who pays more than the "maximum rate of wages.
After this, nothing more is necessary, in practice, than to
* draw up and keep in sight the new registries of names and figures made by the members of thirty thousand municipal boards, who cannot keep accounts and who scarcely know how to read and write;
* build a vast public granary, or put in requisition three or four barns in each commune, in which half dried and mixed grain may rot;
* pay two hundred thousand incorruptible storekeepers and measurers who will not divert anything from the depots for their friends or themselves;
* add to the thirty five thousand employees of the Committee on Provisions, five hundred thousand municipal scribes disposed to quit their trades or ploughs for the purpose of making daily distributions gratuitously; but more precisely, to maintain four or five millions of perfect gendarmes, one in each family, living with it, to help along the purchases, sales and transactions of each day and to verify at night the contents of the locker.
In short, to set one half of the French people as spies on the other half.—These are the conditions which secure the production and distribution of food, and which suffice for the institution throughout France of a conscription of labor and the captivity of grain.
Unfortunately, the peasant does not understand this theory, but he understands business; he makes close calculations, and the positive, patent, vulgar facts on which he reasons lead to other conclusions:
"In Messidor last they took all my last years' oats, at fourteen francs in assignats, and, in Thermidor, they are going to take all this year's oats, at eleven francs in assignats. At this rate I shall not sow at all. Besides, I do not need any for myself, as they have taken my horses for the army wagons. To raise rye and wheat, as much of it as formerly, is also working at a loss; I will raise no more than the little I want for myself, and again, I suppose that this will be put in requisition, even my supplies for the year! I had rather let my fields lie fallow. Just see now, they are taking all the live three months' pigs! Luckily, I killed mine be forehand and it is now in the pork barrel. But they are going to claim all salt provisions like the rest. The new grabbers are worse than the old ones. Six months more, and we shall all die of hunger. It is better to cross one's arms at once and go to prison; there, at least, we shall be fed and not have to work."
In effect, they allow themselves to be imprisoned, the best of the small cultivators and proprietors by thousands, and Lindet, at the head of the Commission on Provisions, speaks with dismay of the ground being no longer tilled, of cattle in France being no more abundant than the year before, and of nothing to be had to cut this year.
For a strange thing has happened, unheard of in Europe, almost incredible to any one familiar with the French peasant and his love of work. This field which he has ploughed, manured, harrowed and reaped with his own hands, its precious crop, the crop that belongs to him and on which he has feasted his eyes for seven months, now that it is ripe, he will not take the trouble to gather it; it would be bothering himself for some one else. As the crop that he sees there is for the government, let the government defray the final cost of getting it in; let it do the harvesting, the reaping, the putting it in sheaves, the carting and the thrashing in the barn.—Thereupon, the representatives on mission exclaim, each shouting in a louder or lower key, according to his character.
"Many of the cultivators," writes Dartigoyte, "affect a supreme indifference for this splendid crop. One must have seen it, as I have, to believe how great the neglect of the wheat is in certain parts, how it is smothered by the grass.... Draft, if the case requires it, a certain number of inhabitants in this or that commune to work in another one.... Every man who refuses to work, except on the 'decade' day, must be punished as an ill-disposed citizen, as a royalist."—
"Generous friends of nature," writes Ferry, introduce amongst you, perpetuate around you, the habit of working in common and begin with the present crop. Do not spare either indolent women or indolent men, those social parasites, many of whom you doubtless have in your midst. What! allow lazy men and lazy women where we are! Where should we find a Republican police?... Immediately on the reception of this present order the municipal officers of each commune will convoke all citoyennes in the Temple of the Eternal and urge them, in the name of the law, to devote themselves to the labors of harvesting. Those women who fail in this patriotic duty, shall be excluded from the assemblies, from the national festivals, while all good citoyennes are requested to repel them from their homes. All good citizens are requested to give to this rural festivity that sentimental character which befits it."
—And the programme is carried out, here in idyllic shape and there under compulsion. Around Avignon, the commanding officer, the battalions of volunteers, and patriotic ladies, "the wives and daughters of patriots," inscribe themselves as harvesters. Around Arles, "the municipality drafts all the inhabitants; patrols are sent into the country to compel all who are engaged on other work to leave it and do the harvesting." The Convention, on its side, orders the release, "provisionally, of all ploughmen, day-laborers, reapers, and professional artisans and brewers, in the country and in the market towns and communes, the population of which is not over twelve hundred inhabitants, and who are confined as 'suspects.' "—In other terms, physical necessity has imposed silence on the inept theory; above all things, the crop must be harvested, and indispensable arms be restored to the field of labor. The governors of France are compelled to put on the brake, if only for an instant, at the last moment, at sight of the yawning abyss, of approaching and actual famine; France was then gliding into it, and, if not engulfed, it is simply a miracle.
Four fortunate circumstances, at the last hour, concur to keep her suspended on the hither brink of the precipice.—The winter chances to be exceptionally mild. The vegetables which make up for the absence of bread and meat provide food for April and May, while the remarkably fine harvest, almost spontaneous, is three weeks in advance.—Another, and the second piece of good fortune, consists in the great convoy from America, one hundred and sixteen vessels loaded with grain, which reached Brest on the 8th of June, 1794, in spite of English cruisers, thanks to the sacrifice of the fleet that protected it and which, eight days previously, had succumbed in its behalf. The third stroke of fortune is the entry of a victorious army into the enemies country and feeding itself through foreign requisitions, in Belgium, in the Palatinate and on the frontier provinces of Italy and Spain.—Finally, most fortunate of all, Robespierre, Saint Just and Couthon, the Paris commune and the theorist Jacobins, are guillotined on the 23rd of July, and with them falls despotic socialism. Henceforth, the Jacobin edifice crumbles, owing to great crevices in its walls. The "maximum," in fact, is no longer maintained, while the Convention, at the end of December, 1794, legally abolishes it. The farmers now sell as they please and at two prices, according as they are paid in assignats or coin; their hope, confidence and courage are restored; in October and November, 1794, they voluntarily do their own plowing and planting, and still more gladly will they gather in their own crops in July, 1795. Nevertheless, we can judge by the discouragement into which they had been plunged by four months of the system, the utter prostration into which they would have fallen had the system lasted an indefinite time. It is very probable that cultivation at the end of one or two years would have proved unproductive or have ceased altogether. Already, subject to every sort of exhortation and threat, the peasant had remained inert, apparently deaf and insensible, like an overloaded beast of burden which, so often struck, grows obstinate or sinks down and refuses to move. It is evident that he would have never stirred again could Saint-Just, holding him by the throat, have bound him hand and foot, as he had done at Strasbourg, in the multiplied knots of his Spartan Utopia. We should have seen what labor and the stagnation it produces comes to, when managed through State maneuvers by administrative manikins and humanitarian automatons. This experiment had been tried in China, in the eleventh century, and according to principles, long and regularly, by a well manipulated and omnipotent State, on the most industrious and soberest people in the world, and men died in myriads like flies. If the French, at the end of 1794 and during the following years did not die like flies, it was because the Jacobin system was relaxed too soon.
Relaxation of the Revolutionary system after Thermidor. —Repeal of the Maximum.—New situation of the peasant.—He begins to cultivation again.—Requisition of grain by the State.—The cultivator indemnifies himself at the expense of private persons.—Multiplication and increasing decline of Assignats. The classes who have to bear the burden.—Famine and misery during year III, and the first half of year IV. —In the country.—In the small towns.—In large towns and cities.
But, if the Jacobin system, in spite of its surviving founders, gradually relaxes after Thermidor; if the main ligature tied around the man's neck, broke just as the man was strangling, the others that still bind him hold him tight, except as they are loosened in places; and, as it is, some of the straps, terribly stiffened, sink deeper and deeper into his flesh.—In the first place, the requisitions continue there is no other way of provisioning the armies and the cities; the gendarme is always on the road, compelling each village to contribute its portion of grain, and at the legal rate. The refractory are subject to keepers, confiscations, fines and imprisonment; they are confined and kept in the district lock ups "at their own expense," men and women, twenty two on Pluviose 17, year III., in the district of Bar-sur-Aube; forty five, Germinal 7, in the district of Troyes; forty-five, the same day, in the district of Nogent-sur-Seine, and twenty others, eight days later, in the same district, in the commune of Traine alone.—The condition of the cultivator is certainly not an easy one, while public authority, aided by the public force, extorts from him all it can at a rate of its own; moreover, it will soon exact from him one half of his contributions in kind, and, it must be noted, that at this time, the direct contributions alone absorb twelve and thirteen sous on the franc of the revenue. Nevertheless, under this condition, which is that of laborers in a Muslim country, the French peasant, like the Syrian or Tunisian peasant, can keep himself alive; for, through the abolition of the "maximum," private transactions are now free, and, to indemnify himself on this side, he sells to private individuals and even to towns, by agreement, on understood terms, and as dear as he pleases; all the dearer because through the legal requisitions the towns are half empty, and there are fewer sacks of grain for a larger number of purchasers; hence his losses by the government are more than made up by his gains on private parties; he gains in the end, and that is why he persists in farming.
The weight, however, of which he relieves himself falls upon the overburdened buyer, and this weight, already excessive, goes on increasing, through another effect of the revolutionary institution, until it becomes ten-fold and even a hundred-fold.—The only money, in fact, which private individuals possess melts away in their hands, and, so to say, destroys itself. When the guillotine stops working, the assignat, losing its official value, falls to its real value. In August, 1794, the loss on it is sixty six per cent., in October, seventy two per cent., in December, seventy eight per cent., in January, 1795, eighty one per cent., and after that date the constant issues of enormous amounts, five hundred millions, then a billion, a billion and a half, and, finally, two billions a month, hastens its depreciation. The greater the depreciation of the assignats the greater the amount the government is obliged to issue to provide for its expenses, and the more it issues the more it causes their depreciation, so that the decline which increases the issue increases the depreciation, until, finally, the assignat comes down to nothing. On March II, 1795, the louis d'or brings two hundred and five francs in assignats, May 11, four hundred francs, June 12, one thousand francs, in the month of October, one thousand seven hundred francs, November 13, two thousand eight hundred and fifty francs, November 21 three thousand francs, and six months later, nineteen thousand francs. Accordingly, an assignat of one hundred francs is worth in June, 1795, four francs, in August three francs, in November fifteen sous, in December ten sous, and then five sous. Naturally, all provisions rise proportionately in price. A pound of bread in Paris, January 2, 1796, costs fifty francs, a pound of meat sixty francs, a pound of candles one hundred and eighty francs, a bushel of potatoes two hundred francs, a bottle of wine one hundred francs. The reader may imagine, if he can, the distress of people with small incomes, pensioners and employees, mechanics and artisans in the towns out of work, in brief, all who have nothing but a small package of assignats to live on, and who have nothing to do, whose indispensable wants are not directly supplied by the labor of their own hands in producing wine, candles, meat, potatoes and bread.
Immediately after the abolition of the "maximum," the cry of hunger increases. From month to month its accents become more painful and vehement in proportion to the increased dearness of provisions, especially in the summer of 1795, as the harvesting draws near, when the granaries, filled by the crop of 1794, are getting empty. And these hungering cries go up by millions: for a good many of the departments in France do not produce sufficient grain for home consumption, this being the case in fertile wheat departments, and likewise in certain districts; cries also go up from the large and small towns, while in each village numbers of peasants fast because they have no land to provide them with food, or because they lack strength, health, employment and wages. "For a fortnight past," writes a municipal body in Seine-et-Marne, "at least two hundred citizens in our commune are without bread, grain and flour; they have had no other food than bran and vegetables. We see with sorrow children deprived of nourishment, their nurses without milk, unable to suckle them; old men falling down through inanition, and young men in the fields too weak to stand up to their work." And other communes in the district "are about in the same condition." The same spectacle is visible throughout the Ile-de-France, Normandy, and in Picardy. Around Dieppe, in the country, entire communes support themselves on herbs and bran. "Citizen representatives," write the administrators, "we can no longer maintain ourselves. Our fellow citizens reproach us with having despoiled them of their grain in favor of the large communes."—"All means of subsistence are exhausted," writes the district of Louviers; "we are reduced here for a month past to eating bran bread and boiled herbs, and even this rude food is getting scarce. Bear in mind that we have seventy-one thousand people to govern, at this very time subject to all the horrors of famine, a large number of them having already perished, some with hunger and others with diseases engendered by the poor food they live on. "—In the Caen district, "the unripe peas, horse peas, beans, and green barley and rye are attacked;" mothers and children go after these in the fields in default of other food; "other vegetables in the gardens are already consumed; furniture, the comforts of the well to do class, have become the prey of the farming egoist; having nothing more to sell they consequently have nothing with which to obtain a morsel of bread."
"It is impossible," writes the representative on mission, "to wait for the crop without further aid. As long as bran lasted the people ate that; none can now be found and despair is at its height. I have not seen the sun since I came. The harvest will be a month behind. What shall we do? What will become of us?"—"In Picardy," writes the Beauvais district, "the great majority of people in the rural communes search the woods" to find mushrooms, berries and wild fruits. "They think themselves lucky," says the Bapaume district, "if they can get a share of the food of animals." "In many communes," the district of Vervier reports, "the inhabitants are reduced to living on herbage." "Many families, entire communes," reports the Laon commissary, "have been without bread two or three months and live on bran or herbs.... Mothers of families, children, old men, pregnant women, come to the (members of the) Directory for bread and often faint in their arms.
And yet, great as the famine is in the country it is worse in the towns; and the proof of it is that the starving people flock into the country to find whatever they can to live on, no matter how, and, generally speaking, in vain.—"Three quarters of our fellow citizens," writes the Rozoy municipality, "are forced to quit work and overrun the country here and there, among the farmers, to obtain bread for specie, and with more entreaty than the poorest wretches; for the most part, they return with tears in their eyes at not being able to find, not merely a bushel of wheat, but a pound of bread." "Yesterday," writes the Montreuil-sur-Mer municipality, "more than two hundred of our citizens set out to beg in the country," and, when they get nothing, they steal. "Bands of brigands spread through the country and pillage all dwellings anywise remote. ... Grain, flour, bread, cattle, poultry, stuffs, etc., all come in play. Our terrified shepherds are no longer willing to sleep in their sheep pens and are leaving us." The most timid dig Carrots at night or, during the day, gather dandelions; but their town stomachs cannot digest this food. "Lately," writes the procureur—syndic of Saint-Germain, "the corpse of a father of a family, found in the fields with his mouth still filled with the grass he had striven to chew, exasperates and arouses the spirit of the poor creatures awaiting a similar fate."
What then, do people in the towns do in order to survive?—In small towns or scattered villages, each municipality, using what gendarmes it has, makes legal requisitions in its vicinity, and sometimes the commune obtains from the government a charitable gift of wheat, oats, rice or assignats. But the quantity of grain it receives is so small, one asks how it is that, after two months, six months or a year of such a system, that half of the inhabitants are not in the grave yard. I suppose that many of them live on what they raise in their gardens, or on their small farms; others are helped by their relations, neighbors and companions; in any event, it is clear that the human body is very resistant, and a few mouthfuls suffice to keep it going a long time.—At Ervy, in Aube, "not a grain of wheat has been brought in the last two market days." "To morrow, Prairial 25, in Bapaume, the main town of the district, there will be only two bushels of flour left (for food of any sort)." "At Boulogne-sur-Mer, for the past ten days, there has been distributed to each person only three pounds of bad barley, or maslin, without knowing whether we can again distribute this miserable ration next decade." Out of sixteen hundred inhabitants in Brionne, "twelve hundred and sixty are reduced to the small portion of wheat they receive at the market, and which, unfortunately, for too long a time, has been reduced from eight to three ounces of wheat for each person, every eight days." For three months past, in Seine et Marne, in "the commune of Meaux, that of Laferte, Lagny, Daumartin, and other principal towns of the canton, they have had only half a pound per head, for each day, of bad bread." In Seine et Oise, "citizens of the neighborhood of Paris and even of Versailles state that they are reduced to four ounces of bread." At Saint-Denis, with a population of six thousand, "a large part of the inhabitants, worn out with suffering, betake themselves to the charity depots. Workmen, especially, cannot do their work for lack of food. A good many women, mothers and nurses, have been found in their houses unconscious, without any sign of life in them, and many have died with their infants at their breasts." Even in a larger and less forsaken town, Saint-Germain, the misery surpasses all that one can imagine. "Half-a-pound of flour for each inhabitant," not daily, but at long intervals; "bread at fifteen and sixteen francs the pound and all other provisions at the same rate; a people which is sinking, losing hope and perishing. Yesterday, for the fete of the 9th of Thermidor, not a sign of rejoicing; on the contrary, symptoms of general and profound depression, tottering specters in the streets, mournful shrieks of ravaging hunger or shouts of rage, almost every one, driven to the last extremity of misery, welcoming death as a boon."
Such is the aspect of these huge artificial agglomerations, where the soil, made sterile by habitation, bears only stones, and where twenty, thirty, fifty and a hundred thousand suffering stomachs have to obtain from ten, twenty and thirty leagues off their first and last mouthful of food. Within these close pens long lines of human sheep huddle together every day bleating and trembling around almost empty troughs, and only through extraordinary efforts do the shepherds daily succeed in providing them with a little nourishment. The central government, strenuously appealed to, enlarges or defines the circle of their requisitions; it authorizes them to borrow, to tax themselves; it lends or gives to them millions of assignats; frequently, in cases of extreme want, it allows them to take so much grain or rice from its storehouses, for a week's supply.—But, in truth, this sort of life is not living, it is only not dying. For one half, and more than one half of the inhabitants simply subsist on rations of bread obtained by long waiting for it at the end of a string of people and delivered at a reduced price. What rations and what bread!"It seems," says the municipality of Troyes, "that the country has anathematized the towns. Formerly, the finest grain was brought to market; the farmer kept the inferior quality and consumed it at home. Now it is the reverse, and this is carried still further, for, not only do we receive no wheat whatever, but the farmers give us sprouted barley and rye, which they reserve for our commune; the farmer who has none arranges with those who have, so as to buy it and deliver it in town, and sell his good wheat elsewhere. Half a pound per day and per head, in Pluviose, to the thirteen thousand or fourteen thousand indigent in Troyes; then a quarter of a pound, and, finally, two ounces with a little rice and some dried vegetables, "which feeble resource is going to fail us." Half a pound in Pluviose, to the twenty thousand needy in Amiens, which ration is only nominal, for "it often happens that each individual gets only four ounces, while the distribution has repeatedly failed three days in succession,'' and this continues. Six months later, Fructidor 7, Amiens has but sixty nine quintals of flour in its market storehouse, "an insufficient quantity for distribution this very day; to morrow, it will be impossible to make any distribution at all, and the day after to morrow the needy population of this commune will be brought down to absolute famine."—"Complete desperation! There are already "many suicides." At other times, rage predominates and there are riots. At Evreux, Germinal 21, a riot breaks out, owing to the delivery of only two pounds of flour per head and per week, and because three days before, only a pound and a half was delivered. There is a riot at Dieppe, Prairial 14 and 15, because "the people are reduced here to three or four ounces of bread." There is another at Vervins, Prairial 9, because the municipality which obtains bread at a cost of seven and eight francs a pound, raises the price from twenty-five to fifty sous. At Lille, an insurrection breaks out Messidor 4, because the municipality, paying nine francs for bread, can give it to the poor only for about twenty and thirty sous.—Lyons, during the month of Nivose, remains without bread "for five full days." At Chartres, Thermidor 15, the distribution of bread for a month is only eight ounces a day, and there is not enough to keep this up until the 20th of Thermidor. On the fifteenth of Fructidor, La Rochelle writes that "its public distributions, reduced to seven or eight ounces of bread, are on the point of failing entirely." For four months, at Painboeuf, the ration is but the quarter of a pound of bread. And the same at Nantes, which has eighty-two thousand inhabitants and swarms with the wretched; "the distribution never exceeded four ounces a day," and that only for the past year. The same at Rouen, which contains sixty thousand inhabitants; and, in addition, within the past fortnight the distribution has failed three times. In other reports, those who are well-off suffer more than the indigent because they take no part in the communal distribution, "all resources for obtaining food being, so to say, interdicted to them."—Five ounces of bread per diem for four months is the allowance to the forty thousand inhabitants of Caen and its district. A great many in the town, as well as in the country, live on bran and wild herbs." At the end of Prairial, "there is not a bushel of grain in the town storehouses, while the requisitions, enforced in the most rigorous and imposing style, produce nothing or next to nothing." Misery augments from week to week: "it is impossible to form any idea of it; the people of Caen live on brown bread and the blood of cattle. ... Every countenance bears traces of the famine... Faces are of livid hue.... It is impossible to await the new crop, until the end of Fructidor."—Such are the exclamations everywhere. The object now, indeed, is to cross the narrowest and most terrible defile; a fortnight more of absolute fasting and hundreds of thousands of lives would be sacrificed. At this moment the government half opens the doors of its storehouses; it lends a few sacks of flour on condition of re-payment,—for example, at Cherbourg a few hundreds of quintals of oats; by means of oat bread, the poor can subsist until the coming harvest. But above all, it doubles its guard and shows its bayonets. At Nancy, a traveler sees "more than three thousand persons soliciting in vain for a few pounds of flour." They are dispersed with the butt-ends of muskets.—Thus are the peasantry taught patriotism and the townspeople patience. Physical constraint exercised on all in the name of all; this is the only procedure which an arbitrary socialism can resort to for the distribution of food and to discipline starvation.
VII. Misery at Paris.
Famine and misery at Paris.—Steps taken by the government to feed the capital.—Monthly cost to the Treasury.—Cold and hunger in the winter of 1794-1795.—Quality of the bread.—Daily rations diminished.—Suffering, especially of the populace.—Excessive physical suffering, despair, suicides, and deaths from exhaustion in 1795.—Government dinners and suppers.—Number of lives lost through want and war.—Socialism as applied, and its effects on comfort, well-being and mortality.
Anything that a totalitarian government may do to ensure that the capital is supplied with food is undertaken and carried out by this one, for here is its seat, and one more degree of dearth in Paris would overthrow it. Each week, on reading the daily reports of its agents, it finds itself on the verge of explosion; twice, in Germinal and Prairial, a popular outbreak does overthrow it for a few hours, and, if it maintains itself, it is on the condition of either giving the needy a piece of bread or the hope of getting it. Consequently, military posts are spaced out around Paris, up to eighteen leagues off, on all the highways; permanent patrols in correspondence with each other to urge on the wagoners and draft relays of horses on the spot. Escorts dispatched from Paris to meet convoys; requisition "all the carts and all the horses whatever to effect transportation in preference to any other work or service." All communes traversed by a highway are ordered to put rubble and manure on the bad spots and cover the whole way with a layer of soil, so that the horses may drag their loads in spite of the slippery road. The national agents are ordered to draft the necessary number of men to break the ice around the water-mills. A requisition is made for "all the barley throughout the length and breadth of the Republic, "this must be utilized to produce "the mixture for making bread," while the brewers are forbidden to use barley in the manufacture of beer; the starch makers are forbidden to convert potatoes into starch, with penalty of death against all offenders "as destroyers of alimentary produce;" the breweries and starch-factories are to be closed until further notice. Paris must have grain, no matter of what kind, no matter how, and at any cost, not merely in the following week, but to-morrow, this very day, because hunger chews and swallows everything, and it will not wait.—Once the grain is obtained, a price must be fixed which people can pay. Now, the difference between the selling and cost price is enormous; it keeps on increasing as the assignat declines and it is the government which pays this. "You furnish bread at three sous," said Dubois-Crance, Floreal 16, year III, "and it costs you four francs. Paris consumes 8,000 quintals of meal daily, which expenditure alone amounts to 1,200 millions per annum." Seven months later, when a bag of flour brings 13,000 francs, the same expenditure reaches 546 millions per month.—Under the ancient regime, Paris, although overgrown, continued to be an useful organism; if it absorbed much, it elaborated more; its productiveness compensated for what it consumed, and, every year, instead of exhausting the public treasury it poured 77 millions into it. The new regime has converted it into a monstrous canker in the very heart of France, a devouring parasite which, through its six hundred thousand leeches, drains its surroundings for a distance of forty leagues, consumes one-half the annual revenue of the State, and yet still remains emaciated in spite of the sacrifices made by the treasury it depletes and the exhaustion of the provinces which supply it with food.