EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

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thelivyjr
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Re: EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

Post by thelivyjr »

At length they have spoken out, and they have made a full discovery of their abominable fraud in holding out the church lands as a security for any debts, or any service whatsoever.

They rob only to enable them to cheat, but in a very short time they defeat the ends both of the robbery and the fraud by making out accounts for other purposes which blow up their whole apparatus of force and of deception.

I am obliged to M. de Calonne for his reference to the document which proves this extraordinary fact; it had by some means escaped me.

Indeed it was not necessary to make out my assertion as to the breach of faith on the declaration of the 14th of April, 1790.

By a report of their committee it now appears that the charge of keeping up the reduced ecclesiastical establishments and other expenses attendant on religion, and maintaining the religious of both sexes, retained or pensioned, and the other concomitant expenses of the same nature which they have brought upon themselves by this convulsion in property, exceeds the income of the estates acquired by it in the enormous sum of two millions sterling annually, besides a debt of seven millions and upwards.

These are the calculating powers of imposture!

This is the finance of philosophy!

This is the result of all the delusions held out to engage a miserable people in rebellion, murder, and sacrilege, and to make them prompt and zealous instruments in the ruin of their country!

Never did a state, in any case, enrich itself by the confiscations of the citizens.


This new experiment has succeeded like all the rest.

Every honest mind, every true lover of liberty and humanity, must rejoice to find that injustice is not always good policy, nor rapine the high road to riches.

I subjoin with pleasure, in a note, the able and spirited observations of M. de Calonne on this subject.

In order to persuade the world of the bottomless resource of ecclesiastical confiscation, the Assembly have proceeded to other confiscations of estates in offices, which could not be done with any common color without being compensated out of this grand confiscation of landed property.

They have thrown upon this fund, which was to show a surplus disengaged of all charges, a new charge — namely, the compensation to the whole body of the disbanded judicature, and of all suppressed offices and estates, a charge which I cannot ascertain, but which unquestionably amounts to many French millions.

Another of the new charges is an annuity of four hundred and eighty thousand pounds sterling, to be paid (if they choose to keep faith) by daily payments, for the interest of the first assignats.

Have they even given themselves the trouble to state fairly the expense of the management of the church lands in the hands of the municipalities to whose care, skill, and diligence, and that of their legion of unknown underagents, they have chosen to commit the charge of the forfeited estates, the consequence of which had been so ably pointed out by the bishop of Nancy?

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thelivyjr
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Re: EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

Post by thelivyjr »

But it is unnecessary to dwell on these obvious heads of encumbrance.

Have they made out any clear state of the grand encumbrance of all, I mean the whole of the general and municipal establishments of all sorts, and compared it with the regular income by revenue?

Every deficiency in these becomes a charge on the confiscated estate before the creditor can plant his cabbages on an acre of church property.

There is no other prop than this confiscation to keep the whole state from tumbling to the ground.

In this situation they have purposely covered all that they ought industriously to have cleared with a thick fog, and then, blindfold themselves, like bulls that shut their eyes when they push, they drive, by the point of the bayonets, their slaves, blindfolded indeed no worse than their lords, to take their fictions for currencies and to swallow down paper pills by thirty-four millions sterling at a dose.

Then they proudly lay in their claim to a future credit, on failure of all their past engagements, and at a time when (if in such a matter anything can be clear) it is clear that the surplus estates will never answer even the first of their mortgages, I mean that of the four hundred millions (or sixteen millions sterling) of assignats.

In all this procedure I can discern neither the solid sense of plain dealing nor the subtle dexterity of ingenious fraud.

The objections within the Assembly to pulling up the floodgates for this inundation of fraud are unanswered, but they are thoroughly refuted by a hundred thousand financiers in the street.

These are the numbers by which the metaphysic arithmeticians compute.

These are the grand calculations on which a philosophical public credit is founded in France.

They cannot raise supplies, but they can raise mobs.

Let them rejoice in the applauses of the club at Dundee for their wisdom and patriotism in having thus applied the plunder of the citizens to the service of the state.

I hear of no address upon this subject from the directors of the Bank of England, though their approbation would be of a little more weight in the scale of credit than that of the club at Dundee.

But, to do justice to the club, I believe the gentlemen who compose it to be wiser than they appear; that they will be less liberal of their money than of their addresses; and that they would not give a dog's ear of their most rumpled and ragged Scotch paper for twenty of your fairest assignats.

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thelivyjr
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Re: EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

Post by thelivyjr »

Early in this year the Assembly issued paper to the amount of sixteen millions sterling; what must have been the state into which the Assembly has brought your affairs, that the relief afforded by so vast a supply has been hardly perceptible?

This paper also felt an almost immediate depreciation of five per cent, which in a little time came to about seven.

The effect of these assignats on the receipt of the revenue is remarkable.

M. Necker found that the collectors of the revenue who received in coin paid the treasury in assignats.

The collectors made seven per cent by thus receiving in money and accounting in depreciated paper.

It was not very difficult to foresee that this must be inevitable.

It was, however, not the less embarrassing.

M. Necker was obliged (I believe, for a considerable part, in the market of London) to buy gold and silver for the mint, which amounted to about twelve thousand pounds above the value of the commodity gained.

That minister was of opinion that, whatever their secret nutritive virtue might be, the state could not live upon assignats alone, that some real silver was necessary, particularly for the satisfaction of those who, having iron in their hands, were not likely to distinguish themselves for patience when they should perceive that, whilst an increase of pay was held out to them in real money, it was again to be fraudulently drawn back by depreciated paper.

The minister, in this very natural distress, applied to the Assembly that they should order the collectors to pay in specie what in specie they had received.

It could not escape him that if the treasury paid three per cent for the use of a currency which should be returned seven per cent worse than the minister issued it, such a dealing could not very greatly tend to enrich the public.

The Assembly took no notice of this recommendation.

They were in this dilemma: if they continued to receive the assignats, cash must become an alien to their treasury; if the treasury should refuse those paper amulets or should discountenance them in any degree, they must destroy the credit of their sole resource.


They seem then to have made their option, and to have given some sort of credit to their paper by taking it themselves; at the same time in their speeches they made a sort of swaggering declaration, something, I rather think, above legislative competence; that is, that there is no difference in value between metallic money and their assignats.

This was a good, stout, proof article of faith, pronounced under an anathema by the venerable fathers of this philosophic synod.

Credat who will — certainly not Judaeus Apella.

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thelivyjr
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Re: EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

Post by thelivyjr »

A noble indignation rises in the minds of your popular leaders on hearing the magic lantern in their show of finance compared to the fraudulent exhibitions of Mr. Law.

They cannot bear to hear the sands of his Mississippi compared with the rock of the church on which they build their system.

Pray let them suppress this glorious spirit until they show to the world what piece of solid ground there is for their assignats which they have not preoccupied by other charges.

They do injustice to that great mother fraud to compare it with their degenerate imitation.

It is not true that Law built solely on a speculation concerning the Mississippi.

He added the East India trade; he added the African trade; he added the farms of all the farmed revenue of France.


All these together unquestionably could not support the structure which the public enthusiasm, not he, chose to build upon these bases.

But these were, however, in comparison generous delusions.

They supposed, and they aimed at, an increase of the commerce of France.

They opened to it the whole range of the two hemispheres.

They did not think of feeding France from its own substance.

A grand imagination found in this night of commerce something to captivate.

It was wherewithal to dazzle the eye of an eagle.

It was not made to entice the smell of a mole nuzzling and burying himself in his mother earth, as yours is.

Men were not then quite shrunk from their natural dimensions by a degrading and sordid philosophy, and fitted for low and vulgar deceptions.

Above all, remember that in imposing on the imagination the then managers of the system made a compliment to the freedom of men.

In their fraud there was no mixture of force.

This was reserved to our time, to quench the little glimmerings of reason which might break in upon the solid darkness of this enlightened age.

On recollection, I have said nothing of a scheme of finance which may be urged in favor of the abilities of these gentlemen, and which has been introduced with great pomp, though not yet finally adopted, in the National Assembly.

It comes with something solid in aid of the credit of the paper circulation; and much has been said of its utility and its elegance.

I mean the project for coining into money the bells of the suppressed churches.

This is their alchemy.

There are some follies which baffle argument, which go beyond ridicule, and which excite no feeling in us but disgust; and therefore I say no more upon it.

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Re: EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

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It is as little worth remarking any further upon all their drawing and re-drawing on their circulation for putting off the evil day, on the play between the treasury and the Caisse d'Escompte, and on all these old, exploded contrivances of mercantile fraud now exalted into policy of state.

The revenue will not be trifled with.

The prattling about the rights of men will not be accepted in payment for a biscuit or a pound of gunpowder.

Here then the metaphysicians descend from their airy speculations and faithfully follow examples.

What examples?

The examples of bankrupts.

But defeated, baffled, disgraced, when their breath, their strength, their inventions, their fancies desert them, their confidence still maintains its ground.

In the manifest failure of their abilities, they take credit for their benevolence.

When the revenue disappears in their hands, they have the presumption, in some of their late proceedings, to value themselves on the relief given to the people.

They did not relieve the people.

If they entertained such intentions, why did they order the obnoxious taxes to be paid?

The people relieved themselves in spite of the Assembly.

But waiving all discussion on the parties who may claim the merit of this fallacious relief, has there been, in effect, any relief to the people in any form?

Mr. Bailly, one of the grand agents of paper circulation, lets you into the nature of this relief.

His speech to the National Assembly contained a high and labored panegyric on the inhabitants of Paris for the constancy and unbroken resolution with which they have borne their distress and misery.

A fine picture of public felicity!

What great courage and unconquerable firmness of mind to endure benefits and sustain redress!

One would think from the speech of this learned lord mayor that the Parisians, for this twelvemonth past, had been suffering the straits of some dreadful blockade, that Henry the Fourth had been stopping up the avenues to their supply, and Sully thundering with his ordnance at the gates of Paris, when in reality they are besieged by no other enemies than their own madness and folly, their own credulity and perverseness.

But Mr. Bailly will sooner thaw the eternal ice of his Atlantic regions than restore the central heat to Paris whilst it remains "smitten with the cold, dry, petrific mace" of a false and unfeeling philosophy.

Some time after this speech, that is, on the thirteenth of last August, the same magistrate, giving an account of his government at the bar of the same Assembly, expresses himself as follows:

In the month of July, 1789, (the period of everlasting commemoration) the finances of the city of Paris were yet in good order; the expenditure was counterbalanced by the receipt; and she had at that time a million (forty thousand pounds sterling) in bank.

The expenses which she has been constrained to incur, subsequent to the Revolution, amount to 2,500,000 livres.

From these expenses, and the great falling off in the product of the free gifts, not only a momentary, but a total, want of money has taken place.

This is the Paris upon whose nourishment, in the course of the last year, such immense sums, drawn from the vitals of all France, have been expended.

As long as Paris stands in the place of ancient Rome, so long she will be maintained by the subject provinces.

It is an evil inevitably attendant on the dominion of sovereign democratic republics.

As it happened in Rome, it may survive that republican domination which gave rise to it.

In that case despotism itself must submit to the vices of popularity.


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Re: EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

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Rome, under her emperors, united the evils of both systems; and this unnatural combination was one great cause of her ruin.

To tell the people that they are relieved by the dilapidation of their public estate is a cruel and insolent imposition.

Statesmen, before they valued themselves on the relief given to the people by the destruction of their revenue, ought first to have carefully attended to the solution of this problem — whether it be more advantageous to the people to pay considerably and to gain in proportion, or to gain little or nothing and to be disburdened of all contribution?

My mind is made up to decide in favor of the first proposition.

Experience is with me, and, I believe, the best opinions also.

To keep a balance between the power of acquisition on the part of the subject and the demands he is to answer on the part of the state is the fundamental part of the skill of a true politician.

The means of acquisition are prior in time and in arrangement.

Good order is the foundation of all good things.

To be enabled to acquire, the people, without being servile, must be tractable and obedient.

The magistrate must have his reverence, the laws their authority.

The body of the people must not find the principles of natural subordination by art rooted out of their minds.

They must respect that property of which they cannot partake.

They must labor to obtain what by labor can be obtained; and when they find, as they commonly do, the success disproportioned to the endeavour, they must be taught their consolation in the final proportions of eternal justice.

Of this consolation, whoever deprives them deadens their industry and strikes at the root of all acquisition as of all conservation.

He that does this is the cruel oppressor, the merciless enemy of the poor and wretched, at the same time that by his wicked speculations he exposes the fruits of successful industry and the accumulations of fortune to the plunder of the negligent, the disappointed, and the unprosperous.

Too many of the financiers by profession are apt to see nothing in revenue but banks, and circulations, and annuities on lives, and tontines, and perpetual rents, and all the small wares of the shop.

In a settled order of the state, these things are not to be slighted, nor is the skill in them to be held of trivial estimation.

They are good, but then only good when they assume the effects of that settled order and are built upon it.

But when men think that these beggarly contrivances may supply a resource for the evils which result from breaking up the foundations of public order, and from causing or suffering the principles of property to be subverted, they will, in the ruin of their country, leave a melancholy and lasting monument of the effect of preposterous politics and presumptuous, short-sighted, narrow-minded wisdom.

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Re: EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

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The effects of the incapacity shown by the popular leaders in all the great members of the commonwealth are to be covered with the "all-atoning name" of liberty.

In some people I see great liberty indeed; in many, if not in the most, an oppressive, degrading servitude.

But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue?

It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.

Those who know what virtuous liberty is cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads on account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths.


Grand, swelling sentiments of liberty I am sure I do not despise.

They warm the heart; they enlarge and liberalize our minds; they animate our courage in a time of conflict.

Old as I am, I read the fine raptures of Lucan and Corneille with pleasure.

Neither do I wholly condemn the little arts and devices of popularity.

They facilitate the carrying of many points of moment; they keep the people together; they refresh the mind in its exertions; and they diffuse occasional gaiety over the severe brow of moral freedom.

Every politician ought to sacrifice to the graces, and to join compliance with reason.

But in such an undertaking as that in France, all these subsidiary sentiments and artifices are of little avail.

To make a government requires no great prudence.

Settle the seat of power, teach obedience, and the work is done.

To give freedom is still more easy.

It is not necessary to guide; it only requires to let go the rein.

But to form a free government, that is, to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistent work, requires much thought, deep reflection, a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind.

This I do not find in those who take the lead in the National Assembly.


Perhaps they are not so miserably deficient as they appear.

I rather believe it.

It would put them below the common level of human understanding.

But when the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service.

They will become flatterers instead of legislators, the instruments, not the guides, of the people.

If any of them should happen to propose a scheme of liberty, soberly limited and defined with proper qualifications, he will be immediately outbid by his competitors who will produce something more splendidly popular.


Suspicions will be raised of his fidelity to his cause.

Moderation will be stigmatized as the virtue of cowards, and compromise as the prudence of traitors, until, in hopes of preserving the credit which may enable him to temper and moderate, on some occasions, the popular leader is obliged to become active in propagating doctrines and establishing powers that will afterwards defeat any sober purpose at which he ultimately might have aimed.

But am I so unreasonable as to see nothing at all that deserves commendation in the indefatigable labors of this Assembly?

I do not deny that, among an infinite number of acts of violence and folly, some good may have been done.

They who destroy everything certainly will remove some grievance.

They who make everything new have a chance that they may establish something beneficial.

To give them credit for what they have done in virtue of the authority they have usurped, or which can excuse them in the crimes by which that authority has been acquired, it must appear that the same things could not have been accomplished without producing such a revolution.

Most assuredly they might, because almost every one of the regulations made by them which is not very equivocal was either in the cession of the king, voluntarily made at the meeting of the states, or in the concurrent instructions to the orders.

Some usages have been abolished on just grounds, but they were such that if they had stood as they were to all eternity, they would little detract from the happiness and prosperity of any state.

The improvements of the National Assembly are superficial, their errors fundamental.

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Re: EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

Post by thelivyjr »

Whatever they are, I wish my countrymen rather to recommend to our neighbors the example of the British constitution than to take models from them for the improvement of our own.

In the former, they have got an invaluable treasure.

They are not, I think, without some causes of apprehension and complaint, but these they do not owe to their constitution but to their own conduct.

I think our happy situation owing to our constitution, but owing to the whole of it, and not to any part singly, owing in a great measure to what we have left standing in our several reviews and reformations as well as to what we have altered or superadded.

Our people will find employment enough for a truly patriotic, free, and independent spirit in guarding what they possess from violation.

I would not exclude alteration neither, but even when I changed, it should be to preserve.

I should be led to my remedy by a great grievance.

In what I did, I should follow the example of our ancestors.

I would make the reparation as nearly as possible in the style of the building.

A politic caution, a guarded circumspection, a moral rather than a complexional timidity were among the ruling principles of our forefathers in their most decided conduct.

Not being illuminated with the light of which the gentlemen of France tell us they have got so abundant a share, they acted under a strong impression of the ignorance and fallibility of mankind.

He that had made them thus fallible rewarded them for having in their conduct attended to their nature.

Let us imitate their caution if we wish to deserve their fortune or to retain their bequests.

Let us add, if we please, but let us preserve what they have left; and, standing on the firm ground of the British constitution, let us be satisfied to admire rather than attempt to follow in their desperate flights the aeronauts of France.

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Re: EDMUND BURKE ON FRENCH REVOLUTION

Post by thelivyjr »

I have told you candidly my sentiments.

I think they are not likely to alter yours.

I do not know that they ought.

You are young; you cannot guide but must follow the fortune of your country.

But hereafter they may be of some use to you, in some future form which your commonwealth may take.

In the present it can hardly remain; but before its final settlement it may be obliged to pass, as one of our poets says, "through great varieties of untried being", and in all its transmigrations to be purified by fire and blood.

I have little to recommend my opinions but long observation and much impartiality.

They come from one who has been no tool of power, no flatterer of greatness; and who in his last acts does not wish to belie the tenor of his life.

They come from one almost the whole of whose public exertion has been a struggle for the liberty of others; from one in whose breast no anger, durable or vehement, has ever been kindled but by what he considered as tyranny; and who snatches from his share in the endeavors which are used by good men to discredit opulent oppression the hours he has employed on your affairs; and who in so doing persuades himself he has not departed from his usual office; they come from one who desires honors, distinctions, and emoluments but little, and who expects them not at all; who has no contempt for fame, and no fear of obloquy; who shuns contention, though he will hazard an opinion; from one who wishes to preserve consistency, but who would preserve consistency by varying his means to secure the unity of his end, and, when the equipoise of the vessel in which he sails may be endangered by overloading it upon one side, is desirous of carrying the small weight of his reasons to that which may preserve its equipoise.

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