free ebooks

A Residence in France During the Years 1792, 1793,

Would have beheld it tranquilly


--So that I have no resource, either for myself or Mrs. D____, but the sale of a few trinkets, which I had fortunately secreted on my first arrest. How are we to exist, and what an existence to be solicitous about! In gayer moments, and, perhaps, a little tinctured by romantic refinement, I have thought Dr. Johnson made poverty too exclusively the subject of compassion: indeed I believe he used to say, it was the only evil he really felt for. This, to one who has known only mental suffering, appears the notion of a coarse mind; but I doubt whether, the first time we are alarmed by the fear of want, the dread of dependence does not render us in part his converts. The opinion of our English sage is more natural than we may at first imagine; or why is it that we are affected by the simple distresses of Jane Shore, beyond those of any other heroine?--Yours.

April 22, 1794.

Our abode becomes daily more crouded; and I observe, that the greater part of those now arrested are farmers. This appears strange enough, when we consider how much the revolutionary persecution has hitherto spared this class of people; and you will naturally enquire why it has at length reached them.

It has been often observed, that the two extremes of society are nearly the same in all countries; the great resemble each other from education, the little from nature. Comparisons, therefore, of morals and manners should be drawn from the intervening classes; yet from this comparison also I believe we must exclude farmers, who are every where the same, and who seem always more marked by professional similitude than national distinction.

The French farmer exhibits the same acuteness in all that regards his own interest, and the same stupidity on most other occasions, as the mere English one; and the same objects which enlarge the understanding and dilate the heart of other people, seem to have a contrary effect on both. They contemplate the objects of nature as the stock-jobber does the vicissitudes of the public funds: "the dews of heaven," and the enlivening orb by which they are dispelled, are to the farmer only objects of avaricious speculation; and the scarcity, which is partially profitable, is but too often more welcome than a general abundance.--They consider nothing beyond the limits of their own farms, except for the purpose of making envious comparisons with those of their neighbours; and being fed and clothed almost without intermediate commerce, they have little necessity for communication, and are nearly as isolated a part of society as sailors themselves.

The French revolutionists have not been unobserving of these circumstances, nor scrupulous of profiting by them: they knew they might have discussed for ever their metaphysical definitions of the rights of man, without reaching the comprehension, or exciting the interest, of the country people; but that if they would not understand the propagation of the rights of man, they would very easily comprehend an abolition of the rights of their landlords. Accordingly, the first principle of liberty they were taught from the new code was, that they had a right to assemble in arms, to force the surrender of title-deeds; and their first revolutionary notions of equality and property seem to have been manifested by the burning of chateaux, and refusing to pay their rents. They were permitted to intimidate their landlords, in order to force them to emigration, and either to sell their estates at a low price, or leave them to the mercy of the tenants.

At a time when the necessities of the state had been great enough to be made the pretext of a dreadful revolution, they were not only almost exempt from contributing to its relief, but were enriched by the common distress; and while the rest of their countrymen beheld with unavailing regret their property gradually replaced by scraps of paper, the peasants became insolent and daring by impunity, refused to sell but for specie, and were daily amassing wealth. It is not therefore to be wondered at, that they were partial to the new order of things. The prisons might have overflowed or been thinned by the miseries of those with whom they had been crowded--the Revolutionary Tribunal might have sacrificed half France, and these selfish citizens, I fear, would have beheld it tranquilly, had not the requisition forced their labourers to the army, and the "maximum" lowered the price of their corn. The exigency of the war, and an internal scarcity, having rendered these measures necessary, and it being found impossible to persuade the farmers into a peaceful compliance with them, the government has had recourse to its usual summary mode of expostulation--a prison or the Guillotine.*


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us