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A Residence in France During the Years 1792, 1793,

And forced into the service by the first requisition


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When I describe the French as a people bending meekly beneath the most absurd and cruel oppression, transmitted from one set of tyrants to another, without personal security, without commerce--menaced by famine, and desolated by a government whose ordinary resources are pillage and murder; you may perhaps read with some surprize the progress and successes of their armies. But, divest yourself of the notions you may have imbibed from interested misrepresentations--forget the revolutionary common-place of "enthusiams", "soldiers of freedom," and "defenders of their country"--examine the French armies as acting under the motives which usually influence such bodies, and I am inclined to believe you will see nothing very wonderful or supernatural in their victories.

The greater part of the French troops are now composed of young men taken indiscriminately from all classes, and forced into the service by the first requisition. They arrive at the army ill-disposed, or at best indifferent, for it must not be forgotten, that all who could be prevailed on to go voluntarily had departed before recourse was had to the measure of a general levy. They are then distributed into different corps, so that no local connections remain: the natives of the North are mingled with those of the South, and all provincial combinations are interdicted.

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is well known that the military branch of espionage is as extended as the civil, and the certainty of this destroys confidence, and leaves even the unwilling soldier no resource but to go through his professional duty with as much zeal as though it were his choice. On the one hand, the discipline is severe--on the other, licentiousness is permitted beyond all example; and, half-terrified, half-seduced, principles the most inimical, and morals the least corrupt, become habituated to fear nothing but the government, and to relish a life of military indulgence.--The armies were some time since ill clothed, and often ill fed; but the requisitions, which are the scourge of the country, supply them, for the moment, with profusion: the manufacturers, the shops, and the private individual, are robbed to keep them in good humour--the best wines, the best clothes, the prime of every thing, is destined to their use; and men, who before laboured hard to procure a scanty subsistence, now revel in luxury and comparative idleness.

The rapid promotion acquired in the French army is likewise another cause of its adherence to the government. Every one is eager to be advanced; for, by means of requisitions, pillage and perquisites, the most trifling command is very lucrative.--Vast sums of money are expended in supplying the camps with newspapers written nearly for that purpose, and no others are permitted to be publicly circulated.--When troops are quartered in a town, instead of that cold reception which it is usual to accord such inmates, the system of terror acts as an excellent Marechal de Logis, and procures them, if not a cordial, at least a substantial one; and it is indubitable, that they are no where so well entertained as at the houses of professed aristocrats. The officers and men live in a familiarity highly gratifying to the latter; and, indeed, neither are distinguishable by their language, manners, or appearance. There is, properly speaking, no subordination except in the field, and a soldier has only to avoid politics, and cry "Vive la Convention!" to secure plenary indulgence on all other occasions.--Many who entered the army with regret, continue there willingly for the sake of a maintenance; besides that a decree exists, which subjects the parents of those who return, to heavy punishments. In a word, whatever can operate on the fears, or interests, or passions, is employed to preserve the allegiance of the armies to the government, and attach them to their profession.


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