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THE LAND BECOMES STERILE.
O patience!Walpole laughs at it, but I mourn over it. That unfortunate people still loves; still believes; is obstinate in hoping. It is ever waiting for its saviour. Which? Its God-man, its king.
Ridiculous yet affecting idolatry-What will this God, this king, do? He possesses neither the firm will, nor the power, perhaps, to cure the deeply-rooted, inveterate, universal evil now consuming, parching, famishing the community, draining its life's blood from its veins,-from its very heart.
The evil consists in this, that the nation, from the highest to the lowest, is organised so as to go on producing less and less, and paying more and more. She will go on declining, wasting away, giving, after her blood, her marrow; and there will be no end to it, till having reached the last gasp, and just expiring, the convulsion of the death-struggle arouses her once more, and raises that pale feeble body on its legs-Feeble ?-grown strong perhaps by fury!
Let us minutely examine, if you will, these words producing less and less. They are exact to the letter.
As early as under Louis XIV. the excise (aides) already weighed so heavily, that at Mantes, Etampes, and elsewhere, all the vines were plucked up.
The peasant having no goods to seize, the exchequer can lay hold of nothing but the cattle; it is gradually exterminated. No more manure. The cultivation of corn, though extended in the seventeenth century, by immense clearings of waste land, decreases in the eighteenth. The earth can no longer repair her generative strength; she fasts, and becomes exhausted; as the cattle may become extinct, so also the land now appears dead.
Not only does the land produce less, but it is less cultivated. In many places, it is not worth while to cultivate it. Large proprietors, tired of advancing to their peasants sums that never return, neglect the land which would require expensive improvements. The portion cultivated grows less, and the desert expands. People talk of agriculture, write books on it, make expensive experiments, paradoxical schemes of cultivation; -and agriculture, devoid of succour, of cattle, grows wild. Men, women, and children, yoke themselves to the plough. They would dig the ground with their nails, if our ancient laws
ANCIENT PATRONAGE IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
did not, at least, defend the ploughshare,—the last poor implement that furrows the earth. How can we be surprised that the crops should fail with such half-starved husbandmen, or that the land should suffer and refuse to yield? The yearly produce no longer suffices for the year. As we approach 1789, Nature yields less and less. Like a beast over fatigued, unwilling te move one step further, and preferring to lie down and die, she waits, and produces no more. Liberty is not only the life of man, but also that of nature.
DOES ANCIENT PATRONAGE SUBSIST IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ?
NEVER accuse Nature of being a bad mother. Believe not that God has withdrawn the beneficent light of his countenance from the earth. The earth is always a good and bountiful mother, ever ready and willing to help mankind; though superficially she may appear sterile and ungrateful, yet she loves him tenderly in her innermost depths.
It is man who has ceased to love,-man who is the enemy of mankind. The malediction which weighs him down is his own, the curse of egotism and injustice, the load of an unjust society. Whom must he blame? Neither nature, nor God, but himself, his work, his idols, his gods, whom he has created. He has transferred his idolatry from one to another. To his wooden gods he has said, Protect me, be my saviours!" He has said so to the priest, he has said so to the noble, he has said so to the king.-Alas! poor man, be thy own saviour,—save thyself.
He loved them, that is his excuse; it explains his blindness. How he loved, how he believed! What artless faith in How he would
the good Lord, in the dear, holy man of God! fall on his knees before them on the public road, and kiss the dust long after they had passed! How obstinately he put his trust and his hopes in them, even when spurned and trampled on! Remaining ever a minor,- -an infant, he felt a sort of filial delight in concealing nothing from them, in intrusting to their hands the whole care of his future. "I have
CLEVERNESS OF THE CLERGY TO GIVE NOTHING.
nothing I am poor; but I am the baron's man, and belong to that fine château yonder!" Or else, "I have the honour to be the serf of that famous monastery. I can never want for anything."
Go now, go, good man, in the day of thy need; go and knock at their gate.
At the château ? But the gate is shut; the large table, where so many once sat down, has long been empty; the hearth is cold; there is no fire, no smoke. The lord is at Versailles. He does not, however, forget thee. He has left his attorney behind, and his bailiff, to take care of thee.
Well! I will go to the monastery.
Is not that house of
charity the poor man's home? The Church says to me every day God so loved the world!-He was made man, and became food to nourish man!' Either the Church is nothing, or it must be charity divine realised upon earth."
Knock, knock, poor Lazarus! Thou wilt wait long enough. Dost thou not know that the Church has now withdrawn from the world, and that all these affairs of poor people and charity no longer concern her? There were two things in the middle ages, wealth and functions, of which she was very jealous; more equitable, however, in modern times, she has made two divisions of them; the functions, such as schools, hospitals, alms, and the patronage of the poor,-all these things which mixed her up too much with worldly cares, she has generously handed over to the laity.
Her other duties absorb all her attention,—those principally which consist in defending till death the pious foundations of which she is the trustee, in allowing no diminution of them, and in transmitting them with increased wealth to future generations. In these respects she is truly heroic, ready for martyrdom, if necessary. In 1788, the State, weighed down with debt, and driven to its last extremity, at a loss to devise new schemes for draining a ruined people, applies as a suppliant to the clergy, and entreats them to pay their taxes. Their answer is admirable, and should never be forgotten: people of France is not taxable at pleasure."
What! invoke the name of the people as a ground to excuse themselves from succouring the people? That was the utmost, truly the sublimest pitch, which Phariseean wisdom could ever
hope to attain. Come at length to the ever-memorable year of 89. The clergy is after all but mortal. It must share the common lot. But it can enjoy the thought, so consoling in our last moments, to have been consistent till death.
The mystery of Christianity, a God giving himself to man— a God descending into man, that doctrine, harsh to reason, could be imposed on the heart only by the visible continuation of the miracle,-alms ever flowing without a capability of exhaustion, and spiritual alms deriving a never-failing support from a similar doctrine; in this you might see some evidence of a God ever present in his Church. But the Church of the eighteenth century, sterile, and no longer giving anything, either material or intellectual, demonstrates precisely the very contrary of what religion teaches, (Oh, impiety!) I mean, "The absence of God in man.
In the eighteenth century, the people no longer hoped for anything from that patronage which supported them at other times, the clergy and the nobility. These will do nothing for them. But they still believe in the king; they transfer to the infant Louis XV. both their faith and their necessity of loving. He, the only remains of so great a family, saved like the infant Joas, is preserved apparently that he may himself save others. They weep on beholding that child! How many evil years have to run their course! But they wait with patience, and still hope; that minority, that long tuition of twenty or thirty years, must have an end.
It was night when the news reached Paris, that Louis XV., on his way to the army, had been seized with illness at Metz. "The people leaped from their beds, rushed out in a tumult, without knowing whither. The churches were thrown open in the middle of the night. Men assembled in the cross-roads, accosted, and asked questions, without knowing one another. In several churches, the priest who pronounced the prayer for recovery of the king, interrupted the chanting with his sobs, and the people responded by their cries and tears. The
THE REGAL INCARNATION HAS PERISHED.
courier who brought the news of his recovery, was hugged, and almost stifled; they kissed his horse, and led him in triumph. Every street re-echoed the same joyful cry: Le Roi est guéri!'
This, in 1744. Louis XV. is named the Well-beloved. Ten years pass. The same people believe that the well-beloved takes baths of human blood; that, in order to renew his exhausted frame, he bathes himself in children's blood. One day, when the police, according to their atrocious custom, were carrying off men, children wandering in the streets, and little girls (especially such as were pretty), the mothers screamed, the people flocked together, and a riot broke out. From that moment, the king never resided in Paris. He seldom passed through it, except to go from Versailles to Compiègne. He had a road made in great haste, which avoided Paris, and enabled the king to escape the observation of his people. That road is still called Le Chemin de la Révolte.
These ten years (1744-1754) are the very crisis of the century. The king, that God, that idol, becomes an object of horror. The dogma of the regal incarnation perishes irrecoverably. And in its place arises the sovereignty of the mind. Montesquieu, Buffon, and Voltaire, in that short interval publish their grand works; Rousseau was just beginning his.
Unity till then had reposed on the idea of an incarnation, either religious or political. A human God was an essential requisite-a God of flesh, for the purpose of uniting either the church or the state. Humanity, still feeble, placed its unity in a sign, a visible living sign, a man, an individual. Henceforth, unity, more pure, and free from this material condition, will consist in the union of hearts, the community of the mind, the profound union of sentiments and ideas arising from identity of opinions.
The great doctors of the new church, mentioned before, though dissenting in secondary matters, are admirably agreed on two essential points, which constitute the genius of the age in which they lived, as well as that of future times.
1st. Their mind is free from all forms of incarnation; disentangled from that corporeal vestre which had so long invested it.
2dly. The mind, in their opinion, is not only intelligence, it