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arbitrary and degrading taxes which were levied upon the
cultivators in almost all the provinces, discouraged and
kept down the agriculture of the country very much below
the state to which it would naturally have risen in so very
fertile and so very happy a climate. This state of dis-
couragement and depression was felt more or less in every
different part of the country, and many different inquiries
were set on foot concerning the causes of it. One of those
causes appeared to be the preference given by the institu-
tions of M. Colbert to the industry of the towns above
that of the country. When an agricultural nation
oppresses, either by high duties or by prohibition, the
trade of foreign nations it necessarily hurts its own inter-
est in two different ways. First, by raising the price of
all foreign goods and of all sorts of manufactures, it
necessarily lowers the value of the surplus produce of its
own land, with which it purchases those foreign goods
and manufactures. Secondly, by giving a sort of monopoly
of the home-market to its own merchant, artificers and
manufacturers, it raises the rate of mercantile and manu-
facturing profit, and consequently either draws from agri-


culture a part of the capital which had before been em-
ployed in it, or hinders from going to it apart of what would
have otherwise been invested in it. This policy, there-
fore, discourages agriculture in two different ways; first, by
lowering the real value of its produce, and thereby lower-
ing the rates of its profits ; and, secondly, by raising the
rate of profit in all other employments. Agriculture is
then rendered less advantageous, and trade and manufact-
ure more advantageous than it otherwise would be, and
every man is tempted by his own interest to turn, as
much as he can, both his capital and his industry from
the former to the latter employment."

Thus, without a correct understanding of the subject,
many writers speak of this period as one of unusual pros-
perity for France. There is much misleading general-
ization indulged in concerning the prosperity of a country.
The accumulation of great wealth in the hands of the few
and its lavish display is often confounded with the general
prosperity of the country. The prosperity of a country
does not manifest itself in the palaces of the opulent, but
in the humble cottages of the masses. If the dwellers of
modest homes are comfortably situated, if they have an
abundance of work and labor is well remunerated, if the
great body of the people are amply supplied with the neces-
saries of life, and first of all, if the tillers of the soil — the
peasant in France, the farmer in America — are prosperous,
then, and only then the term, "the general prosperity of
a country," will have its true meaning.

Under the system of M. Colbert, that most important
interest to a nation's prosperity, agriculture, was totally
neglected, and manufacturers even languished for want
of a foreign market. Instead of devising a system by
which the outlet for French product might be enhanced,
the demand for labor increased, and the necessaries of life
cheapened, the policy of restriction and scarcity was

Loms XIV. AND am ECONOMIC POLtcr. 19

adopted. As overproduction and a surplus of labor follows
the introduction of this policy with unfailing precision,
the government soon found itself confronted with the
dangers incident to these evils, and in order to relieve the
overstocked labor market, the desperate colonization
expedient to ISTew France was resorted to. But the ancient
feudal system being transferred to Canada with the emi-
grants, this expedient necessarily proved as ineffective as
it was expensive. Thus, the entire economic system of
Louis XIV. being opposed to all rational principles, the
working people could never rise above the condition of
poverty and unremitting toil, nor the wealth of France be
permanently increased.

With all his shortcomings, however, Louis XIV. was
endowed with many of the attributes which are necessary
to the success of a great king, but the most essential of
these qualities, "^a heart in sympathy with the common
people," he lacked. From his dazzling height his vision
soared beyond the groveling masses at his feet; they were
only the clay from which must rise the magnificent mon-
ument he presumed to rear to his own immortal glory.

The strength of retaining the consciousness of duty
when uncontrolled and unrestricted is seldom given to
mortal man. Louis XIV., who viewed his high office as
a mystic gift ^^by the grace of God," and was enabled to
crush all opposition to his supreme will with physical
force, succumbed, as others had before him, to the tempt-
ation bf disregarding all maxims of justice and right.

Thus, the close of the seventeenth century found the
king's power, which seemed to be limitless abroad, lack-
ing all the elements of permanency at home. His numer-
ous wars had exhausted the finances, and the incomes had
been steadily decreasing for nearly forty years. As early
as 1693, Archbishop Fenelon addressed his famous letter to
the King, in which he drew a frightful picture of the fam-


ished condition of France, and attacked the whole policy
of his government.

These appeals had not the least effect upon the great
monarch's course. Fenelon^s criticism annoyed him, and
when his "Telemaque" appeared, which was a biting satire
npon Louis' reign, the presumptuous author was banished
and his books seized by the police.

The exhaustiye wars waged almost continuously
toward the close of the 17th century, continued during
the first thirteen years of the 18th, and when at last, in
1714, the treaties of Utrecht and Eastadt were signed,
France was shorn of most of the ground she had gained
during Louis XI'V.'s reign. In these later years the state
of the rural population had grown from bad to worse.
"We are told by contemporaneous writers, that three-fourths
of the people lived upon barley and oaten bread alone;
and as for clothing, not one had a crown's worth upon
his back. Owing to forced emigration to Canada, beg-
_^gary and death, every seventh house was in ruins ; one-
sixth of the arable land was thrown out of cultivation, the
remainder ill-farmed and covered with straggling woods,
hedges, briars and brush. The highways of the countiy
and the streets of the towns and burghs were filled with
beggars, whom famine and nakedness had driven forth.

Half-starved skeletons clamored around the gates of
Versailles, and Madame de Maintenon, herself, was mobbed
by the crowd on entering her carriage. Food riots took
place in many towns, and some of the royal troops revolted.
The government credit was at its lowest ebb; still there
was no retrenchment in the extravagant expenditures of
the court. France had no constitution, and the slight
barrier against the absolute will of the monarch were the
parliaments — the judicial tribunals of the country — clothed
with one prerogative, that of refusing to enter the royal
decrees upon their registers, without which, such decrees


had no legal force. This slight obstacle, however, was
easily overcome by arbitrary kings, as in case of refusal
to register, a royal session, lit de justice, was called, at
which the king appeared in person. At such sessions no
objections were allowed to be raised, and no debate per-
mitted. The King commanded the decree to be registered
par order du Eoi. To show his contempt for these parlia-
mentary obstructionists Louis XIV. appeared at one of
these sessions with horsewhip in hand.

The death of Louis XIV., which occurred on the 1st of
September, 1715, found no regrets in the hearts of his
peo]Dle. His last days were days of loneliness and neglect,
and brought to him the realizing sense that his life, with
all its magnificence and splendor, had been a failure ; that
his talents, his energies, his tremendous power and
influence had been misdirected and misapplied, and that,
while he himself had been a striking manifestation of the
law of evolution, he had ignored this inexorable law in
the affairs of his people ; that, conscious of his power, he
had never thought for an instant of awakening their
political sentiments, or allowing them the smallest share
in the administration of the country. Indeed, his last
admonition to his great-grandson, afterwards Louis
XV., then not quite six years of age, confirms this
view : " My child,^' said he, ^'you are about to become a
great king. But do not imitate me in my passion for
building or my love of war. Endeavor, on the contrary,
to live in peace with the neighboring nations, and strive
to lessen the burdens of your people, which I, alas, have
been unable to do." Merely the same antiquated death-
bed wisdom, death-bed admissions, and death-bed repent-
ance. Nothing more.



In his last will and testament, the Grand Monarch had
designated the legitimatized son of one of his mistresses,
and the Duke of Orleans, a dissolute speculator, to act as
regents during the minority of his great-grandson. The
Parliament of Paris, however, refused to sanction the first
of this clause, and declared the Duke the sole legitimate
regent. The rule of this Prince was distinguished by his
personal immoralities, and by his shameless efforts to
restore the ruined finances of the kingdom by sanctioning
the scheme of the notorious John Law; a scheme which
threw the country into worse confusion, bringing it to the
verge of universal bankruptcy.

The people in the rural districts had long since been
cured of their love and attachment to their patriarchal
seigniors; the friendly relations which formerly exi'sted
between the peasant and his lord had been ruptured by
the long absences of the latter from the family manor, in
dancing attendance at court, or serving in the army, his
estate in the meantime being left in the hands of an
exacting intendant (agent). The higher clergy, which
since the days of Charlemagne had owned one-fifth of all
the lands, absolutely exempt from taxation, in considera-
tion for which they were expected to care for the helpless
and unfortunate, to take charge of the hospitals and other
charitable institutions, had succeeded in shifting these
responsibilities and duties upon the State. These represen-
tatives of the humble preacher of love and charity from
Galilee now turned their eyes in another direction. Their



church had been metamorphosed into a powerful and
wealthy institution, which they intended to hold, possess
and defend against all comers. More important duties than
disbursing small portions of their income — amounting to
one hundred millions a year — among the destitute lambs of
their flocks, demanded their attention. Their cardinals
and bishops mingled with the noble courtiers at Ver-
sailles, and rivaled with them in attracting the eye and
catching the ear of the King. The doors of the convents,
built and endowed as asylums for the poor, were now
closed to the naked and hungry.

Thus, naturally, the people had ceased to believe in the
protecting care of the nobility, and in a like degree had
lost faith in the purity and charity of the church. The
charge, however, that they had become irreligious is not
true. It was only the high dignitaries of the church,
mostly recruited from the nobility, in whom they had lost
confidence and respect.

Still, there was one hope left. It was the King. Their
faith in the goodness and benevolence of their King
remained unshaken. He was far away, but as soon as
complaints could reach his ears, help would be forthcom-
ing. The advent of Louis XV., in 1723, to the throne
was, therefore, hailed by the people with childish delight.
For twenty years they had suffered, yet still loving their
King and hoping. They called him the Bien aime (well
beloved). Ten years more, and it is reported that their
''well beloved" had been leading a dissolute life: that he
maintained a seraglio at one of his hunting castles. The
strange disappearance of pretty young women gave color
to the rumor, and a bloody riot in Paris was the conse-
quence. The royal Bien aime had suddenly lost his pres-
tige. The last of the people^s idols had now been shat-
tered by the idol himself. He hardly dared to pay a visit
to his own capital, and for fear of meeting the gaze of his


indignant subjects, took a circuitous route in his journey
from Versailles to Compiegne, wliich to this day is called
"Ze Chemain de la Revolte." The ^'Best Beloved^' had
now become the "Best Hated" man in all France.

He had taxed the recources of the country to the
utmost, not only to gratify the extravagances of his mis-
tresses and the enormous expenses of his profligate court,
but to defray the needs of his endless and needless wars,
which terminated not only in the loss of nearly all France
possessed in America, but in the humiliation of her national
military renown. By tyrannical and imprudent acts, he
introduced many of the abuses and elements of discord,
which in time proved so disastrous to the welfare of

Personally, he gave the world an example of moral tur-
pitude such as has only found a counterpart in the most
depraved of the Roman Emperors. The details of his
dissolute life and of his miserable death are too revolting
to relate.

His base selfishness and complete moral demoralization
is fully characterized by the expression, "Apres moi le
deluge," which, in plain language was an openly expressed
hope, that the rotten governmental structure which he felt
tottering under his feet might last as long as he did ; this
expression characterized his criminal indifference to the
welfare of his subjects. Disgust for a throne which could
thus be tarnished now pervaded the hearts of the people,
and severed the last link in the chain, which until now
had formed the connection between the privileged orders
and the common people.

While all avenues of relief seemed now closed to the
suffering masses, a fourth power, closely allied to the lat-
ter by daily intercourse and common interests, came
rapidly to the front. It was the burghers of cities and
towns, the same class which in the middle age had pro-


tested against the encroachments of the Feudal system,
that finally compelled recognition as members of the Pro-
vincial Parliaments, and of the so-called " Third Estate'^
in the States General.

Under the absolutism of the Louis', this class had
almost, if not entirely, ceased to be a political factor in
the country; but its wealth and intelligence, nevertheless,
exerted considerable social and political influence. It
filled the civil and military administration with scholars
and soldiers, and, in time, their membership in the Pro-
vincial Parliaments perceptibly increased. In the field
of letters it was represented by such intellectual giants as
Voltaire, who was the son of the treasurer of the Chamber
of Accounts; byJean Jacques Rousseau, whose father was
a watchmaker, and Diderot, the collator of "Dictionaire
Encyclopedique," whose father was a cutler.

This class, with its great publicists to the front, now
stood between the privileged orders and the common peo-
ple. Diderot's Encyclopedic, which contained the writ-
ings of the nohlesse litteraire of the 18th century, treated
all social, religious or political questions boldly and com-
prehensively. It criticised with severity the immorality
and profligacy of the higher orders, denounced ancient
abuses, exposed official corruption and pointed out the
miseries and hardships of the overtaxed people. It
undoubtedly had the greatest influence in hastening the
cataclysm which soon followed. Some of its writers were
sent to the bastile, and the work itself was several times
suppressed. As is always the case, these efforts to sup-
press the truth only render its defense still more formi-
dable. It did more than any other instrumentality in pre-
paring the bourgeois-class for the important role it was
soon called upon to play in the great political drama. It
formed, so to say, the headwaters of the stream of thought,
which for some time had taken a revolutionary course.


The Church, that mighty authority of the middle age,
had ceased to be united, and its infallibility was a thing
of the past. The State and laws, science, art and litera-
ture had been monopolized by her, and everything outside
of her sacred circle had been declared heretical. With
defection within her own bosom, not only faith, but all
human exertion, received a tremendous shock. The con-
viction soon became universal that mankind ought to
reject all theories the worth of which did not rest upon
reason and demonstrative proof. The middle age had
rejected nature, and reared a social edifice upon blind faith
in the supernatural. Now natural philosophy was seized
upon as a new dispensation, and it soon began to dawn
upon the minds of the people that while heaven's bliss was
much to be desired, it could not have been the intention
of an All- wise Providence to debar the majority of the peo-
ple from participating in any of the terrestrial bounties of
His creation; nor that His sacred laws had been amended
in favor of a comparatively small number of nobles and
ecclesiastics, who, in order to maintain these exclusive priv-
ileges, had formed a combination against the rest of the
world. Louis XV. died May 10, 1774, a victim to his vices
and debauchery.



When Louis XVI., grandson of his predecessor, ascended
the throne, the whole social and political fabric of France
was thoroughly worm-eaten and undermined. It is said
of him, that he was well disposed, but that his weak and
vacillating character defeated his good intentions. The
queen, Marie Antoinette, of Austria, to whom he was
married when a mere boy of sixteen, controlled his official
actions. Her haughty disposition, and her early training
among the surroundings of the most exclusive and aristo-
cratic court of Europe, instinctively led her to oppose all
innovations, such as the more enlightened age now seemed
to demand. She therefore systematically thwarted the
best intentions of the King towards reforming existing
abuses. Her influence in the ministerial cabinet was
almost absolute, and the minister who would not readily
submit to her dictation, or whose policy crossed her own,
had soon to make room for some more pliant instrument.
The one wise act of Louis XVI. was to charge M.
Turgot, one of the most distinguished economists of the
age, a pupil of Jean Jacques Eousseau and Quesnay, with
the finances of the kingdom. This statesman went zeal-
ously at work to improve the financial condition of the
country, by relieving labor at home of a part of its bur-
dens, and freeing foreign trade from its vexatious restric-
tions. " There is only one course open for the re-estab-
lishment of the finances," said he to the King, " and that
is by reducing the expenses below the receipts ; sufficiently
low to economize twenty millions per year. Your majesty



must fortify yourself against your generosity. Consider
from whom the money you are distributing is taken.
Compare the misery of those from whom you are compelled
to exact taxes with those who are receiving your favors."

The King appeared to lend a willing ear to these
opportune admonitions; the Parliament of Paris, which
had always stood by ancient abuses, having been recalled
by the King, against Turgot^s advice, its stubborn
resistance to his projects of reform, proved to be the first
spark which kindled the fires of the Revolution.

The struggle between the Minister and Parliament
began with the edict removing the restrictions on the
grain trade, between the different sections of the country.
The contest was bitter, but Turgot was victorious. The
next step in the direction of reform were the edicts to
abolish the system of monopoly in trade; further, the
relinquishment of corvee, (compulsory labor on public
roads); the abolition of the guilds, the reduction of
import duties on articles of daily consumption, etc., etc.

Turgot's advocacy of these reforms, however, which, in
the main were intended to relieve the poorer and middle
classes, were not only antagonized by the Paris Parlia-
ment, but by the nobility, the higher clergy, bankers,
protected manufacturers, and most of the Provincial Par-
liaments. The agitation of these reforms was a menace to
the old system of privileges, and consequently the privi-
leged class made his downfall a common cause.

The weak Louis, who, in spite of his protestations,
was never in sympathy with Turgors policy, finally
yielded to their demands, and that able statesman was
cruelly requested to step aside — the only man who might
have managed to avert the horrible cataclysm which four-
teen years after engulfed them fill.

After a short period, in which the financial affairs of
the State again fell into confusion, M. Necker, a Geneva



banker, was called to assume charge of the finances. M.
JSTecker was an able financier and a systematic accountant,
but unable to map out a comprehensive system of reforms,
or master the situation. He succeeded in temporarily re-
lieving the Government's embarrassment with short loans,
through his own credit and his popularity at the Paris
Exchange. He inaugurated some salutary methods in his
department, but never went to the root of the evil. He
lacked the perceptive genius of Turgot, who had discovered
the cancer and had the nerve to use the dissecting knife.
He seemed to have exhausted his resources. In the midst
of these financial perplexities, the cry for help was heard on
the other side of the Atlantic. It was the cry of the Ameri-
can Colonists struggling for independence. ''This event,"
says the American editor of Thiers' ''French Revolution,"
startled France like a thunder-clap. Adieu now to all
hope of escape from Revolution! The heather is on fire,
and nothing can check the progress of the conflagration.
AYithin the precinct of the palace, in the salons of fashion,
and universally among the common people, nothing is
talked of but the gallantry of the transatlantic patriots.
Washington is a hero — Franklin is the philosopher of the
day." •

The daily press which had reproduced the "Declara-
tion •of Independence" and the succeeding hostilities,
was eagerly read and discussed in all social circles. "VVe
are told by contemporaneous writers, that the Americans
were the objects of boundless eulogiums ; that their cause
was defended by the most forcible arguments, and that it
would be difficult to describe the excessive joy, the vast
hopes that were excited by the news of the convocation
of the first American Congress, the members of which
were extolled to the skies. The papers were filled with
such expressions as these: "Let them establish liberty in
their country, and let them serve as a perpetual example,


that princes may not, witliout peril, violate the funda-
mental laws of their States, or attack with impunity the
privileges and immunities of their subjects." The cap-
ture of Burgoyne in 1777 was received in Paris with
unbounded enthusiasm. The people, the members of the
cabinet, j^ecker excepted, all favored an open declara-
tion in aid of struggling America, and the King's reluc-
tance to a rupture with England being finally overcome,
the formal acknowledgment of the independence of the
United States was determined upon. This step implied
war with Great Britain, and the war came with its immense
sacrifices in life and treasure. What the representations
of Benjamin Franklin and Mr. Dean, the American com-
missioners, could never have brought about, was accom-
plished by the pressure of warm-hearted, liberty-loving and
generous Frenchmen.

France had at that time no cause of complaint against
England, and as M. ISTecker, the astute minister 'of
finance, very pointedly stated to the King, in explanation
of his opposition to this step: "That while he certainly
wished every success to the noble cause of the American
Colonists, he felt on the one hand that war ought never to

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