The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 548 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.

“There is a civil religion,” a catechism, “a profession of faith, of which the sovereign has the right to dictate the articles, not exactly as religious dogmas but as sentiments of social import without which we cannot be a good citizen or a loyal subject.”  These articles embrace “the existence of a powerful, intelligent, beneficent, foreseeing and provident divinity, the future life, the happiness of the righteous, the punishment of the wicked, the sacredness of the social contract and of the laws.[29] Without forcing anyone to believe in this creed, whoever does not believe in it must be expelled from the State; it is necessary to banish such persons not on account of impiety, but as unsociable beings, incapable of sincerely loving law and justice and, if need be, of giving up life for duty.”

Take heed that this profession of faith be not a vain one, for a new inquisition is to test its sincerity.

“Should any person, after having publicly recognized these dogmas, act as an unbeliever, let him be punished with death.  He has committed the greatest of crimes:  he has lied before the law.”

Truly, as I said above, we are in a convent

V. SOCIAL CONTRACT, SUMMARY.

Complete triumph and last excesses of classic reason. — How it becomes monomania. — Why its work is not enduring.

These articles are all inevitable consequences of the social contract.  The moment I enter the corporation I abandon my own personality; I abandon, by this act, my possessions, my children, my church, and my opinions.  I cease to be proprietor, father, Christian and philosopher.  The state is my substitute in all these functions.  In place of my will, there is henceforth the public will, that is to say, in theory, the mutable absolutism of a majority counted by heads, while in fact, it is the rigid absolutism of the assembly, the faction, the individual who is custodian of the public authority. — On this principle an outburst of boundless conceit takes place.  The very first year Grégoire states in the tribune of the Constituent Assembly, “we might change religion if we pleased, but we have no such desire.”  A little later the desire comes, and it is to be carried out; that of Holbach is proposed, then that of Rousseau, and they dare go much farther.  In the name of Reason, of which the State alone is the representative and interpreter, they undertake to unmake and make over, in conformity with Reason and with Reason only, all customs, festivals, ceremonies, and costumes, the era, the calendar, weights and measures, the names of the seasons, months, weeks and days, of places and monuments, family and baptismal names, complimentary titles, the tone of discourse, the mode of salutation, of greeting, of speaking and of writing, in such a fashion, that the Frenchman, as formerly with the puritan or the Quaker, remodeled even in his inward substance, exposes, through the smallest details of

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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