The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 652 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
the stars, on the bare ground in the vicinity of houses.  The common run of people, whose lodgings are small but tolerable, dread moving and adhere to their accustomed ways.  The difficulty becomes much greater on appealing to the upper classes who occupy superior habitations; their acceptance of your proposal depends either on their great delusions or on their great disinterestedness.  In England they quickly foresee the danger.

In vain is philosophy there indigenous and precocious; it does not become acclimatized.  In 1729, Montesquieu writes in his memorandum-book:  “No religion in England; four or five members of the House of Commons attend mass or preaching in the House. . . .  When religion is mentioned everybody begins to laugh.  A man having said:  I believe that as an article of faith, everybody laughed.  A committee is appointed to consider the state of religion, but it is regarded as absurd.”  Fifty years later the public mind undergoes a reaction; all with a good roof over their heads and a good coat on their backs[1] see the consequence of the new doctrines.  In any event they feel that closet speculations are not to become street preaching.  Impiety seems to them an indiscretion; they consider religion as the cement of public order.  This is owing to the fact that they are themselves public men, engaged in active life, taking a part in the government, and instructed through their daily and personal experience.  Practical life fortifies them against the chimeras of theorists; they have proved to themselves how difficult it is to lead and to control men.  Having had their hand on the machine they know how it works, its value, its cost, and they are not tempted to cast it aside as rubbish to try another, said to be superior, but which, as yet, exists only on paper.  The baronet, or squire, a justice on his own domain, has no trouble in discerning in the clergyman of his parish an indispensable co-worker and a natural ally.  The duke or marquis, sitting in the upper house by the side of bishops, requires their votes to pass bills, and their assistance to rally to his party the fifteen hundred curates who influence the rural conscience.  Thus all have a hand on some social wheel, large or small, principal or accessory, and this endows them with earnestness, foresight and good sense.  On coming in contact with realities there is no temptation to soar away into the imaginary world; the fact of one being at work on solid ground of itself makes one dislike aerial excursions in empty space.  The more occupied one is the less one dreams, and, to men of business, the geometry of the " Contrat Social’ is merely intellectual gymnastics.


The opposite conditions found in France. — Indolence of the upper class. — Philosophy seems an intellectual drill. — Besides this, a subject for conversation. — Philosophic conversation in the 18th century. — Its superiority and its charm. — The influence it exercises.

Project Gutenberg
The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook