The Ancient Regime eBook

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

[46] “The nobility, say the nobles, is an intermediary between the king and the people.  Yes, as the hound is an intermediary between the hunter and the hare.” (Champfort).

[47] Prud’homme, III. 2. ("The Third-Estate of Nivernais,” passim.) Cf, on the other hand, the registers of the nobility of Bugey and of Alençon.

[48] Prud’homme, ibid.., Cahiers of the Third-Estates of Dijon, Dax, Bayonne, Saint-Sévère, Rennes, etc.

[49] Marmontel, “Mémoires,” II. 247.

[50] Arthur Young, I. 222.

[51] Malouet, “Mémoires,” I. 279.

[52] De Lavalette, I. 7. —­ “Souvenirs”, by Pasquier (Etienne-Dennis, duc), chancelier de France. in VI volumes, Librarie Plon, Paris 1893. —­ .  Cf.  Brissot, Mémoires, I.

[53] Prudhomme, “Résumé des cahiers,” the “preface,” by J. J. Rousseau.

[54] Marmontel, II. 245.

BOOK FIFTH.  THE PEOPLE

CHAPTER I. HARDSHIPS.

I. Privations.

Under Louis XIV. — Under Louis XV. — Under Louis XVI.

  La Bruyère wrote, just a century before 1789,[1]: 

“Certain savage-looking animals, male and female, are seen in the country, black, livid and sunburned, and attached to the soil which they dig and grub with invincible stubbornness.  They seem capable of speech, and, when they stand erect, they display a human face.  They are, in fact, men.  They retire at night into their dens where they live on black bread, water and roots.  They spare other human beings the trouble of sowing, plowing and harvesting, and thus should not be in want of the bread they have planted.”

They are, however, in want during the twenty-five years after this, and die in droves.  I estimate that in 1715 more than one-third of the population,[2] six millions, perish with hunger and of destitution.  This description is, in respect of the first quarter of the century preceding the Revolution, far from being too vivid, it is rather too weak; we shall see that it, during more than half a century, up to the death of Louis XV. is exact; so that instead of weakening any of its details, they should be strengthened.

“In 1725,” says Saint-Simon, “with the profusion of Strasbourg and Chantilly, the people, in Normandy, live on the grass of the fields.  The first king in Europe could not be a great king if it was not for all the beggars and the poor-houses full of dying from whom all had been taken even though it was peace-time.[3]

In the most prosperous days of Fleury and in the finest region in France, the peasant hides “his wine on account of the excise and his bread on account of the taille,” convinced “that he is a lost man if any doubt exists of his dying of starvation."[4] In 1739 d’Argenson writes in his journal[5]: 

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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