Political incapacity. — Interpretation of political rumors and of government action.
By this we can judge of their political intelligence. Every object appears to them in a false light; they are like children who, at each turn of the road, see in each tree or bush some frightful hobgoblin. Arthur Young, on visiting the springs near Clermont, is arrested, and the people want to imprison a woman, his guide, some of the bystanders regarding him as an “agent of the Queen, who intended to blow the town up with a mine, and send all that escaped to the galleys.” Six days after this, beyond Puy, and notwithstanding his passport, the village guard come and take him out of bed at eleven o’clock at nights, declaring that “I was undoubtedly a conspirator with the Queen, the Count d’Artois and the Count d’Entragues (who has property here), who had employed me as arpenteur to measure their fields in order to double their taxes.” We here take the unconscious, apprehensive, popular imagination in the act; a slight indication, a word, prompting the construction of either air castles or fantastic dungeons, and seeing these as plainly as if they were so many substantial realities. They have not the inward resources that render capable of separating and discerning; their conceptions are formed in a lump; both object and fancy appear together and are united in one single perception. At the moment of electing deputies the report is current in Province that “the best of kings desires perfect equality, that there are to be no more bishops, nor seigniors, nor tithes, nor seigniorial dues, no more tithes or distinctions, no more hunting or fishing rights, . . . that the people are to be wholly relieved of taxation, and that the first two orders alone are to provide the expenses of the government.” Whereupon forty or fifty riots take place in one day. “Several communities refuse to make any payments to their treasurer outside of royal requisitions.” Others do better: “on pillaging the strong-box of the receiver of the tax on leather at Brignolles, they shout out Vive le Roi!” “The peasant constantly asserts his pillage and destruction to be in conformity with the king’s will.” A little later, in Auvergne, the peasants who burn castles are to display “much repugnance”