The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 652 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
in thus maltreating “such kind seigniors,” but they allege “imperative orders, having been advised that the king wished it."[15] At Lyons, when the tapsters of the town and the peasants of the neighborhood trample the customs officials underfoot they believe that the king has suspended all customs dues for three days.[16] The scope of their imagination is proportionate to their shortsightedness.  “Bread, no more rents, no more taxes!” is the sole cry, the cry of want, while exasperated want plunges ahead like a famished bull.  Down with the monopolist ! — storehouses are forced open, convoys of grain are stopped, markets are pillaged, bakers are hung, and the price of bread is fixed so that none is to be had or is concealed.  Down with the octroi ! — barriers are demolished, clerks are beaten, money is wanting in the towns for urgent expenses.  Burn tax registries, account-books, municipal archives, seigniors’ charter-safes, convent parchments, every detestable document creative of debtors and sufferers !  The village itself is no longer able to preserve its parish property.  The rage against any written document, against public officers, against any man more or less connected with grain, is blind and determined.  The furious animal destroys all, although wounding himself, driving and roaring against the obstacle that ought to be outflanked.


Destructive impulses. — The object of blind rage. — Distrust of natural leaders. — Suspicion of them changed into hatred. — Disposition of the people in 1789.

This owing to the absence of leaders and in the absence of organization, a mob is simply a herd.  Its mistrust of its natural leaders, of the great, of the wealthy, of persons in office and clothed with authority, is inveterate and incurable.  Vainly do these wish it well and do it good; it has no faith in their humanity or disinterestedness.  It has been too down-trodden; it entertains prejudices against every measure proceeding from them, even the most liberal and the most beneficial.  “At the mere mention of the new assemblies,” says a provincial commission in 1787,[17] “we heard a workman exclaim, ‘What, more new extortioners!’ " Superiors of every kind are suspected, and from suspicion to hostility the road is not long.  In 1788[18] Mercier declares that “insubordination has been manifest for some years, especially among the trades. . . .  Formerly, on entering a printing-office the men took off their hats.  Now they content themselves with staring and leering at you; scarcely have you crossed threshold when you yourself more lightly spoken of than if you were one of them.”  The same attitude is taken by the peasants in the environment of Paris; Madame Vigée-Lebrun,[19] on going to Romainville to visit Marshal de Ségur, remarks:  “Not only do they not remove their hats but they regard us insolently; some of them even threatened us with clubs.”  In March and

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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