He pours the wine, pays the bill and, if need be, yields his mistress. “After a few days debauchery, the young libertine, with no money to pay his debts, is obliged to sell himself, while the laborer, transformed into soldier, begins to drill under the lash.” — Strange recruits these, for the protection of society, all selected from the class which will attack it, down-trodden peasants, imprisoned vagabonds, social outcasts, poor fellows in debt, disheartened, excited and easily tempted, who, according to circumstances, become at one time rioters, and at another soldiers. — Which lot is preferable? The bread the soldier eats is not more abundant than that of the prisoner, while poorer in quality; for the bran is taken out of the bread which the locked-up vagabond eats, and left in the bread which is eaten by the soldier who locks him up. In this state of things the soldier ought not to mediate on his lot, and yet this is just what his officers incite him to do. They also have become politicians and fault-finders. Some years before the Revolution “disputes occurred” in the army, “discussions and complaints, and, the new ideas fermenting in their heads, a correspondence was established between two regiments. Written information was obtained from Paris, authorized by the Minister of War, which cost, I believe, twelve louis per annum. It soon took a philosophic turn, embracing dissertations, criticisms of the ministry, and of the government, desirable changes and, therefore, the more diffused.” Sergeants like Hoche, and fencing-masters like Augereau, certainly often read this news, carelessly left lying on the tables, and commented on it during the evening in their soldier quarters. Discontent is of ancient date, and already, at the end of the late reign, grievous words are heard. At a banquet given by a prince of the blood, with a table set for a hundred guests under an immense tent and served by grenadiers, the odor these diffused upset the prince’s delicate nose. “These worthy fellows,” said he, a little too loud, “smell strong of the stocking.” One of the grenadiers bluntly responded, “Because we haven’t got any,” which “was followed by profound silence.” During the ensuring years irritation smolders and augments; the soldiers of Rochambeau have fought side by side with the free militia of America, and they keep this in mind. In 1788, Marshal de Vaux, previous to the insurrection in Dauphiny, writes to minister that “it is impossible to rely on the troops,” while four months after the opening of the States-General 16,000 deserters roaming around Paris leads the revolts instead of suppressing them.
The social organization is dissolved. — No central rallying point. — Inertia of the provinces. — Ascendancy of Paris.