The Ancient Regime eBook

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

Necker, entering on his duties, finds twenty-eight millions in pensions paid from the royal treasury, and, at his fall, there is an outflow of money showered by millions on the people of the court.  Even during his term of office the king allows himself to make the fortunes of his wife’s friends of both sexes; the Countess de Polignac obtains 400,000 francs to pay her debts, 100,000 francs dowry for her daughter, and, besides, for herself, the promise of an estate of 35,000 livres income, and, for her lover, the Count de Vaudreil, a pension of 30,000 livres; the Princess de Lamballe obtains 100,000 crowns per annum, as much for the post of superintendent of the queen’s household, which is revived on her behalf, as for a position for her brother.[43] The king is reproached for his parsimony; why should he be sparing of his purse?  Started on a course not his own, he gives, buys, builds, and exchanges; he assists those belonging to his own society, doing everything in a style becoming to a grand seignior, that is to say, throwing money away by handfuls.One instance enables us to judge of this:  in order to assist the bankrupt Guéménée family, he purchases of them three estates for about 12,500,000 livres, which they had just purchased for 4,000,000; moreover, in exchange for two domains in Brittany, which produce 33,758 livres income, he makes over to them the principality of Dombes which produces nearly 70,000 livres income.[44] — When we come to read the Red Book further on we shall find 700,000 livres of pensions for the Polignac family, most of them revertible from one member to another, and nearly 2,000,000 of annual benefits to the Noailles family. — The king has forgotten that his favors are mortal blows, “the courtier who obtains 6,000 livres pension, receiving the taille of six villages."[45] Each largess of the monarch, considering the state of the taxes, is based on the privation of the peasants, the sovereign, through his clerks, taking bread from the poor to give coaches to the rich. — The center of the government, in short, is the center of the evil; all the wrongs and all the miseries start from it as from the center of pain and inflammation; here it is that the public abscess comes to the head, and here will it break.[46]

VI.  Latent Disorganization in France.

Such is the just and fatal effect of privileges turned to selfish purposes instead of being exercised for the advantage of others.  To him who utters the word, “Sire or Seignior” stands for the protector who feeds, the ancient who leads."[47] With such a title and for this purpose too much cannot be granted to him, for there is no more difficult or more exalted post.  But he must fulfill its duties; otherwise in the day of peril he will be left to himself.  Already, and long before the day arrives, his flock is no longer his own; if it marches onward it is through routine; it is simply a multitude

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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