Page images

surdities. Our grandees, in their vain luxury, had adopted the riding-jackets, the horse-races, the hunters, the polished steel of England; you, witli much greater wisdom, have taken for your share her liberty. Already your Constitution, like the dove escaped from the ark; is taking a flight over the whole Globe; already it hovers in company with the eagle of Poland; it carries as an olives branch the rights of mankind; this is the standard of Nature, which is universally inviting the Nations to liberty. In defiance of the suspicious vi: gilance of the despotic powers, which interdict to their enslaved subjects the history of your successes, the rights of human nature, translated into all languages, and printed even on the handkerchiefs of women, have penetrated everywhere: Thus Man, subjugated in his very conscience wliich he dares not look into, will tead his rights engraven even on the bosom of his partner; thus, as you have exercised an influence over the pleasures of Europe by your fashions, you will extend that influence over the general happiness by your virtues. Patriotism brought you together in the tempest; and it will keep you united in the calm. Receive your fugitive and unhappy brethren with generosity; you owe them protection, safety, tranquillity, support, by the very Constitution to which you invite them.

Recollect that they were your seniors; share with those who shall express a tvish to be Citizens, the services and the honours of your Country, the common mother of us all; and, restored to the management of your affairs, exhibit to your children the example of concord.


G g 2

Of the Clergy and the Municipalities. THE Clergy and the Church ought not to be coufounded with each otlrer. The Church is the Assembly of the faithful in the same Communion; the Clergy is the Corporation of it's Priests. A Church may exist without Clergy; such was that of the Patriarchs, and such is at this day that of the Quakers: a Clergy cannot subsist where there is no Church.

Rome, plundered by barbarians, resumed over them by the power of speech, the Empire which she had lost by the feebleness of her arms. . The wretched nations of Gaul embraced with ardour a Religion which preached charity in this world, and promised eternal felicity in that which is to come; they contrasted the virtues of their first Missionaries with the robberies of their conquerors. The Priests, supported by popular favour, acquired an unbounded authority. Masters of the conscience, they soon became so likewise of the fortunes, and even of the persons of men. As they were the only men who knew how to read and write, they became the sole depositaries of testaments. Notaries were at that time clerks, whose dependence was on the Bishops: a will was good for nothing, unless the testator had left a legacy to the Church. The parish priests of that period, were obliged to keep a register of those who took the Sacrament at Easter, of those who did not, as well as of their good and bad qualities, and to transmit the particulars to the Bishops. It is extremely probable that they kept then as they do now, a register of births, marriages, and burials. All alms-deeds were


administered by the Clergy, and they were empowered to receive gifts and bequests of

money, houses, lands, signiories, nay even of slaves.

Thus, with so many sources of information, of means and of method, the Bishops became all powerful. It seems from History in what manner they employed power over Kings in the name of the People, in quality of their Pastors; over the People in the name of GOD, in quality of his Ministers: and over Popes themselves, in the name of the Gallician Church, in quality of it's Chiefs. Their authority excited the jealousy of Rome. That capital of the Christian world opposed to them the monastic orders, which held immediately of her, though subjected in appearance to the Bishops. The French Clergy then divided into two corps, the secular and the regular. Every power is enfeebled by being divided. The Monks, who formed the regular Clergy, being by their Constitution more united among themselves, and acknowledging but one' only Chief, the Pope, extended their power much farther than the members of the secular Clergy, frequently distracted by the affairs of the world, and subjected to various Bishops, who had not always the same views. The secular Clergy domineered in the Cities, the Monks diffused their empire over the Country. They would soon have acquired a decided preponderancy over the whole Kingdom, had they formed only one order, like the Monks of St. Bazile in Russia. But under the apprehension, perhaps, that they should not be able as these last to render themselves independent by their riches, Rome herself divided her own



strength. She introduced into France a great variety of religious orders, the superiors of which resided at Rome; and who not only parcelled out the ecclesiastical functions among themselves, but even invaded a part of the secular employments. Most of them were originally mendicants, and introduced themselves under the pretext, so specious, of charity. The Dominicans, at first preaching brothers, afterwards became inquisitors. The Benedictines became the record keepers in an age when hardly any one could either read or write, and undertook a part of the public education, which communicates so much influence over the mind. They were imitated, and speedily surpassed, by the Jesuits, who united in their own order alone the talents of all the rest, and very soon all their power. Others did not think themselves degraded by compounding essences, preparing chocolate, knitting silk stockings, and engaging in trade. Some were sent as Missionaries into foreign countries. Though preaching Christianity, they accompanied our soldiers in their conquests, and acquired lands in America, and slaves in Africa to cultivate them. Others, as the Mathurins, enriched themselves by begging for the purpose of ransoming Christian captives taken by the barbarians of Africa. They redeemed white slaves on the Coast of Morocco, because, as they alleged, they were Christians : many other Monks were at the same time purchasing black slaves on the Coast of Guinea, to supply their plantations in America, and making Christians of them to rivet the chains of their captivity:


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

At length the civil power began to open it's eyes to it's own interests. It set out by withdrawing, in part, the public education out of the hands of the Monks and Clergy, by the establishment of Universities : afterwards Municipal Notaries were appointed, and to them was confided the trust of superintending the making and execution of wills: it was expressly prohibited to bequeath landed property to ecclesiastical corps, already far too rich : but, by one of those contradictions so common in our laws, the parish priests were still enjoined to keep : public registers of births, marriages, and deaths, in the view of ascertaining the state of population. This office clearly belonged to the Mulnicipalities; but the People, inured to servitude, were like the old mule to which the Athenians granted liberty in consideration of her long services, but which, from being accustomed to the yoke, went voluntarily and took her place among the other mules which were carrying stones to the Temple of Minerva.

Since liberty of conscience has been decreed one of :our rights, it is certain that the Municipalities alone can ascertain the state of the citizens in the three principal epochs of existence, birth, marriage and death. How could Roman ecclesiastics verify as citizens, Frenchmen whom they do not consider as men, seeing they look upon them as 'enemies to GOD, when they are not of their conimunion? It is farther evident, that the distribution of alms, the superintendance of hospitals and of all cha: ritable establishments, belongs to the Municipalities exclusively. Their compassionate regards are due to Citizens of every description ; whatever Gg 4


« PreviousContinue »