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what evidence there is for our believing them to be so, and at what time they originated and in what manner. We know that men could make books, and we know that artifice and superstition could give them a name; could call them sacred. But we ought to be careful that the name of our Creator be not abused. Let then all the evidence with respect to those books be made a subject of enquiry. If there be evidence to warrant our belief of them, let us encourage the propagation of it; but if not, let us be careful not to promote the cause of delusion and falsehood.
I have already spoken of the Quakers-that they have no priests, no bells-and that they are remarkable for their care of the poor of their society. They are equally as remarkable for the education of their children. I am a descendant of a family of that profession; my father was a Quaker; and I presume I may be admitted an evidence of what I assert. The seeds of good principles, and the literary means of advancement in the world, are laid in early life. Instead, therefore, of consuming the substance of the nation upon priests, whose life at best is a life of idleness, let us think of providing for the education of the chil'dren of those who have not the means of doing it themselves. One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.
If we look back at what was the condition of France under the ancient regime, we cannot acquit the priest of corrupting the morals of the nation. Their pretended celibacy led them to carry debauchery and domestic infidelity into every family where they could gain admission; and their blasphemous pretensions to forgive sins encouraged the commission of them. Why has the Revolution of France been stained with crimes which the Revolution of the United States of America was not? Men are physically the same in all countries: it is education that makes them different. Accustom a people to believe that priests, or any other class of men, can forgive sins, and you will have sins in abundance.
I come now to speak more particularly on the object of your report.
You claim a privilege incompatible with the constitution and with rights. The constitution protects equally, as it ought to do, every profession of religion; it gives no exclusive privilege to any. The churches are the common property of all the people; they are national goods, and cannot be given exclusively to any one profession, because
the right does not exist of giving to any one that which appertains to all. It would be consistent with right that the churches be sold, and the money arising therefrom be invested as a fund for the education of children of poor parents of every profession, and if more than sufficient for this purpose, that the surplus be appropriated to the support of the aged poor. After this, every profession can erect its own place of worship, if it chuses-support its own priests, if it chuses to have any-or perform its worship without priests, as the Quakers do.
As to bells, they are a public nuisance. If one profession is to have bells, another has the right to use instruments of the same kind, or any other noisy instrument they may prefer. Some may chuse to meet at the sound of a cannon, another at the beat of drum, another at the sound of trumpets, and so on, until the whole becomes a scene of general confusion. But if we permit ourselves to think of the state of the sick, and the many sleepless nights and days they undergo, we shall feel the impropriety of increasing their distress by the noise of bells, or any other noisy in
Quiet and private domestic devotion neither offends nor incommodes any body; and the constitution has wisely guarded against the use of externals. Bells come under this description, and public procession still more so.Streets and highways are for the accomodation of persons following their several occupations, and no sectary has a right to incommode them. If any one has, every other has the same; and the meeting of various and contradictory processions would be tumultuous. Those who formed the constitution had wisely reflected upon the cases; and, whilst they were careful to preserve the right of every one, they restrained every one from giving offence, or incommoding another.
Men who, during a long and tumultuous scene, have lived in retirement, as you have done, may think, when they arrive at power, that nothing is more easy than to put the world to rights in an instant; they form to themselves gay ideas at the success of their projects; but they forget to contemplate the difficulties that attend them, and the dangers with which they are pregnant. Alas! nothing is so easy as to deceive one's self. Did all men think as you think, or as you say, your plan would need no advocate, because it would have no opposer; but there are millions who think
differently to you, and who are determined to be neither the dupes nor the slaves of error or of design.
It is your good fortune to arrive at power, when the sunshine of prosperity is breaking forth after a long and stormy night. The firmness of your colleagues, and of those you have succeeded-the unabated energy of the Directory, and the unequalled bravery of the armies of the Republic, have made the path smooth and easy for you. If you look back at the difficulties that existed when the constitution commenced, you cannot but be confounded with admiration at the difference between that time and now. moment, the Directors were placed like the forlorn hope of an army, but you were in safe retirement. They occupied the post of honourable danger, and they have merited well of their country.
You talk of justice and benevolence, but you begin at the wrong end. The defenders of your country, and the deplorable state of the poor, are objects of prior consideration to priests and bells and gaudy processions.
You talk of peace, but your manner of talking of it embarrasses the Directory in making it, and serves to prevent it. Had you been an actor in all the scenes of government from its commencement, you would have been too well informed to have brought forward projects that operate to encourage the enemy. When you arrived at a share in the government, you found every thing tending to a prosperous issue. A series of victories unequalled in the world, and in the obtaining of which you had uo share, preceded your arrival. Every enemy but one was subdued, and that one (the Hanoverian government of England) deprived of every hope, and a bankrupt in all its resources, was suing for peace. In such a state of things, no new question, or project, that might tend to agitate and anarchize the interior, ought to have had place; and the project you propose, tends directly to that end.
Whilst France was a monarchy, and under the government of those things called kings and priests, England could always defeat her; but since France has RISEN TO BE A REPUBLIC, the GOVERNMENT OF ENGLAND crouches beneath her, so great is the difference between a government of kings and priests, and that which is founded on the system of representation. But could the government of England find a way, under the sanction of your report, to inundate France with a flood of emigrant priests, she would find also the way to domineer as before; she
would retrieve her shattered finances at your expence, and the ringing of bells would be the tocsin of your downfall.
Did peace consist in nothing but in the cessation of war, it would not be difficult; but the terms are yet to be arranged; and those terms will be better or worse, in proportion as France and her councils be united or divided. That the government of England counts much upon the effects of your report, and upon others of a similar tendency, is what the writer of this letter, who knows that government well, has no doubt. You are but new on the theatre of government, and you ought to suspect yourself of misjudging; the experience of those who have gone before you, should be of some service to you.
But if in consequence of such measures as you propose, you put it out of the power of the Directory to make a good peace, and to accept of terms you would afterwards reprobate, it is yourself that must bear the censure.
You conclude your report by the following address to your colleagues:
"Let us hasten, representatives of the people! to affix to these tutelary laws the seal of our unanimous approbation. All our Fellow-citizens will learn to cherish politi cal liberty from the enjoyment of religious liberty; you will have broken the most powerful arm of your enemies; you will have surrounded this assembly with the most impregnable rampart-confidence and the people's love. O! my colleagues! how desirable is that popularity which is the offspring of good laws! What a consolation it will be to us hereafter, when returned to our own fire-sides, to hear from the mouths of our fellow-citizens, these simple expressions-Blessings reward you, men of peace! you have restored to us our temples-our ministers—the liberty of adoring the God of our fathers: you have recalled harmony to our families-morality to our hearts: you have made us adore the legislature and respect all its laws!
Is it possible, citizen representative, that you can be serious in this address? Were the lives of the priests under the ancient regime such as to justify any thing you say of them? Was not all France convinced of their immorality? Were they not considered as the patrons of debauchery and domestic infidelity, and not as the patrons of morals? What was their pretended celibacy but perpetual adultery? What was their blasphemous pretentions to forgive sins, but an encouragement to the commission of them,
and a love for their own? Do you want to lead again into France all the vices of which they have been the patrons, and to overspread the republic with English pensioners? It is cheaper to corrupt than to conquer: and the government of England unable to conquer, will stoop to corrupt. Arrogance and meanness, though in appearance opposite, are vices of the same heart.
Instead of concluding in the manner you have done, you ought to have said,
"O! my colleagues! we have arrived at a glorious period-a period that promises more than we could have expected, and all that we could have wished. Let us hasten to take into consideration the honours and rewards due to our brave defenders. Let us hasten to give encouragement to agriculture and manufactures, that commerce may reinstate itself, and our people have employment. Let us review the condition of the suffering poor, and wipe from our country the reproach of forgetting them. Let us devise means to establish schools of instruction, that we may banish the ignorance that the ancient regime of kings and priests had spread among the people. Let us propagate morality, unfettered by superstition. Let us cultivate justice and benevolence, that the God of our fathers may bless us. The helpless infant and the aged poor cry to us to remmember them. Let not wretchedness be seen in our streets. Let France exhibit to the world the glorious example of expelling ignorance and misery together.
"Let these, my virtuous colleagues! be the objects of our care, that when we return among our fellow-citizens, they may say, Worthy representatives! you have done well. You have done justice and honour to our brave defenders. You have encouraged agriculture-cherished our decayed manufactures-given new life to commerce, and employment to onr people. You have removed from our country the reproach of forgetting the poor-You have caused the cry of the orphan to cease-You have wiped the tear from the eye of the suffering mother-You have given comfort to the aged and infirm-You have penetrated into the gloomy recesses of wretchedness, and have banished it. Welcome among us, ye brave and virtuous representatives! and may your example be followed by your successors!" THOMAS PAINE.