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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From the Letters
By Mirabeau (1749–1791)
 
KINGS who raise themselves only by things, and whom things instruct badly,—because they almost always bend to the monarch’s will, passions, and opinions,—would perhaps appear the most stupid of human beings if it were known how little knowledge and how few ideas they generally have. Every rational saying that escapes them is preserved; which is assuredly the best possible proof that such sayings are not very numerous….  1
  If I speak only of Paris, because at court nothing is spoken of but Paris, it is not less true that the wants of this city are the least urgent of any, and that as much care must be taken not to create new paupers as to relieve those who already exist. With regard to the latter, it would be at least necessary to give to all the parish priests in the kingdom a sufficient income to live; for they will not aid your poor if they are themselves in poverty. The curés in some provinces—in Brittany, for instance—have scarcely three hundred livres a year. What necessity is there for the Archbishop of Auch to have 500,000 livres a year? Not but he makes a good use of it. Archbishop Apchon is one of the most respectable prelates in the kingdom; but he is mortal. The diocese of Cambrai has not always had a Fénelon. When shall a portion of these enormous revenues be taken and distributed among all the curés in the kingdom? Madame Louise has just obtained 30,000 livres a year in corn and land, to be taken from the abbey of St. Germain, for the support of the Carmelites of the kingdom. Assuredly corn would grow equally well if there were no Carmelites in France. But 30,000 livres a year, distributed among the poor curés of the kingdom, would suffice to give, in a year of dearth, the indispensably necessary to a great number of honest poor.  2
  It is more than time to finish this long and shapeless collection of all sorts of dreams. You know my principles and opinions sufficiently well to have no doubt that I have made a great sacrifice to etiquette, to habit, and to prejudice, by fixing your view upon the metropolis alone. The rest of the kingdom is a stranger land to the great, which is the worst of evils. I wished to show you how many useful and great things you did not do, even in the place where you constantly reside. But would not traveling amuse your illustrious friend—or her royal husband, who, if he remain at Versailles, will never complete his education either as a man or as a king? What a sad existence is that of sovereigns! They are shut up within a circle of forty leagues in diameter, the radii of which they perambulate as if by a constant oscillation. The active correspondence between the King of Spain and Louis XV. during twenty years is curious. They wrote to each other every day in the same terms. The King of Spain wrote: “At five o’clock I left St. Ildefonso, and the rendezvous for the chase was at the Round of St. Anthony.” The same day Louis XV. wrote from Versailles: “At ten o’clock I went to the Carrefour des Rossignols, at Compiègne, etc.” And this went on during twenty years. Each monarch had his map, and followed the route of the other, as if they had been learned geographers studying Cook’s voyages!  3
  Let the Queen imitate her brother’s example; let her travel, and excite her husband to travel likewise, without pomp—for pomp tends only to ruin, tire, and deceive. Let her travel…. Alas! very near the spot where the ostentation of wealth and luxury insults the misery of the people, the King and Queen will see, learn, and feel that which ministers and courtiers never tell them!  4
  The wealth of a country consists solely in its agriculture. From it the population, and consequently the strength, of a State are derived. Colbert, to whom so many just reproaches may be made, was wrongfully accused when it was stated that he concerned himself about nothing but manufactures. It must be admitted that he rendered several ordinances favorable to agriculture. One of the most celebrated, promulgated the year before his death, and rendered in favor of Alsace, provides that “all persons who will occupy empty and vague lands may cultivate them to their own profit, and use them in full property.” Colbert, just before he died, contemplated making this ordinance general throughout the kingdom: for he perceived what is very evident, that the King has a full quarter of his kingdom to conquer from enemies termed heaths, downs, and so forth; and that it is necessary to plow with one hand whilst the other prunes, in order soon after to cut down the parasitical and voracious tree of fiscality.  5
  Conventicles of monks should be established in the most uncultivated parts of the kingdom, to do there that which they did a thousand years ago in different places. Monks can be useful to society in no other way. These conventicles must be dispersed in the most barren spots, according to the system of the primitive church, and there supported during the time necessary, by the profits of the newly cultivated lands, which might afterwards be added to the mass of ecclesiastical property in the kingdom. By such means the monks would be usefully employed, the waste lands put into cultivation, the State enriched, and no one would have a right to complain.  6
  But not only must the lands be cultivated, but the inhabitants likewise. And why should not a former measure be adopted which time has justified?  7
  In 1769, married men announcing a decided capacity for a trade were selected from different families, and sent to Paris for a year. The circumstance of these men being married was considered a security for their return. Thus the farrier was sent to Alfort under Bourgelat, the miller to Corbeil, the mason to St. Généviève, the carpenter among the machinery at the opera, and the gardener to Montreuil. Each of these men on his return obtained what he pleased; and they are now sent for from a distance of ten leagues round. It would be very useful if pupils were placed, in the same manner, under skillful agriculturists. Each would take back to his native place not only the tools proper for his calling, but that knowledge which being multiplied at the centre, will never reach the circumference unless a zealous, active, and persevering government uses all possible means to overcome indifference and routine.  8
 
 
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