The Revolutionary Spirit Preceding the French Revolution

By Félix Rocquain; J. D. Hunting | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII.
Government of Louis XV. (1762-1770.)

THE abolition of the Society of the Jesuits was the first conquest of the Revolutionary Spirit.

But the parliamentary opposition to the old order of things, which had for its object the diminishing of the Royal authority and the maintenance of Gallicanism, did not go far enough for the more intelligent members of the community. Without any clear plan or purpose, these followed the guidance of the Philosophers, who, themselves, but vaguely aimed at the establishment of a new régime. As a thoughtful writer has said: "At this "crisis the real events were not acts, but books." On November 3rd, 1762, the preliminaries of the peace between France and England were signed, and to the war of force without succeeded a war of thought within the kingdom. Two celebrated books, Émile and The Social Contract, inaugurated this period. Émile was burned by the Parliament and censured by the Archbishop of Paris. The terms of both condemnations were, however, more moderate than had been those which greeted the appearance of De L'Esprit. It was said that the Archbishop published his mandate against Émile as a mere matter of form, and the magistrates denounced it because, having just taken proceedings against the Jesuits, they were afraid of being accused of indifference to the Faith. The Social Contract, which upheld the principle of appeal to the people and of the sovereignty of the Nation, and which transformed the Government into a sort of revocable commission, was incomparably more daring politically than Émile was in religious matters. Even among certain supporters of Philosophy, it was deemed dangerous. "It is most "important," remarked Bachaumont, "that a book of this kind

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