Page:Poverty, its effects on the political condition of the people.djvu/3

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


On one occasion in the world's history, a people rose searching for upright life, who had previously, for several generations, depressed by poverty and its attendant handmaidens of misery, prowled hunger-stricken and disconsolate, stooping and stumbling through the byways of existence. A mighty revolution resulted in much rough justice and some brutal vengeance, much rude right, and some terrific wrong. Amongst the writers who have since narrated the history of this people's struggle, some penmen have been assiduous and hasty to search for, and chronicle the errors, and have even not hesitated to magnify the crimes of the rebels; while they have been slow to recognise the previous demoralising tendency of the system rebelled against. In this pamphlet it is proposed to very briefly deal with the state of the people in France immediately prior to the grand convulsion which destroyed the Bastile Monarchy, and set a glorious example of the vindication of the rights of man against opposition the most formidable that can be conceived; believing that even in this slight illustration of the condition of the masses in France who sought to erect on the ruins of arbitrary power the glorious edifice of civil and religious liberty, an answer may be found to the question—"What is the effect of poverty on the political condition of the people?"

In taking the instance of France, it is not that the writer for one moment imagines that poverty is a word without meaning in our own lands. The clamming factory hands in the Lancashire valleys, the distressed ribbon weavers of Coventry, and the impoverished labourers in various parts of Ireland and Scotland, would be able to give us a definition of the word fearful in its distinctness. But in England poverty is happily partial, while in France in the eighteenth century poverty was universal outside the palaces of the nobles and the mansions of the church, where luxury, voluptuousness, and effeminacy were regnant. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries travellers in France could learn from "the sadness, the solitude, the miserable poverty, the dismal nakedness of the empty cottages, and the starving, ragged population, how much men could endure without dying." On the one side a, discontented, wretched, hungry mass of tax-providing slaves, and on the other a