A Paris journal opposes church land seizures (1790)

On March 30th 1790 La Gazette de Paris, which favoured a constitutional monarchy, opposed stripping the church and nobility of their wealth:

“We tell you again: you need a religion, and if man has sometimes defaced [the church], must it be rejected by you for the same reason? Take heed of three great truths. If there was no God it would be necessary to invent one for the peace of the whole earth. If there was no religion it would be necessary to create one for the safety of the realm. If you had no king it would be necessary from tomorrow, from today, to elect one for the happiness of the citizens…

The clergy offered to pay every year, for 20 years, a figure of 40 million livres, a sum that you could estimate as a quarter of the gross proceeds of its wealth… the nation’s justice must necessarily grant to the clergy the means of effecting this operation, which would immediately provide for the deficit in the finances…

People, it is you that we wish to convince, since no part of the nation has suffered as much as you. See how they [the National Assembly] have contributed to your misfortune, instead of accepting the offer that would have cured so many ills. They have suppressed the tithes, yet you do not profit from it, and when a substitute has to be found, it is upon you that will fall the tax created to replace it.

The sale of 400 million livres of the clergy’s property has been decreed. But it will be necessary to sell 800 million before realising in real terms the 400 million requested. It is again you, good people, that will one day suffer for that scandalous transaction.

But not everybody will lose by it as you will do. There will be profit in it for those vile brokers, those insatiable speculators, whose criminal cupidity glories in the fact that the clergy, deprived of the right to execute by itself the sale of its varied properties, cannot deprive [these speculators] of the pleasure of immersing themselves in these golden streams… it matters little to them that the source be dried up for posterity…

Country folk, see what future has been left to you. These nobles, in whose homes you used to shelter from inclement weather, you pursued from refuge to refuge. Will you dare to ask them for bread, when you have not left them asylum?

Those pastors who lived with you, and through whom you lived, are now on wages. And one day perhaps, deprived even of this income, they will not have, like you, the spade and plough to fall back upon. Yet we now hear you slandering them; for you are daily being taught to become more unjust. They will have been deprived of the means of helping you, yet you will accuse them of being indifferent to your sufferings, when they are beggars like you.

Your injustice will be the most severe of their punishments… and the most sacred, the most noble of callings will become the saddest and most wretched of these estates.”