Marat condemns the August decrees (1789)


In September 1789, six weeks after the August decrees that formally abolished feudalism in France, the radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat condemns them as a measure of self-protection:

“No doubt the repeated acts of justice and benevolence, dictated by humanity and love of our country which was keen to manifest itself, must result in the spectators’ highest admiration; and with these acts of generosity vying to surpass each other, enthusiasm must border on enchantment.

Was that really so? We must not deny virtue; but we must not be taken in. If it is indeed goodwill which dictated such sacrifices, it must be agreed that it has taken a long time to be heard.

It is by the light of the flames of their burning chateaux that they have discovered that greatness of heart which renounces the privilege of keeping in irons men who have taken up arms to regain their liberty!

At the sight of the torture of depredators, defrauders, supporters of tyranny, they generously yield up seigneurial tithes and demand nothing from these unfortunates who have scarcely enough to live on!”