A newspaper justifies seizing church property (1791)


In January 1791 a radical newspaper, Les Revolutions de Paris, suggested that stripping the church of its wealth would restore its original innocence and purity:


“Far from bending beneath the paternal hand of the fatherland, far from being at the head of reform that had become indispensable, the upper clergy allies itself with the nobility… and the priest, who makes a vow of Christian humility, stubbornly persists in maintaining the first rank in the state.

The ministers of a poor God, who possessed nothing on this earth where he might lay his head, haggle and dispute over every square foot of that third of the land in the kingdom of which they were no more than the beneficiaries…

French prelates [higher clergy]! If you had been allowed to act as judge in your own cause, and if these facts had been set before you: is it the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles that you would have consulted to restore to religion the innocence of its first days, and to its ministers the morality of the first Christians?

Would you have done more than all the councils have been able to do ? Would you have had the courage to reform yourselves, your harems and your studs? Would you have had the good faith to bring yourselves to accept the loss of your rights of ownership to the immense possessions that paid for your pleasures?…

What then is a priest ? He is a citizen who, feeling himself endowed with gentleness and humility, consecrates himself in a special fashion to the cult of those virtues that tend towards the good of society…

Under the old regime and in times when we lacked energy, a good priest would ease our chains, and give us hope that sooner or later God, who had called us all to liberty, would give us the opportunity, and provide us with the means for breaking our chains…

My friends, my brothers! Three more months and the country will be saved. Have patience; take courage. The beginnings of liberty are not at all easy. Put on a good face; let harmony reign in our midst. Let us remain united and we shall stay free. Do not let the refusal of a few bishops and several priests [to take the oath] alarm you; that’s their affair. God is on our side, for liberty is his beloved daughter. Liberty is the handmaid of religion. God repulses the incense of slaves. Servitude gives rise only to superstition. Let us then remain free to please God and to make ourselves respected among men.”