Chap. VII           The People and the State

II. The Clergy

None of the Church's possessions or income was taxable, but periodically the higher clergy in national convocation voted a free donation to the state. ln 1773 this amounted to sixteen million livres for five years, which Voltaire reckoned to be a just proportion of the Church's income. In 1749 J. B. Machault d'Arnouville, comptroller general of finances, proposed to replace this don gratuit by extending to the Church, as well as to all the laity, a direct annual tax of five per cent on all income. Fearing that this was a first step toward despoiling the Church to salvage the state, the clergy resisted with "an inflexible passion." Machault proposed also to outlaw legacies to the Church without state sanction; to annul all religious establishments set up without royal approval since 1636; and to require all holders of ecclesiastical benefices to report their revenues to the government. An assembly of the clergy refused to obey these edicts, saying, "We will never consent that that which has heretofore been the gift of our love and respect should become the tribute of our obedience." Louis XV ordered the dissolution of the assembly, and his Council bade the intendants collect an initial levy of 7,500,000 livres on the property of the Church.

Voltaire sought to encourage Machault and the King by issuing a Pamphlet, Voix du sage et du peuple [The Voice of the Sage and the People], which urged the government to establish its authority over the Church, to prevent the Church from being a state within the state, and to trust to the philosophers of France to defend King and minister against all the forces of superstition.

a young Voltaire

V. Louis XV

. . . A German Protestant general was the hero of France: Maurice de Saxe. . . In the spring of 1745, having been appointed commander in chief of the French army, he was ordered to the front. He was near death in Paris at the time, exhausted with excesses and suffering agonies from dropsy. Voltaire asked him how, in such a condition, he could think of taking the field. Maurice replied, "Il ne s'agit pas de vivre, mais de partir" (The important point is not to live but to set out).


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