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For the Catholic Miscellany.

I send you an extract upon monastic institutions, taken from "L'Ami des Hommes, ou Traité de la Population." This work had great celebrity at the time it was published, in the year 1755. It was written by the Marquis de Mirabeau, one of the political sect of Economists, and father to the well-known Mirabeau, who obtained so melancholy a pre-eminence during the French Revolution. The following observations are the more valuable, as they come from a man thoroughly acquainted with all the arguments furnished by the philosophy of the day against monastic institutions, who lived in a country where they existed in all their splendour, and we may perhaps add, all their abuses, and who wrote professedly upon the causes of the increase and diminution of population.

I remain, &c.


After the author has laid down that the true power of a state consists in having a number of consumers, with a proportionate quantity of articles of consumption, he proceeds to say, political Protestant authors (and they are certainly the best) have all attributed to the monastic orders the depopulation of Spain, of Italy, and of the other parts of Europe, which professed the religion of Rome. We will repeat here the words of one of the ablest and most profound writers on the subject. "According to the saying, monks," says he," are of no kind of use or ornament, either in peace or war, on this side of Paradise.”. . . . . . "Experience shows that those states that have embraced Protestantism are visibly become more powerful."* Our politicians have not only passed sentence in conformity to this article, but they have even sometimes gone beyond it. I am far from being of their opinion.

I once lived in the vicinity of a country abbey. The abbot, who divided the income with the monks, drew from it to the amount of 6000 livres (£240. English). I grant the abbots, in commendum, are no dupes. The remaining 6000 livres were to be divided amongst thirty-five monks, viz. fifteen in the house, and twenty young students

* Essai sur la Nature du Commerce; par Monsieur Cantillon.

in the noviciate, as there was a course of study going on in the house. These thirty-five masters had in proportion a small number of domestics, but they had at least four. Now I ask if any gentleman living upon his estate, worth 6000 livres a year, would have had more? Therefore, with himself, his wife, and his children, there would scarcely have lived ten persons upon the estate; and here we find forty assembled together in virtue of a particular institution.

In consequence, then, of the principle above established, that a state can only increase its number of inhabitants proportionably with the means of subsistence; that the more this subsistence is willingly contracted by those who occupy the soil, the more of it remains wherewith to supply the wants of a new colony; it would be impossible to deny, putting aside every other consideration, the advantages afforded to a numerous population by the establishment of religious houses. Whether it may be by order of the king, or by order of St. Benedict, or St. Dominic, that a great number of individuals should willingly engage not to consume above five sols a day, (that is twopence-halfpenny English,) still it is equally true, that these kind of institutions are a great aid to population, from the simple reason that they give space, and leave soil for other plants. That all monks live in this manner, and that every community is numerous in proportion to its revenue, is what I am far from asserting, and moreover this would be departing from the question. I will still less take upon me to say, what would be the means to maintain in vigour the institutions of which I have just spoken, the relaxation of which is at least a sort of leprosy in the state, I only say, that the maintenance of such a house as the one of which I have just spoken, and of many others of the same kind that I have known, far from being prejudicial to population, would be serviceable to it. I say this seriously, being an enemy to foolish and trivial jesting.

With respect to the objection, that a gentleman is useful in a state, or at least is a great ornament to it, whereas the monks are neither the one nor the other, the author I have just quoted, although a Protestant, adds at least to his axiom the salvo, " on this side of Paradise." In this he answers certain miserable libels, of late well received among us, awkwardly plastered with a varnish of dissertation upon public right, in which the authors dare to say, that the ministers of religion are of no use to the staté, Besides, the author speaks only of monks, which makes a great difference; and being but a calculator, he is allowed to weigh each individual in the same scale,— which, on the contrary, would be insanity for a politician to do. But

I can answer this two-fold objection without being guilty of exaggerating. Let us examine first the article of utility; I shall be short: then that of ornament; I shall be still more so.

Monks, in fact, study, preach, instruct, work, do duty in country parishes. Besides, the greater part of them in their institution have some object of utility in view; nay, I say of necessity. If they do not fulfil them, it is the business of the legislature to look to it. Why, I will suppose that the army had become undisciplined, the magistracy dissipated, the nobility immoral and without delicacy; would you on this account suppress the officer, the magistrate, and hereditary distinctions? The invention of suppressing and destroying is the very contrary to the art of governing,—it is the magnanimity of suicide. An ignorant surgeon cuts off the leg; Esculapius would have dressed it, and cured it. Four such operations as the first, and what would remain but the trunk? I have nothing to say upon the moral utility. I will not expatiate upon points foreign to my subject. Let us look to the physical utility.

Every one knows that the greater part of the larger monastic establishments, so rich now, were heretofore deserts, and that we are indebted to the first Cenobites for the cultivation of half the country. But without urging the right of property-a point so sacred in a political view, and so out of fashion nowadays-let us consider things as they are. It is so well known, that it is even become a proverb, that the Benedictines, for example, are satisfied with the return of one per cent. for what they lay out on their property. I know causeways, or embankments against rivers, and other works either useful or necessary upon their estates, which have certainly cost the abbey three times the worth of the property upon which they have been made. These long and expensive works, which are a boast and pleasure to bodies who look upon themselves as perpetual, always minors in regard to alienating, always possessors for the purpose of preserving, are beyond the power of individuals. The state can only look to general objects; and should its succours be given to local ones, it is still necessary that a powerful administration should exist on the spot, to keep them in repair. The lay possessor of the land is rich, and a considerable proprietor; in which case he does not live upon his estate, which is neglected, and goes to ruin; or if he is obliged to reside upon it, he is powerless, borne down by expenses, charges on the estate; his expenditure is irregular, and every thing is in disorder-under his son at least, if not under himself. Now no one will deny, but that these private undertakings are of great C. M.-VOL. VIII. NO. 71.



permanent utility to the public. It is the same in regard to build ings the same solidity, the same attention to repairs. One of the churches belonging to the abbey first mentioned above, is known by a famous epocha in our history, which takes us back seven hundred years it is now exactly in the same condition it was then. : Where are the buildings of individuals, with one stone upon another, of times so remote ?

As for ornament, we must acknowledge that a gentleman of 6000 livres per annum, whom we have established to supply the forty monks already quoted in our first example, would not exhibit much splendour in his Castle. We have, to be sure, taken a part of the revenue for the abbot, in commendum, who divides with the monks as the gentleman does with his agent. Now really if splendour and show were what I am contending for, I would ask whether the Cardinals de Rohan, and de Polignac, at Rome, and so many others elsewhere, have not done as much of this sort of honour to the nation as any gentlemen could have done. If, besides, it is true, what the same author says, "that what seems to fix the comparative greatness of states is the corps de reserve which they have," what riches in the church plate and ornaments, pictures, manuscripts, libraries, buildings even, have not these great religious houses in store, of which there is not even a trace in Protestant countries!

With regard to the mendicant orders, I should be quite of my author's opinion, were they really such now to the letter. It is not my business to examine whether begging was ever lawful to a religious order, otherwise than as means of subsistence, in the midst of occupation, of which the fruits were totally destined to works of charity; but it is a fact, that the trade not being worth what it was heretofore, all, or nearly so, foreseeing, like Joseph, the years of sterility, have provided revenues, and that with a very trifling arrangement with the government, we should no longer see the wallet. So much the worse, is the cry; for then the people would have to support them!...... Not at all, for the most part. Half the houses in the Fauxbourg St. Germain, and of several other parts of the town of Paris, for example, belong to public communities. Did the friars buy them? No. And for this reason they deserve no help, is still the cry. But they built upon waste land, which was given to them at the time, being then hardly of any value. Now these buildings form a magnificent city, and a considerable revenue, both to the state and to themselves, and which they have raised from the soil. Let the barefooted Carmes have, as reported, 100,000 livres a year, (or

£4000. English,) they have not robbed any one of it; and as long as they live according to their rule, their excess of income must be employed, as they have no more land to build on in Paris, either in building elsewhere, or in supporting other Carmes, living upon as little as themselves, and equally individuals in the state.

If Protestant states are more peopled and more flourishing than Catholic ones, where the same ecclesiastical discipline is as well observed as it is in France, (a fact, all things considered, to be proved otherwise than by mere assertion,) I think it would be easy to account for this otherwise than by the suppression of the monks. 1st, The pretended Reformation every where produced revolutions; and it is certain that it is the nature of such convulsions to give spirit to the political mind, and to renovate the springs of government and industry. Sweden changed entirely her government, when she embraced the pretended Reformation; but whoever had contemplated this country after the harsh and absolute reigns of Charles XI. and Charles XII., would have been astonished to have seen so few monks there, and so much depopulation and misery. It is not the re-establishment of Monks in Holland which has reduced her commerce and riches one half since the beginning of this age; but luxury has taken root there, the consumption has doubled, and commerce has diminished. The celebrated Danes of other times, who made Europe tremble to her centre, are dead; but two hundred years have elapsed since the monks have been driven out; it is surely time to see this ancient nursery repeopled by heroes.

Henry IV. and afterwards Louis XIV., did not want the means of re-establishing their kingdom, without changing any thing in the established religion. I see that the judicious David Hume, and many other English, complain of the diminished population of their country: they seek for many causes, in consequence of not having seen the real one, which is, that England is become rich, that riches augment the consumption of each individual, and diminishes, in consequence, so much of the population.-L'Ami des Hommes, from page 25 to page 32, vol. 1st.


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To the Editor of the Catholic Miscellany.

Hexham, October 9, 1827.

If you will have the goodness to insert the accompanying circular

in your valuable and widely-circulated paper, you will render an

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