Sunday, July 9, 2023

proud property owners................

 The Peasantry:  Many of them in 1789, were still day laborers or sharecroppers, working other men's land; but by 1793 half the soil of France was owned by peasants, most of whom had bought their acres at bargain prices from the confiscated properties of the Church; and all but a few peasants had freed themselves from feudal dues.  The stimulus of ownership turned labor from drudgery into devotion, daily adding to the surplus that built homes and comforts, churches and schools—if only the taxgatherer could be propitiated or deceived.  And taxes could be paid with assignats—government paper money—at their face value, while products could be sold for assignats multiplied a hundred times to equal their nominal worth.  Never had the French earth been so zealously and fruitfully tilled.

     This liberation of the largest class in a now classless society was the most visible and lasting effect of the Revolution.  These sturdy providers became the strongest defenders of the Revolution, for it had given them the land, which a Bourbon restoration might take away.  For the same reason they supported Napoleon, and for fifteen years gave him half of their sons.  As proud property owners they allied themselves politically with the bourgeoisie, and served, throughout the nineteenth century, as conservative ballast amid the repeated paroxysms of the state.

-Will & Ariel Durant, The Age of Napoleon 

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