Page images

portant object, will be promoted by blending the occupations of industry with a confiderable proportion of such superstitious ceremonies as awaken the future hopes, without lulling the present benevolence, of the multitude; but nobody can doubt, that in countries where, from whatever cause, industry does not prevail, processions, and other rites of the fame nature, will tend to restrain the populace from the vices, and of consequence prevent fome of the miseries of idleness.

The peasantry of this country are unquestionably in a more comfortless state than a benevolent mind could wish them. But, England and Switzerland excepted, is not this the case all over Europe ? In all the countries I have seen, or had an account of, the husbandmen, probably the most virtuous, but certainly the most useful part of the community, whose labour and industry maintain all the rest, and in whom the real strength of the state

resides, resides, are, by a most unjust dispensation, generally the poorest and most oppressed. But although the Italian peasantry are by no means in the affluent, independent situation of the peasantry of Switzerland, and the tenantry of England, yet they are not subjected to the same oppressions with those of Germany, nor are they so poor as those of France.

Great part of the lands in Italy belong to convents; and I have observed, and have been assured by those who have the best opportunities of knowing, that the tenants of these communities are happier, and live more at their ease, than those of a great part of the nobility. The revenues of convents are usually well managed, and never allowed to be squandered away by the folly or extravagance of any of its members ; consequently the community is not driven, by craving and threatening creditors, as individuals frequently are, to squeeze out of their vassals


the means of supplying the waste occafioned by their own vanity and expence. A convent can have no incitement to severe and oppressive exactions from the peasants, except sheer avarice; a passion which never rises to such a height in a society where the revenue is in common, as in the breast of an individual, who is solely to reap the fruits of his own oppression.

The stories which circulate in Protestant countries, concerning the scandalous debauchery of monks, and the luxurious manner in which they live in their convents, whatever truth there may have been in them formerly, are certainly now in a great measure without foundation. I remember when I was at the Grande Chartreuse, near Grenoble, which has a confiderable district of land belonging to it, I was informed, and this information was confirmed by what I saw, that those monks were gentle and generous masters, and that their tenants were envied by all the pea

fantry fantry around, on account of the treatment they received, and the comparatively easy terms on which they held their farms. From the enquiries I have made in France, Germany, and Italy, I am convinced that this is usually the case with those peasants who belong to convent lands: and very often, I have been informed, besides having easy rents, they also find affectionate friends and protectors in their masters, who visit them in sickness, comfort them in all distresses, and are of service to their families in various shapes.

I have been speaking hitherto of the

peafantry belonging to convents; but I believe I might extend the remark to the tenants of ecclesiastics in general, though they are often represented as more proud and oppressive masters than


class of men whatever ; an aspersion which


have gained credit the more easily on this account, that instances of cruelty and oppression in ecclesiastics strike more, and raise a greater indignation, than the same degree of wick. edness in other men; they raise a greater indignation, because they are more unbecoming of clergymen, and they strike more when they do happen, because they happen seldomer.


The ambition of Popes some centuries ago, when the Court of Rome was in its zenith, the unlimited influence and power which particular Church. men acquired in England and France, had those effects upon their actions and characters, which ambition and power usually have on the characters of men ; it rendered them insolent, unfeeling, and persecuting : yet, for every cruel and tyrannical Pope that history has recorded, it will be easy to name two or three Roman Emperors who have furpassed them in every species of wickedness; and England and France have had Prime Ministers with all the vices, without the abilities, of Wolsey and Riche


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »