Letter from a Patriot Claiming to Prove Damiens Had Accomplices
This pamphlet was one of the many published in France in response to the news of Damiens’s attack on the King. It is written from the standpoint of the so–called patriot party, which opposed the concentration of power in the hands of the King, the royal advisers at court (mostly aristocrats), and the bishops of the church (mostly Jesuits). Patriots instead supported the parlements and the lower clergy as more morally suited to represent the interests of all three orders that composed the French "nation."
Yes sir, no matter how big our misfortunes may have been, I dread that bigger are yet to come. When I think about everything that is happening to us, it could be said that it has been happening against nature . . . everything that should put a stop to our ills, in fact only makes them worse.
First of all, what is really the true source of the problems that beset us? Is it not solely a stubbornness, a spurious point of honor, a spirit of domination and independence found in the bishops and clerics? They, who by their very nature should set an example of the opposite virtues? I have not avoided putting myself at risk to show that the pretext of religion, which they use to cover themselves, is nothing but a mask. I know that you were never fooled by it, and that now no one is fooled anymore. . . .
If our bishops had thought for one instant about the uselessness of these bulls [such as Unigenitus] . . . or about the atrocious damage that they cause their clergies and parishes, they would have been the most ardent defenders of this law that condemned them to eternal oblivion. But the true authors of these fateful decrees, and the only people with an interest in maintaining them, knew how to convince our prelates that, after the commitments that they had made, the law that spelled the doom of these decrees was also, inevitably, the same that bestowed their honor and their authority. That is how they came to finally hatch the secret plot of a powerful league against the most important monument of our monarch's wisdom.
Monsieur de Beaumont [Archbishop of Paris], so worthy in every respect of being in charge, on 29 September gave Conflans the first sign of combat by publishing a mandate which, in religious language, offers merely senseless lies, and spirit of division, independence and rebellion. Immediately thereafter, the flames of discord ignited from all corners, and the Vicars of Jesus Christ's charity and gentleness no longer preach the gospel of peace, but rather pronounce the manifesto of an internecine war between Church and State from the altar.
Who would have believed that the goodness of the King, tired of the rebels' stubbornness, would finally allow his justice free reign; who would have believed that in his wisdom, convinced by experience that impunity or past ways only serve to make the guilty more audacious, he would decide that no another means remained to extinguish the fire that threatened the State and the throne itself but to deliver them up to the severity and convention of law? However (posterity will have trouble believing this), one witnesses his religion at the point of using his absolute authority to arrest the Magistrates as soon as they want to take the first step, to grant pardons to criminals who, far from asking for it and repenting, loudly declare that they are determined to add to their past crimes.
Anonymous, Pièces originales et procédures du procès, fait à Robert-François Damiens (Paris: Pierre Guillaume Simon, 1757).