October 10, 1789: Talleyrand on Ecclesiastical Property

  • Paul H. Beik
Part of the The Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


Charles Maurice, duc de Talleyrand-Périgord, was to live until 1838 and to be more famous as a diplomat of the Napoleonic, Restoration, and July Monarchy eras than for his career during the revolution. Talleyrand was prominent during the revolution, however, as the young Bishop of Autun—he was in his mid-thirties in 1789—who as a deputy of the clergy to the Estates General favored the joining together of the three orders, shared in the writing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, strongly supported using the property of the Church to defray part of the government’s debts, and, when there was opposition to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, consecrated the bishops who had been elected. It is well known that Talleyrand was intelligent, worldly, and more interested in Church administration than in religion. He had been general agent of the French clergy before the revolution and in addition was interested in property and investments as an individual. The document that follows, Motion de M. l’évêque d’Autun, sur les biens ecclésiastiques. Du 10 octobre 1789 (Versailles, s.d. [1789], 24 pp.), pp. 1–10, is the first part of Talleyrand’s introduction to the motion on Church property. One footnote has been omitted and two have been shortened. Not included are Talleyrand’s masterful but lengthy recommendations (pp. 10–15) for allocating funds to payment of the State’s obligations and the actual articles of the motion (pp. 16–24).


Religious Community General Agent Estate General Formal Clause Actual Article 
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© Paul H. Beik 1970

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  • Paul H. Beik

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