his general to exercise over him, but also to the very marrow of his moral - or rather immoral - bones. An advocate of free will with no real will of his own, the Jesuit conspired by definition and in the service ofno other despotism than his own. For while foisting despotism on both papacy and monarchy, the Jesuit was always also the assassin of popes and kings alike.
The projection of this image was largely the work of a press that, aside from the parlement of Paris in the 1760s, was Jansenism's only offensive weapon in its armoury. From Pascal's Provincial Letters in the 1650s to the launching of the weekly Ecclesiastical News in 1728, Jansenists pioneered the craft of clandestine publication and the currying - even creating - of a 'public opinion' in their favour. Out-publishing the Jesuits by a factor of at least five to one, Jansenists directed much of this print towards the Jesuits who occupy no less than 200 pages for the thirty-two years covered by the Ecclesiastical News' index published in 1760.6 So hated had the Jesuits become in Paris by this point that when, in a case that anticipated that of the 1760s, the Jansenist barrister Jacques Aubry described the 'details of their political and monarchical government' to defeat the Jesuits' attempt to validate a contested will bequeathing them some very valuable paintings, it was 'not possible', according to a police observer, 'to express the joys of the public, particularly those who heard the reading of the sentence'.7
So effective, moreover, was theJansenist press in the politics ofpublic opinion that when, on the eve of the Jesuits' dissolution, an unbalanced and unemployed domestic servant named Damiens who had been at least indirectly influenced by this press tried to convey a non-verbal remonstrance to Louis XV by stabbing him with a penknife in 1757, this same press managed to feature the lackey as the agent of the Jesuits and reinforce their image as would-be assassins of kings.
Was this article helpful?