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Contents:


  1. The Origins of the French Revolution - Google Livros
  2. Parlement de Navarre (Pau)
  3. Parlement de Navarre (Pau)
  4. Anglomanie et anglophobie en France au XVIIIe siècle

That is to forget the nature of ancien regime politics, which was mostly about the defence of jurisdiction and privilege, the concern for which was often concealed behind more general principles. Courts were perpetually skirmishing with one another, and problems that we today see as administrative or institutional they interpreted in terms of the rights and powers of corporate bodies.

They tended to extrapolate the worst- case scenario from royal legislation or actions, and conceal the lesser issues by reading some fundamental theoretical point of jurisprudence or sovereignty into the case. Indeed, it was perfectly possible for small groups to manipulate their colleagues by appealing to the universal desire to defend their jurisdiction, by finding some such issue to unite everyone around, when their real aim was quite different.

Not everyone had to be won over for even a majority of one bound the institution as much as unanimity. Detailed studies of events, such as those of our examples in and , and others on the s, have shown that behind the apparently unanimous corporate statements the magistrates were not in fact united in their legal and political views.

It was not always hard to persuade just enough colleagues to swing the debate. Many judges were idle and many were inexperienced; most felt condemned to remain in their place with no prospect of advancement until they became an honorary judge in retirement; some saw opposition as the only way upwards and out; few were competent in matters of state finances and the lawyers were much more expert in legal matters than most judges. But it could all too easily go wrong. Therefore, to understand the diverse factors involved in the generation of opposition statements and stances we have to take into account both how the courts functioned in terms of procedure and each highly specific political situation.

The crown had an advantage because it could use its official representatives as well as give pensions to senior magistrates to encourage loyalty. Inside the parlement, hierarchy was extremely important. It was usually more productive to influence senior judges because debate was not structured democratically but hierarchically.

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The Origins of the French Revolution - Google Livros

The most senior gave their opinion first, and after the first few views had been expressed the other judges could effectively only agree or disagree with them, as any new view was unlikely to get a majority because all previous votes could not adhere to their view. The system usually worked quite well, as long as the ministry was united. But there were some structural limitations. The fact that some of the leading robe dynasties had increasingly close relations with the court nobility in the eighteenth century takes on a new significance.

Some developed ministerial ambitions, and lent succor to courtly factions and ministerial rivalries.

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Furthermore, each minister had some clients in the courts relations, legal advisers or judges hoping for advancement to intendant, say , and if the ministers were at war with one another the system could break down as strings were pulled in different directions. Necker, M. Other factors were just as important: internecine rivalry, hotheaded youth, ambition and disaffection.

Parlement de Navarre (Pau)

As we have seen, ambitious souls had little hope for advancement unless they made a nuisance of themselves. Wars were so costly that taxes and loans were necessary in a state in which the medieval belief that the king should only raise extra taxes in wartime still held sway. In and the problem is that too great a burden was placed on the parlement for it to retain its credibility with the people without protests. So even if there was usually the potential to handle the parlement carefully, some fiscal crises were too big for the system to cope with.

Trapped in a socio-fiscal system that came into existence under Louis XIV, the monarchy never could fundamentally reform its finances to a level at which it could escape recurrent fiscal crises in wartime. Quarrels about religion were troublesome, but in the eighteenth century were not likely to bring the state to its knees, whereas the resistance to fiscal proposals was very serious. But when matters have once started, judicial forms and methods carry them rapidly along, and a decision once given, the wisest minds find themselves linked to the hottest heads; they cannot then, without violent shocks, abolish or reform the decrees of parlement.

The ministerial group [parti] was expected to employ all the tricks of the trade. Pains must be taken to govern the parlements and to prevent the storms that arise there. By a few deserved distinctions, by confidence, by concert of feeling, it would be easy to maintain the calmness and subordination of those great bodies.

The most impressive action the crown could take was for the king to embody royal justice in person at a session of the parlement known as a lit de justice. After a highly formal consultation of the magistrates, the king as judge insisted upon his will being registered forthwith. If the parlement persisted in its refusal to register an edict, the crown would certainly withhold patronage, and even make an example of rebellious magistrates by exiling them.

Needless to say, such tactics, used injudiciously, could be equally counterproductive, stiffening resistance. After the reinstatement of the parlement in , its feud with the grand conseil continued. Foolishly, the Keeper of the Seals Miromesnil allowed the courts to win in That deprived the ministry of one arrow in its quiver. And yet, Miromesnil did this because he was confident he could control the courts.

His view was shared by distinguished advisers and ministers in this period. He emphasised the limitations in their outlook and the possibilities for ministerial control. This grand corps was characterised by ignorance of affairs of state, their wisdom was always far behind their century, and it was easy for an adroit minister to present affairs to them in a favourable light; their remonstrances were often agreed in advance with the Court and the reply ready prepared, and the most eloquent of them were quite commonplace.

Having successfully used public opinion against the parlement in , Bernis reflected that: The parlement has force only through that of the voice of the people; the fermentations in its assemblies are nothing if not supported by a public fermentation… the parlements must yield as soon as they are abandoned by the public. Probably it was a mistake then, and certainly seems so with hindsight.

Parlement de Navarre (Pau)

The magistrates returned not chastened but defiant and vindicated, with their powers to oppose ministers almost intact. In the s it therefore seemed as if risks could be taken.

Magistrates and most ministers thought the monarchy was as solid as a rock, and continued with these games of bluff, when in fact this time the fiscal problems were overwhelmingly dangerous. There was, moreover, a self-centred arrogance in their approach, as they seemed to think they could judge the consequences of their actions to a nicety. We shall see that it does also matter who the individuals were and what political games they were playing.

To fulfil the promise of this new approach, let us now examine the period more closely. Nevertheless, under Necker controversial rises in direct taxation were avoided, but after his resignation in relations between the controllers general and the parlement were increasingly strained.

Indeed, it could be argued that relations were apparently good because it was difficult for the parlement to refuse loans in wartime when it was traditionally accepted that the king had far wider prerogatives. By there were internal rivalries in the courts making it more difficult for the ministry to manage them. In the parlement there were serious differences on the issue of judicial reform, championed by president Lamoignon, who was using the issue to appear worthy of a ministry.

From to faction at court created further divisions that were reflected in crown-parlement relations. Its consequences were to be played out over the Diamond Necklace Affair and the registration of loans. Despite the implications for the Queen if Rohan were cleared of guilt, the affair became factional. Calonne hoped the failure would lead to the dismissal of Breteuil, so that he himself could change ministries to avoid the financial calamities he could see coming.

This impossible situation was what led Calonne to try to avoid the parlement, by calling an Assembly of Notables. Hardman has argued that at this point the classical political system had been stalemated. He is thinking of the inability to get taxes approved by the parlement, but although this was the case it is also true that the sheer scale of the problem made it difficult for the courts to agree to such large taxes in peacetime and retain credibility with the people. And in this sense their call for the Estates General could be interpreted as reasonable, because the burden of assent to such wide plans was too heavy for their shoulders.

In June , after the Assembly of Notables had been dismissed, the parlement returned centre stage: it was then asked to register the new taxes and new provincial arrangements for collecting them. But the magistrates felt slighted by the attempt to get around their jurisdiction and were not in a receptive mood. Moreover, various interests were now attempting to exploit the parlement to further their own aims.

In the background was the Orleans faction, sidelined during the Notables, but which always had royal ambitions that surfaced in times of crisis. With Calonne and Miromesnil gone and Brienne appointed first chef du conseil royal des finances, then principal minister when Laurent de Villedeuil became controller general, and with Lamoignon as Keeper of the Seals, the ministerial factions looked a little different.

Anglomanie et anglophobie en France au XVIIIe siècle

Youth and shaken off the yoke of its elders. It is unclear where this specifically originated. On the one hand it had become a rhetorical appeal to embarrass the government; it was used by the parlement of Rouen in and , and taken up by other courts. According to a leading magistrate: In fact, everything that they put forward against the edicts [stamped paper and land tax] was only a pretext on which to base the demand for the Estates General. Their patriotic ideology took precedence over political acumen, for they really seemed to believe that the king was being misled by evil ministers and that all would be well if the king could only be enlightened by the Nation.

As they were fine orators, masters of the new rhetoric, and prestigious members of the Company, their younger colleagues were putty in their hands. As Sallier observed: The young men of the chambers of inquests came to the assemblies as if they had been marching into battle and everything assured them of victory in a fight that was too unequal. Apart form superior numbers, they had more unity than those they were attacking. Their orators pleaded a cause susceptible to those eloquent moments that always produce a great effect upon large assemblies. They appeared to be defending the rights and interests of the nation.

Either from pride, or through lack of concern, the ministry had always neglected much too much the means that could preserve harmony between the court and the parlement; and having no means of corruption, it appeared to have not the slightest idea of the skill needed to mold and maintain the spirit of such an assembly.

He also points out that Lamoignon was not a good choice as chancellor, because he was already distanced from many judges. The reiteration of this demand for the Estates in response to the subvention territoriale on 30 July was passed by an increased majority as patriotic rhetoric now conjoined with the scent of victory, and youth was encouraged by the basoche. Ferrand, the loyalist who wrote the remonstrances, wanted the ministry to reply with delaying tactics to calm things down, but Brienne insisted on a lit de justice.

On 10 August they began proceedings against Calonne and then condemned the royal procedures. With foreign war a possibility, the ministry could not afford the luxury of a drawn-out dispute, and because a big procession that included the magistrates was due on the Feast of the Assumption: disturbances were feared. At 2 AM in the morning of 15 August, lettres de cachet were delivered to the homes of the magistrates exiling them immediately to Troyes. This only served to strengthen the belief amongst the public that the monarchy was behaving despotically.

Momentously, the ministry gave in to the call for the Estates General, promising it would meet in five years time. But the counsellors felt it had been turned into another dishonouring and unnecessary lit de justice. As a result, instead of an isolated matter being debated, general questions were taken up. Remonstrances were drawn up in the matter of compulsory registrations, lettres de cachet, and the danger resulting from a power which should be kept within bounds by its will alone.

Hence they acted powerfully on the mind of the nation, and then it was that the Parlement enjoyed the highest degree public esteem and popular favour. These plans had been mooted abroad in the hope of intimidating the parlement, as early as the previous September, as in the several threats during the century to employ the Grand conseil to register legislation.

In January the parlement attacked a symbol of despotism, lettres de cachet, invoking the liberty of the Nation amongst its arguments; as the king had the decree struck from the registers, remonstrances on 13 March denounced this form of response. The will of the King alone is not sufficient for a law; the simple expression of this will is not a national form [of law]; the will, to be obligatory, must be legally published; for it to be published legally, it must be verified: such, Sire, is the constitution of France and it was born with the monarchy. There followed the final famous and preemptive action by the parlement of 3 May.

It would all seem so new if it were not so old. The blow planned by the Keeper of the Seals, Lamoignon, fell almost immediately. On 5- 6 May at the end of a very theatrical display of royal power and judicial defiance in a plenary session, two magistrates distinguished for their troublesome opposition had been arrested in the chamber. On 8 May Lamoignon promulgated a long overdue wholesale reform of the judicial system that was coupled with the setting up of a plenary court designed to replace the parlements in the registration of royal edicts. It was carried out unwisely.

Nevertheless, in Paris there were no popular disturbances in their favour, even from the dependent clerks of the basoche: in the provinces it was different. The stubborn defence of the provincial parlements in the summer of by their supporters was a significant step in the compromising of royal authority. By brutally remodelling the courts in the manner of Maupeou in , the monarchy only looked even more despotic, and this drew other sections of the community into the fray. A despotic monarchy subject to no restraints could repudiate its debts, it was feared, and so the creditworthiness of the monarchy fell to a new low.

In this struggle the urban protests in support of the provincial parlements of Rennes, Toulouse, Bordeaux Pau and Grenoble had played an important part. Too late: even this was not enough to sustain credit, and the king had to give in to calls for the return to office of Necker, the reputed financial wizard.

The parlement was hugely popular; the magistrates were seen as heroic senators defending the hallowed order of things, prepared to endure exile in the fight against despotism. Then they threw it all away. On 25 Sept when registering the royal legislation of the 23rd, they attempted to defend their future role and jurisdiction in France by ruling that the Estates General should meet according to the apparently regular form of They opted for the structure because it was the last one that had met in due and verifiable form: this is them acting as conservative judges.

However, public opinion in the Third Estate saw it in a very different light, as a defection from the struggle to defeat despotism and regenerate France, towards a defence of their privileged status as nobles. The magistrates had failed to read the signs of the times, the political game was changing rapidly, and they were soon sidelined.

But it was too late and in the cacophony of opinions as the elections approached, hardly anybody was listening. In short, the parlement had affected royal credit at a time of fiscal crisis, blocked royal policy, and helped shift public debate onto the familiar terrain of a struggle against ministerial despotism.

The political debate in France from the s had for forty years been predicated on in terms that were set by the remonstrances of the courts and the historical justifications for their existence that pamphleteers and contemporary historians had produced. In many respects the crisis of the had much in common with earlier crises in crown-parlement relations. All the ingredients stressed in recent historiography for the earlier period are in still evidence: ministerial splits, factions pulling strings, internal rivalries in the courts making management ineffectual, youthful hot-headedness, injudicious royal statements, escalation in the absence of dialogue, the importance of bluff and negotiation, with the magistrates apparently unaware of how serious the situation actually was.

Where the crisis differed was in the failure of the ministry to win a kind of royal victory or at least a satisfactory compromise without conceding the essential point which was to get its plans through without having to call the Estates General that, everyone knew, were bound to compromise royal authority for ever. Notes 1 The apparent contradictions within the monarchy are worth noting: the monarchy is limited but absolute, it is conservative but innovative. The ancien regime lived with these paradoxes by not discussing them openly.

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L Ford. For further discussion, see below, and Chapter 6.


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Shennan, The parlement of Paris London, and D. Van Kley in his several studies relating to the parlement. Swann, op. See P. Temple, ed. The road to Cardiff, Doc. Rothney, The Brittany affair and the crisis of the ancien regime Oxford, ; W. Few historians now consider Maupeou a sincere reformer. Echeverria, The Maupeou revolution: a study in the history of libertarianism, — Baton Rouge, ; D.

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