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CHAPTER IV.: THE STATES-GENERAL OF 1484—THE TIERS ETAT UNDER LOUIS XII., FRANCIS I., AND HENRY II. - Augustin Thierry, The Formation and Progress of the Tiers État, or Third Estate in France vol. 1 
The Formation and Progress of the Tiers État, or Third Estate in France, translated from the French by the Rev. Francis B. Wells, Two volumes in One (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1859).
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THE STATES-GENERAL OF 1484—THE TIERS ETAT UNDER LOUIS XII., FRANCIS I., AND HENRY II.
Summary: States-General of 1484—Demand of Guarantees evaded; Progress under the Arbitrary Government—Commencement of the Wars in Italy—Revival of Letters and Arts—Political Part of the Parliament of Paris—Reign of Louis XII.; Public Prosperity—Ordinance of 1499—Compilation and Reformation of Customs—Reigns of Francis I. and Henry II.; Continuation of Progress in every Department—Magnificence of Buildings—Taste for Art among the Nobility—Offices held by the Tiers Etat—The Class of Lawyers—Ambition of the Bourgeois Families; Great Number of Students—The Class of Capitalists called Financiers.
In the life of nations, however salutary at intervals the despotism of a superior mind may be, it is seldom that its influence, if prolonged, does not lead those who are subjected to it to experience an extreme fatigue which makes them glad to find relief in the government of ordinary minds, or even in the risks of political liberty. The death of Louis XI. seemed like a general deliverance, and was followed by the convocation of the States-General. It was on the 5th of January, 1484, that the assembly met, to which was committed by general consent the power of absolute judgment upon the work of the last reign, of condemning or justifying its acts, of doing and undoing what it had undertaken.* Never at any session of the three estates had the conditions of a real national representation been so completely fulfilled; all the provinces of the kingdom, the north (langue d’Oil) and the south (langue d’Oc), were united in the same convocation; the election of the three orders was made at the chief place in each bailliage, and the peasants themselves had taken their share in it; lastly, in the assembly of the states the deliberation was conducted, not by each order apart, but by majority, in six chambers corresponding to as many territorial regions. Never, moreover, since the assembly of 1356, had the question of the power of the states been so clearly stated and so boldly discussed. There were flashes of political independence and eloquence; but all evaporated in words which had no effect, or nearly none, against admitted facts. There was a strong disposition in some way to efface the reign of Louis XI., and bring back affairs to the point at which they had been left at the death of Charles VII. The impulse in favour of a centralised administration, one and absolute, was too strong; and from these discussions, full of life and interest in the journal in which they are preserved to us, there resulted in reality only some modification, some promises and hopes which were soon falsified.*
Among the speeches delivered in that assembly, there is one which cannot be read at the present day without astonishment, for it contains propositions such as the following:—“Royalty is an office, not an inheritance.—It was the sovereign people who originally created kings.—The government is the business of the people; the sovereignty does not belong to the princes, who only exist by the will of the people.—Those who hold the power by force, or in any other manner, without the consent of the people, are usurpers of another’s property.—In case of the minority or the incapacity of the prince, the public property returns to the people, who resume it as their own.—The people consist of the whole body of the inhabitants of the kingdom; the States-General are the depositories of the common will.—An act does not receive the power of law except by the sanction of the states, nothing is binding or settled without their consent.”† These maxims, from which our modern revolutions were to spring, were then proclaimed, not by a representative of the plebeian classes, but by a nobleman, the Sire de la Roche, deputy of the nobility of Burgundy; they were nothing in his view but the traditions of his order, rendered generous by an elevated intellect, and by a certain knowledge of Greek and Roman history. But the traditions of the Tiers Etat did not speak to them in a language which could lead them to a similar creed of political faith; it was still too near its sources, too much bound to its old beaten track. It paid no attention to principles, which three centuries later became its weapon in the great revolutionary struggle, and only interested itself in the redress of material wrongs, and the question of permanent and arbitrary taxes. It was on this point alone that the deputies of the commonalty maintained the right of the States-General, whose liberty and sovereignty in every respect were laid down by others.*
The political movement of 1357 was no longer possible in 1484; it had taken as its principle the spirit of municipal liberty in its highest degree of action. The dream of Etienne Marcel and his party was a confederation of sovereign cities having Paris at their head, and governing the country by means of a diet under the king as suzerain. But this old spirit of the French bourgeoisie had gradually disappeared to make way for another less desirous of local rights and personal independence than of public order and national vitality. In the states of 1484 the chamber in which the deputies of Paris voted was the first to make concessions, which obliged the assembly to raise the amount of the money which it had agreed to grant. In every respect the representatives of the bourgeoisie, as far as we are able to distinguish their share in the resolutions voted by a majority of the whole body, and not by the three orders separately, devoted themselves to matters which were purely practical and of present interest. We do not observe them, like the échevinage and university of Paris in 1413, present a new system of government; the reign of Louis XI. had left nothing important or feasible of that kind. Nothing remained but to glean after him, or to ease the springs of government which he had strained at all points, to demand the execution of his designs which were still incomplete, and the remedy of evils which he had occasioned by the impetuosity and the extravagances of his absolute will. The principal articles of the chapter of the Tiers Etat in the general cahier of the three orders were—the diminution of the taxes and the reduction of the royal troops, the suppression of the poll tax as arbitrary, the resumption of alienated portions of the royal domain, the vigorous execution of the acts guaranteeing the liberties of the Gallican Church, and the compilation of the customs, which would be a first step towards the unity of law.*
The assembly of 1484 took care not to vote any subsidy except under the name of a free grant and a concession. It demanded the convocation of the States-General within a period of two years, and did not separate till after it had obtained the promise.† But the fourteen years of the reign of Charles VIII. passed away without even a second convocation of the states, and the taxes were collected afresh by an ordinance, and dispensed without control. To judge of this by the zeal of the three orders to render their consent necessary, and by the picture which their cahiers traced out of the misery of the people oppressed by the burden of the taxes, were a great delusion; all seemed to say that the absolute monarchy was leading the country to its ruin, and yet it was not so. The country remained under the arbitrary government; it had to bear fresh abuses, often enormous, of this government; it suffered without doubt; but, far from sinking, its vital powers were increased by a progress silent and imperceptible. In the sufferings of nations there are some fruitful as well as barren; the distinction between them escapes the observation of the generations which undergo them; it is the mystery of Providence, which does not reveal itself till the day appointed for the accomplishments of its designs. It was a singular circumstance that, at the very time when the public voice had just proclaimed with bitterness the approaching exhaustion of the kingdom, by a caprice of foolish heroism on the part of Charles VIII., the invasion of Italy, the most distant expedition that France had ever yet made, was determined upon. The expenses of the armaments alone were more than were required for the whole reign of Louis XI. A long peace seemed to be the only means of salvation; and yet the era of important wars opened upon the nation without a crisis at home and with honour abroad.
In the twelfth century the revival of the municipal institutions had been the result of a revolution effected in Italy; the revival of the Roman law in the thirteenth century was brought to us from the Italian schools; at the end of the fifteenth century another event, initiated in Italy, the revival of letters, took place among us—by means, however, of deplorable events, of fifty years’ war on the other side of the Alps. Once opened by our arms and by intestine feuds to foreign occupation, the country which preserved and fostered the traditions of Roman genius for the world became the field of battle and the prey of the European monarchies. It lost the stormy independence which had formed its life, and henceforward declined without rallying in the midst of the progress of modern civilisation.
France had the misfortune to strike the first blows which caused that mighty ruin; but, once brought into contact, although under circumstances of violence, with the free states and principalities of Italy, she imbibed in those relations, hostile or friendly, a new spirit—a worship of the master-works of antiquity, and a passion to renew all their ideas and all their arts by her own study of them. At the same time that a wider and more secure way was opened to the national genius by that intellectual revolution, a fellowship of mind, also, was in some sort established among men of superior intelligence, whom the separation of ranks and classes had hitherto kept at a distance from one another; a certain equality instilled by a literary education lessened more and more the traditional difference of feeling and manners. In this way the introduction of a public opinion was prepared by degrees, and cherished throughout the nation by all the new acquisitions of knowledge and intellect. This opinion, which seized upon everything, and changed everything after a century, dates, for those who wish to mark its origin, from the time, when a common stock of purely secular ideas, of studies springing from a source different from that of the schools of the Middle Ages, began to form itself above the native tradition, prejudices of caste, government and faith.
In spite of the doctrines which had resounded from the tribune in 1484—the sovereignty of the people, the will of the people, the right of possession in the people over the public property—no change was made in the character of the States-General; they continued to be, as they were before, a last resource in time of danger, not a regular and permanent institution. We might say that it was the destiny, the instinct of the French nation not seriously to desire political freedom so long as equality was impossible. It was from the breaking down of class government, and the reuniting everything to itself by the Tiers Etat, that the first attempt at a true representative constitution was destined to emanate anong us. The States-General under Charles VIII. had demanded that their right of interference should be declared permanent, and their session periodical.* Between this demand and the inauguration of the government by assemblies, more than three centuries elapsed; in this interval an important fact, peculiar to our history, occurs, the political part of the Parliament of Paris. It was from the midst of the corporation of bourgeois legists, who, being invested with the judicial authority, had established absolute power for the king and the common law for the nation, that there arose in the sixteenth century a constant, enlightened, and courageous control over the acts of the Government.
Some simple formalities without apparent consequence, the custom of promulgating the royal edicts in the court of Parliament, and of having them inscribed on the register of which the court had the custody, opened to that body of the judicature the road which led it to mix itself in the affairs of the State. Following the legal forms, from which the Parliament never departed under any circumstances, the enrolment of each new law took place by means of a decree; but as no decree was made without previous deliberation, there gradually resulted from this circumstance the right of examination, criticism, amendment, protest, and even veto by the refusal to register. At the period which our history has reached, this claim to a share of the legislative government was not openly proclaimed, but it was brooding, if I may use such an expression, under appearances of an absolute submission to the royal will, and of a firm resolve not to venture beyond the circle of its judicial duties.* The reign of Louis XII. saw the commencement of a twofold change, which turned the high court of justice into a sort of mediatorial power between the throne and the nation, and the ancient opponents of all resistance to the authority of the prince into the advocates of public opinion, and the magistrates into citizens using their personal independence for the sake of all, and sometimes displaying virtues and characters worthy of the best days of antiquity.†
Louis XII. was a prince of a happy nature, appearing in one of those happy moments when it is easy to govern. The fifteen years which had elapsed since the termination of the reign of Louis XI. had sufficed to form the choice of the good and the ill in the consequences of that reign; the national suffering had effected its own cure, and on every side burst forth the signs of progress and prosperity. The cultivation of the rural districts was improved and extended, new quarters were built in the cities, and houses of greater convenience and magnificence rose on all sides. The competency of the middle classes discovered itself more than ever in dress, furniture, and expensive amusements. The number of merchants were multiplied in a manner that excited the astonishment of those times, and foreign traffic increased in extent and success; the price of all articles was raised, landed property produced more, and the collection of the taxes was made without compulsion, and at little expense.* It is, perhaps, at this period that we must place, in the series of our national advancements in wealth and prosperity, an acceleration intermediate between that which had called forth the municipal revolution three centuries before, and that prevailing impulse which was given three centuries afterwards by the constitutional revolution of the kingdom. To this point, moreover, corresponds the first step towards the fusion of the various classes in one general order, which embraces and protects them all, upon a territory henceforward united and compact, and under an administration already regular and tending to become uniform.
It seems that Louis XII. must have had a strong desire to abolish all the wrongs denounced by the states in 1484; this is proved by the most important legislative act of his reign, the ordinance of March, 1499. We there perceive, in connexion with the regulation of all matters of justice, the intention of satisfying the complaints which still remained unnoticed, and of performing the promises which had been imperfectly fulfilled. The principle of election for the offices of the judicature, a principle precious in the opinion of the bourgeoisie, which had been loudly maintained by the reformers of 1413, is there seen accompanied by guarantees against that abuse—the venality of appointments.* The government of Louis XII. was, above all, economical and regardful of the interests of the poor; it proposed generously, but perhaps imprudently, to diminish the taxes, at the same time that it undertook the continuance of the war. This King, with his chivalrous spirit, was the idol of the bourgeoisie; he entertained great regard for it, without affecting any resemblance whatever to it in his own person. The only political assembly held in his reign was a council of bourgeois, in which the nobility and clergy figured merely as an ornament of the throne; the deputies of the cities and of the judicial body, the only parties expressly convoked, were the only ones who voted; and it is in this congress of the Tiers Etat that the title of “Father of his people,” which history has preserved for him, was awarded to Louis XII. by the mouth of a representative of Paris.*
There is glory in such a name; but another glory of this reign was to establish the predominance of the legislation over custom, and to mark, within the sphere of the civil law, the end of the Middle Ages, and the commencement of the modern era. The project of digesting all the customs prevalent in France, and of publishing them, revised and sanctioned by the royal authority, had been conceived and announced by Charles VII.; by Louis XI. they were made the basis of his plans for the unity of the national law, but nothing was done towards its execution by that King. Charles VIII. decreed afresh what his grandfather had wished to do; but it was Louis XII. on whom the honour devolved of having not only commenced, but also far advanced the execution of this important undertaking.* From 1505 to 1515, the year of the King’s death, twenty customs observed in districts or cities of importance were received, examined, and published, with definitive sanction.† This labour of digesting, and at the same time reforming the ancient common law, has for its prevailing characteristic the preponderance of the Tiers Etat, of its spirit and its habits, in the new legislation. A learned jurist has made this remark upon it, and quotes as a proof the changes which took place with respect to the marriages between nobles, in the disposal of the property of the respective parties.* In addition to this kind of mutation, which almost all the customs underwent, a change was forwarded by the pressure that the Roman law exercised more and more upon them, which, at each advancement of our national law, made the latter lose something of that which it retained of German tradition.
This King, whose deference to the law and devotion to his duties reminds us of one of the chief features in the character of St. Louis, was succeeded by a prince who knew no law but his inclinations, his will, and the advancement of his power. Fortunately, among the chances to which Francis I. abandoned his conduct, he frequently happened to make a lucky hit for his own glory and the benefit of his kingdom. His inclinations, though ill-regulated, were generous, and characterized by something great; his will, arbitrary and sometimes violent, was generally enlightened; and his egotistical views were in accordance with the national ambition. A brilliant innovator, he was not backward in furthering the progress of useful objects. Louis XI. had rendered himself odious to the nobility, and Louis XII. had displeased them by continuing the same policy under other forms; thence the danger of a reaction capable of turning the royal power off the road which it had prepared for itself in concert with the bourgeoisie. This might have been expected at the accession of a king, who was pre-eminently the gentleman, and who assumed this character both in his virtues and vices; but it was not so, thanks to the very reason which rendered such an event probable. The attachment of the nobles to the young King, and the seductive influence which he exercised over them, lulled their political passions to sleep.* Without resistance and without a murmur, they saw the seigniories more and more encroached upon by the royal offices, and the movement which was drawing everything towards civil equality and unity of government. The activity which they had too often wasted in turbulence was now employed in heroic actions, in the battles which France offered in order to obtain a place worthy of herself among the states of Europe. They formed themselves, in a more earnest and assiduous manner than ever, in the great school of regular armies, in which, together with patriotism, are learnt the spirit of order, discipline, and respect for other merits besides those of birth and rank.† The march of French civilisation, since the last years of the fifteenth century, continued under Francis I., in spite of the obstacles which opposed it—first, the disorder into which the administration fell; and, secondly, the political struggle, in which France had frequently arrayed against her all the powers of Europe. In the midst of scandalous extravagances, great errors, and unheard-of misfortunes, not only were none of the sources of public prosperity closed, but new ones were opened. Industry, commerce, agriculture, the regulation of waters and forests, the working of mines, distant voyages, undertakings of every kind, and the security of all civil transactions, were the object of legislative provisions, of which some still remain in active force.* There was a continual progress in the arts which form the comfort of social life, and which were practised by the Tiers Etat alone; while in the higher sphere of imagination and knowledge there was a spontaneous outburst of all the powers of the national intelligence. There, at its highest point, is seen that intellectual revolution which is called in one word the Renaissance, and which renewed everything—sciences, arts, philosophy, literature—by the alliance of French talent with the genius of antiquity. To that mighty movement of ideas which opened for us the modern period, history attaches the name of Francis I., and with justice. The ardent curiosity of the King, his sympathising patronage, and his liberal foundations, hastened the nation to the slope down which it ran of its own accord. The impetus once given was sufficient; and under Henry II. the new lustre with which art, science, and literature burst forth, gained fresh strength without any need of the royal co-operation.* These two reigns form a single period in the history of our civilisation, a period for ever remarkable, which comprises fifty-nine years of the sixteenth century, and marks with a glorious distinction the character of that century, so great in the first half of its course, so full of misery and convulsions in the second.
When the fatal period of the religious wars befell her, France, settled down after long years of action abroad, was about to make a start in a contrary direction, and to concentrate her powers on the work of her internal prosperity. Everything, at least, seemed to announce it, and the direction of this movement was already marked in a striking manner. In spite of the exhaustion of resources, caused by foreign expeditions, and a frequent alternation of conquests and defeats, the country displayed a degree of luxury in the arts of the Renaissance unknown till then. The Italians themselves were amazed by the number and magnificence of new constructions of palaces and mansions. These buildings covered with sculptures, the very fragments of which excite our admiration, gardens ornamented with statues, porticos, fountains playing into marble basins, replaced, in many of the country seats, not only around, but at a distance from Paris, the towers and the warrens of the seigneurial manors.*
The nobility, following the example of the kings, lavished their money on the luxuries of civilisation; and if the merit of the workmanship belonged to artists from among the people, there was a credit due likewise to the great nobles for that appreciation of the beautiful which prompted them to expend so much upon it. At a later period this same taste, applying itself in polished conversation to the criticisms of works of genius and literary productions, contributed, in a degree which it is just to acknowledge, to the progress of letters under Louis XIV.* It is by this kind of influence, more than in any other manner, that the ancient aristocracy has had its share of action upon the moral and social development of France in modern times. Always ready when circumstances required them to fight for the defence or honour of the kingdom, but little friendly, except in this instance, to labour and serious occupations, the French nobility had been a military, and not, as they might have been, a political class. From the time that a government worthy of the name began to revive under the influence of the principles of the civil law, and that, in order to discharge the judicial and administrative duties, long studies, a sedentary life, and a daily application were necessary, the nobility, far from coveting those offices, and the power that was attached to them, only regarded them with disdain. They seemed to stand aloof from them, rather than to be driven from them by the distrust of royalty; and, confining their desires to military appointments and places at court, they permitted all the rest to fall into the hands of the Tiers Etat.* This was a great mistake as far as they were themselves concerned, and, perhaps, a great evil for the destiny of the country.
At the period which we have now reached, the Tiers Etat, by a sort of prescriptive right, less exclusive in respect of the clergy than of the nobility, found itself in possession of almost all the offices of the civil government, even to the most exalted—even to those which have since been designated by the name of ministerial. It was the plebeian order which supplied, on the recommendation of university honours and other proofs of qualification, more or less numerous, the chancellor, keeper of the seals, the secretaries of state, the masters of requests, the attorneys and solicitors-general of the king, the whole judicial body, composed of the grand council, the court of appeals and of reserved cases,* of the Parliament of Paris with its seven chambers,† of the court of exchequer, of the court of aids, of the eight provincial parliaments,‡ and of a multitude of inferior courts, at the head of which figured the presidial. Similarly, in the administration of the finances, the functionaries of every rank—treasurers, superintendents, intendants, comptrollers-general, and special receivers—were taken from the educated bourgeois, who were called hommes de robe longue.* As regards the jurisdiction exercised by the seneschals, the bailiffs, and the provosts of the king, if that class of offices continued to be held by men of noble birth, they were always obliged to have graduates of the university as deputies or assessors. The only employments closed to the bourgeoisie were the governments of provinces, of cities, and fortresses, military and naval rank, offices in the royal palace, and embassies, intrusted, according to the occasion, to men of high birth, or to ecclesiastics of the higher class. The supreme deliberative power, the council of state, in which barons and ecclesiastics formed one half, up to the end of the fourteenth century, numbered at the end of the sixteenth a majority of lawyers among its members.* It was in vain that a great minister, a noble by birth, at that time entertained the idea of changing that majority, of giving to the great lords the right of sitting in the council, and of making it a school of administration for the nobility.†
The superior offices of judicature and finance secured to those who held them, besides their salaries, which were more or less considerable, privileges which gave them a kind of nobility not hereditary, and which did not raise them from the Tiers Etat. They were exempt from various taxes and duties, and were able to buy the estates of nobles without paying the dues which were exacted in that case from a plebeian purchaser.* In the case of those who filled the first posts, large emoluments accumulated by economy, thanks to the simplicity of civic habits, produced fortunes soon invested in landed properties. The inheritance of the nobleman ruined by his extravagances thus passed into the hands of some royal officer enriched by his employment.† There were two roads which led to office: one by direct nomination, obtained by merit alone, or backed by favour; and another which was open to the candidates by the venality of offices—an abuse which had passed into custom by the connivance of the kings, but which, in consequence of the conditions of an university degree and a previous examination, did not dispense with all merit. The rich bourgeoisie took advantage of this road, while the other was opened, as the prize of hard study, to all the classes, even to the humblest, of the Tiers Etat.* A minister from Venice, a shrewd observer, remarks, as a characteristic trait in the families of this last class, the care which the parents took that some one of their sons should receive a literary education, with a view to the numerous employments and the high positions which it procured.† He attributes to this ambition the great number of universities which France possessed at that time, and in the university of Paris the great number of students, which amounted to more than fifteen thousand.* Another Venetian ambassador observes that these students are for the most part very poor, and are supported by foundations made in the colleges—a certain proof, as regards the sixteenth century, of that aspiration of the inferior classes towards literature and knowledge, which discovers itself by so many signs in the two following centuries.†
While the young men of the Tiers Etat, who devoted themselves to study, had before them the hope of reaching the highest public employments, the prospect was improving, also, for those who kept to the profession of their fathers—to the trades of the money-changer, the goldsmith, the mercer, the draper, the silk-spinner, or others inferior to these, but not less lucrative. Thanks to the progress of the commercial relations, and to the development, or, to use a better expression, the birth of credit, there was formed in the mercantile bourgeoisie, in which it was to take the first rank, a new class—that, namely, which accumulates capitals at once for its own profit and for the service of others, which, by the spirit of economy joined to the spirit of speculation, continually fills up the void caused in the public wealth; on the one hand by the expenses necessary for productive labour, and, on the other, by unproductive undertakings. The system of farming the public funds, imported from Italy into France, and the operations of credit, by means of which the dynasty of Valois supported itself with more or less success, laid the foundations of the gradually-increasing importance of the capitalists, who were then called financiers.* Intrusted with the duty of collecting the taxes, whether as farmers or managers, bankers of the treasury, and depositories of the receipts obtained by the responsible agents, advancing funds for all the undertakings of war or peace, they obtained an indirect but considerable part in the affairs of State. According to the degree of their wealth and capacity, they were received, sought after, distinguished, even at court. They formed family alliances with the high magistracy, and brought to the Tiers Etat, not indeed the virtues of that class, but power, that power which wealth confers.† We can follow, from the middle of the sixteenth century up to the last days of the eighteenth, the progress of their influence vainly opposed, their course strown both with favour and hatred—enormous gains and cruel exactions. Always execrated and always necessary, they were exposed to continual accusations, and sometimes to reprisals more monstrous than their avarice and frauds could have been.* The judgment formed of them in general was never perfectly just, because it was mixed with that envy which opulence rapidly acquired excites—because in reckoning the profit of their dealings, of necessity usurious, account was not taken of the risks which they had to run; and in observing the immense and sudden fortunes of some among them, the fall, not less sudden, and the utter ruin of many of them, was forgotten.
[* ]Favebit quidem rex et annuet vestris consiliis; nec favebit modo, verum etiam quæ sibi regnoque dixeritis utilia, summo studio curabit exequi, servare defensareque (Speech of the Chancellor Guillaume de Rochefort, Journal des Etats généraux tenus à Tours en 1484, in the reign of Charles VIII., translated into Latin by Jean Masselin, edit. of M. Bernier, p. 54.)
[* ]See the Journal des Etats généraux tenus à Tours en 1484, text and appendixes.
[† ]Regnum dignitas est, non hæreditas.—Historiæ prædicant, et id a majoribus accepi, initio domini rerum populi suffragio reges fuisse creatos.—Nonne crebro legistis rempublicam rem populi esse? . . . Quomodo ab asseutatoribus tota principi tribuitur potestas a populo ex parte facto?—Vobis probatum esse velim rempublicam rem populi esse et regibus ab eo traditam, eosque qui, vi vel alias, nullo populi consensu eam habuere, tyrannos creditos et alienæ rei invasores. Constat autem regem nostrum rempublicam per se disponere non posse. . . . Oportet propterea ut ad populum redeat, hujus rei donatorem, qui cam quidem resumat, velut suam.—Populum autem appello, non plebem, nec alios tantum hujus regni subditos, sed omnes cujusque status, adeo ut statuum generalium nomine etiam complecti principes arbitrer, nec aliquos excludi qui regnum habitent. . . . Cum intelligatis vos universorum statuum regni legatos, et procuratores doctos, et omnium voluntatem vestris in manibus esse—Robur enim tum facta præterita capere reor, quum status ea probaverint, nec aliquid sancte solideque subsistere, quod fit invitis aut inconsultis statibus. (Journal des Etats généraux tenus à Tours en 1484, p. 146, 148, and 150.)
[* ]Hæc etiam illos liquido refellunt, qui, duntaxat levandorum tributorum, non alterius operæ vel finis gratia, conventionem indictam arbitrantur. (Speech of Sire de la Roche, Journal des Etats généraux tenus à Tours en 1484, p. 150.)—Ut liberam statuum potestatem intelligere ac tueri velint. (Ibid, p. 140.)
[* ]See the Journal des Etats généraux tenus à Tours en 1484, appendix, No. 1.
[† ]Pour subvenir aux grans affaires dudit seigneur, tenir son royaume en seureté, payer et soudayer ses gens d’armes et subvenir à ses autres affaires, les trois estatz lui ottroyent par manière de don et ottroy et non autrement, et sans ce qu’on l’appelle doresenavant tailles, ains don et ottroy, telle et semblable somme que du temps du feu roi Charles VII. estoit levée et cueillie en son royaume, et ce pour deux ans prochainement venans, tant seulement et non plus. . . . Que le bon plaisir dudit seigneur soit de faire tenir et assembler lesdits étaz dedens deux ans prouchainement venans en lieu et temps qu’il luy plaira, et que de ceste heure, lesditz lieu et temps soient nommez, assignez et déclairez; car, lesditz estaz n’entendent point que doresenavant on mette sus aucune somme de deniers, sans les appeller, et que ce soit de leur vouloir et consentement.—Le roy est content que les estatz se tiennent dedens deux ans prouchainement venant et les mandera. (Journal des Etats généraux tenus à Tours en 1484, p. 449, 451, et 712.)
[* ]Semble ausditz estatz que, pour le bien et réformacion du royaume, Daulphiné et pays adjacens, et que bon ordre soit tenu et pour parvenir aux affaires du roy nostre dit seigneur . . . ledit seigneur doit desclairer et appointer que lesditz estaz desditz royaume, Daulphiné et pays adjacens, seront assemblez ou temps et terme de deux ans prouchainement venans, et aussi continuez de deux ans en deux ans. . . . Et supplient lesditz estaz audit seigneur qu’il luy plaise ainsi l’ordonner et desclairer. (Journal des Etats généraux tenus à Tours en 1484, p. 697.)
[* ]Quant à la cour, elle est instituée par le roy pour administrer justice, et n’ont point ceux de la cour l’administration de guerre, de finances, ni du fait et gouvernement du roy ni des grands princes. Et sont Messieurs de la cour du parlement gens clercs et lettrez pour vacquer et entendre au faict de la justice, et quant il plairoit au roy leur commander plus avant, la cour lui obéiroit, car elle a seulement l’œil et regard au roy qui en est le chef et sous lequel elle est. Et par ainsi, venir faire ses remonstrances à la cour et autres exploits sans le bon plaisir et exprès consentement du roy, ne se doit faire. (Answer of the Chief President La Vacquerie to the Duke of Orléans, 17th January, 1485; registers of the Parliament cited by Godefroy, Hist. du roi Charles VIII., p. 466.)
[† ]Il parlamento di Parigi ha amplissima autorità, ed e com un senato ove son centotrenta consiglieri del re. . . Ha autorità ancora nella giustizia e nelle leggi; e modera, interpreta o reproba del tuto qualche volta le deliberazioni del consiglio privato di sua maestà. (Account of the Government of France, by Marc-Antoine Barbaro, Venetian ambassador in 1563, Relations des Ambassadeurs Vénitiens, published by M. Tommaseo, t. ii., p. 26.)—Le second frein est la justice, laquelle sans point de difficulté est plus auctorisée en France qu’en nul autre pais du monde que l’on sçache, mesmement à cause des parlements qui ont été instituez principalement pour ceste cause, et à ceste fin de refrener la puissance absolue dont voudroient user les roys. (La Monarchie de France, by Claude de Seyssel, part 1, chap. x.)
[* ]L’on veoid généralement par tout le royaume bastir grands édifices tant publiques que privez. . . . Et si sont les maisons meublées de toutes choses trop plus somptueusement que jamais ne feurent; et use l’on de vaisselle d’argent en tous estats plus qu’on ne souloit. . . . Aussi sont les habillemens et la manière de vivre plus somptueux que jamais on ne les veid. . . . Et paréillement on veoid les mariages des femmes trop plus grands et le prix des héritages et de toutes autres choses plus hault. . . . Le revenu des bénéfices, des terres et des seigneuries est creu partout généralement de beaucoup . . . Aussi est l’entrecours de la marchandise, tant par mer que par terre, fort multiplié . . . Toutes gens (excepté les nobles, lesquels encore je n’excepte pas tous) se meslent de marchandise. Et pour un marchand que l’on trouvoit du temps dudict roy Louys onziesme, riche et grossier à Paris, à Rouen, à Lyon, et aux autres bonnes villes du royaume et géneralement par toute la France, l’on en trouve de ce règne plus de cinquante. Et si en ha par les petites villes plus grand nombre qu’il n’en souloit avoir par les grosses et principales citez; tellement qu’on ne faict guières maison sur rue qui n’ait boutique pour marchandise ou pour art mécanique. . . . L’on veoid aussi quasi par tout le royaume faire jeux et esbatemens à grands frais et cousts . . . Et si suis informé par ceulx qui ont principale charge des finances du royaume, gens de bien et d’auctorité, que les tailles se recouvrent à présent beaucoup plus aisément, et à moings de contraincte et de frais, sans comparaison, qu’elles ne faisoient du temps des roys passez. (Les louenges du bon roy de France Louys XII., dict père du peuple et de la félicité de son règne, by Claude de Seyssel, édit by Théod. Godefroy, p. 111 and following.)
[* ]See the ordinance of March, 1499, on the reform of justice, Art. 30, 31, 32, 40, 47, and 48. Recueil des anciennes Lois Françaises, by M. Isambert, t. xi., p. 323.—The venality of appointments, at first forbidden by the kings, then tolerated and practised by them, re-appeared in the reign of Francis I.; and since then it was kept up, in spite of the protests of the States-General and the promises of Government.
[* ]Pour laquelle chose (le mariage de madame Claude de France avec François, comte d’Angoulême) traicter, voulut audict lieu de Tours tenir conseil. Dont envoya à tous ses parlements de France et à toutes ses villes, pour faire venir vers luy de chacun lieu gens saiges et hommes consultez. Et tant que en peu de temps furent en ladicte ville de Tours, de chascune cour de parlement, présidents et conseillers, et, de toutes les principales villes de France, hommes saiges, ordonnez et députez par lesdictes villes et pays de France, comme dict est. (Hist. de Louis XII., by Jean d’Auton, edit of Th. Godefroy, p. 3.)—On the character of this assembly, opened on the 10th of May, 1506, see the Histoire des Etats généraux, by M. Thibaudeau, t. 1er, p. 379, and foll.
[* ]See the ordinance of Charles VII., before Easter, 1453; and those of Charles VIII., 28th January, 1493, and 15th March, 1497, Recueil des Ordonn. des rois de France, t. xiv., p. 284, et t. xx., p. 433, and Richebourg, Coutumier Général t. iv., p. 639.
[† ]Those of Touraine, Melun, Sens, Montreuil-sur-Mer, Amiens, Beauvoisis, Auxerre, Chartres, Poitou, Maine, Anjou, Meaux, Troyes, Chaumont, Vitry, Orléans, Auvergne, Paris, Angoumois, and La Rochelle.
[* ]M. Edouard Laboulaye. Recherches sur la Condition civile et politique des Femmes, depuis les Romains jusqu’a nos jours, p. 378.
[* ]Jamais n’avoit esté veu roy en France de qui la noblesse s’esjouyst autant. (Hist. du Chevalier Bayard, edit. of Théod. Godefroy, 1650, in-12, p. 361.)
[† ]Et davantage il y a la gendarmerie ordinaire plus grande et mieux payée et entretenue qu’en nul autre lieu que l’on sçache, laquelle est introduicte tant pour la défense du royaume, et aussi afin qu’il y ait toujours nombre suffisant de gens armez, et montez et exercitez aux armes, qu’aussi pour l’entretenement des gentilzhommes, et si y sont les charges de parties, de sorte qu’un bien grand nombre de nobles hommes et de diverses conditions se peuvent entretenir honnestement, encore qu’il n’y ait aucune guerre au royaume. Car les grands ont charge de gens d’armes plus grande ou moindre, selon leur qualité et vertu. Les autres sont lieutenants, les autres porteurs d’enseignes, les autres hommes d’armes et les autres archers, et encore les jeunes gentilzhommes y sont nourris pages. (La Monarchie de France, by Claude de Seyssel, part i., chap. xiv.)
[* ]See in the Recueil des anciennes Lois Françaises, by M. Isambert, t. xi. and xii., the ordinances of Francis I., and, among others, the edict of Villers-Cotterets, in 192 articles, August, 1539.
[* ]See the Histoire de France, by M. Henri Martin, t. ix., p. 60 and foll., 267 and foll., and 627 and foll.
[* ]Fabrica adunque la nobiltà a i castelli e a i villaggi; e se ne veggono, per dire il vero, per tutto il regno edificii tanto superbi ch’ è un stupore. Perchè, lasciando di parlare del parco di Sciamburgh (Chambord) presso Blès, di quello di Fontanableo, di Madril (Madrid), di San Germano in Laia, di quello di Boès di Vincennes, di San Moro, allo intorno di Parigi, senza la infinità di quelli che io non ho veduti, che sono machine reali, e di quelle a punto che favoleggiano li romanzi esser state case di Morgana e di Alcina, dirò che in questo li principi e li particolari signori e cavalieri usano una estrema liberalità e spesa. E come che pochi io ne abbia veduti, dirò non dimeno che, a mio giudizio, non si può aggiungere nè desiderare cosa alcuna nel castello di Equam e in quello di Haion (Gaillon) del cardinale di Borbon: in quello di Sciantili (Chantilly) ch’ erà del duca di Montemorency; in quello di Noisi del marescial di Reez; quello di Vernoy (Verneuil) del duca di Nemours; di Medun (Meudon), del sudetto cardinale; tutti chi sei, chi otto e chi dieci leghe lontani da Parigi; dove si veggono archi, aquidotti, statue, giardini, parchi, peschiere, e tutte quelle commodità in fine che si ricercano a edificii regii. (Voyage de Jérôme Lippomano, Relations des Ambassadeurs Vénitiens sur les Affaires de France au XVIesiècle, publiées par M. Tommaseo, t. ii., p. 490.)
[* ]For an unexceptionable testimony to this fact, of which the proofs are abundant, see the epistle of Boileau to Racine—
[* ]An ordinance of Charles VI., upon the number, functions, and salaries of the officers of justice and finance (7th January, 1400), contains what follows: “Que doresnavant, quant les lieux de présidens et des autres gens de nostre parlement vacqueront, ceulx qui y seront mis soient prins et mis par ellection . . . et y soient prinses bonnes personnes, sages, lettrées, expertes et notables, selon les lieux où ils seront mis. . . . Et aussi que entre les autres l’en y mette de nobles personnes qui seront à ce suffisans.” (Ordonn. des rois de France, t. viii., p. 416.)—See below, chap. vii.
[* ]This tribunal, separated from the council of state, and intrusted with the highest part of its judicial prerogatives, was established by two ordinances issued in 1497 and 1498.
[† ]These were the grand’ chambre, or court of pleas; the tournelle, or criminal court; four courts of inquest, and one of requests of the palace.
[‡ ]These were, at the end of the reign of Henry II., the parliaments of Toulouse, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Dijon, Rouen, Aix, Rennes, and Dombes.
[* ]Per dir prima del terzo stato del popolo, questo ha sempre nelle mani quattro importantissimi officii, o sia per legge, o per antica consuetudine, o perchè alli nobili non par onorevole esercitarsi in questa sorte di carichi. Il primo è l’offizio di gran cancelliero, che va in tutti gli consigli, che tiene il gran sigillo, e senza il parere del quale non si delibera nessuna cosa d’importanza, e si delibera, non s’eseguisce. L’altro è quello delli secretarii, alli quali ciascuno, secondo il suo particolare carico, è deputata la cura de l’espedizione degli negozii, e custodia delle scritture e delli secreti più importanti. Il terzo è degli presidenti, consiglieri, giudici, avocati, e altri che hanno la cura delle cose della giustizia cosi in criminale come in civile per tutto il regno. Il quarto è delli tresorieri, esattori e recevitori generali e particolari, per le mani delli quali passa tutta l’amministrazion delli danari, dell’ entrate, e spese della corona. (Commentaries on the Kingdom of France, by Michel Suriano, Venetian ambassador in 1561, Relations des Ambassadeurs Vénitiens, t. i., p. 486.)
[* ]The number of nobles in attendance was reduced, except in extraordinary cases, to the constable, the marshals and admirals of France.
[† ]Sully, writing to Henry IV., said to him, “Sire, je ne sais pas au vray qui vous peut avoir fait des plaintes qu’il entre plusieurs personnes dans vostre conseil d’estat et des finances, lesquelles n’y devroient nullement estre admises. . . . Afin de parler selon ma franchise accoustumée, je ne nieray point que je n’aye souvent exhorté les princes, ducs, pairs, officiers de la couronne et autres seigneurs d’illustre extraction, et que j’ay reconnus avoir bon esprit, de quitter les cajoleries, fainéantises et baguenauderies de court, de s’appliquer aux choses vertueuses, et, par des occupations sérieuses et intelligence des affaires, se rendre dignes de leurs naissances, et capables d’estre par vous honorablement employez; et que, pour faciliter ce dessein, je n’aye convié ceux de ces qualitez qui ont des brevets, de se rendre plus assidus es conseils que nous tenons pour l’estat et les finances, les asseurant qu’ils y seroient les mieux venus, moyennant qu’ils en usassent avec discrétion, et ne s’y trouvassent point plus de quatre ou cinq à la fois, afin de tenir place de pareil nombre de soutanes qui ne faisoient que nous importuner sans cesse, chose qui m’a semblé bien plus selon la dignité de Vostre Majesté et de son estat, que de voir en ce lieu là un tas de maistres des requestes et autres bonnets cornus, qui font une cohüe de vostre conseil, et voudroient volontiers réduire toutes les affaires d’estat et de finance en chiquanerie.” (Mémoires de Sully, year 1607, collection of Michaud and Poujoulat, t. ii., p. 185.)
[* ]Fra gli uomini di robba lunga, ogn’uno che ha grado di presidente o consegliero o altro simile s’intende nobile e privilegiato, e vien trattato come nobile in vita sua. (Relations des Ambassadeurs Vénitiens, t. i., p. 484.)—Le royaume est composé de plusieurs pièces divisées en ecclésiastiques, noblesse, et peuple. . . . Le peuple est divisé en officiers royaux, aucuns qui ont des seigneuries, en artisans et villageois. (Mémoires de Gaspard de Saulx, seigneur de Tavannes, collect. Michaud and Poujoulat, p. 233.)
[† ]L’on void tous les jours les officiers et les ministres de la justice acquérir les héritages et seigneuries des barons et nobles hommes, et yceulx nobles venir à telle pauvreté et nécessité, qu’ils ne peuvent entretenir l’estat de noblesse (La Monarchie de France, by Claude de Seyssel, part ii., chap. xx.)
[* ]Et si peult chascun dudict dernier estat parvenir au second par vertu et diligence, sans autre moyen de grâce ne de privilége (La Monarchie de France, part i., chap. xvii.) The author, setting apart the ecclesiastical order, reckons three estates of the population; namely, the nobility, the middle classes, and the common people.
[† ]Onde restando in mano del populo tutti questi offizii con che si acquista reputazione e richezze, e toccandone sempre due agli uomini di lettere o di robba lunga, quel di gran cancelliero, e il maneggio della giustizia che è amplissimo e ha luoghi infiniti, ogni padre cerca di metter qualcuno de suoi figli allo studio per questo effetto. (Michel Suriano, Relations des Ambassadeurs Vénitiens, t. i., p. 486.)—Jérôme Lippomano, ambassador in 1577, repeats the same thing in the following terms: Onde li papri di questo ordine hanno questa cura particolare di disciplinare li loro figliuoli nelle lettere, per farli uomini di roba lunga e per abilitarli alle dignità sopradette. (Ibid, t. ii., p. 500.)
[* ]Che di quà nasce tanto numero di scolari in Francia, che non ne sono altro tanti in alcun altro regno di Cristiani: e Parigi solo n’ ha più di quindicimila. (Michel Suriano, ibid, t. i., p. 486.)—The account of Jérôme Lippomano gives a much larger number: Causa che per il regno si veggano tante università, e quelle tutte così piene di scolari, e specialmente in quella di Parigi, nella quale ve ne sono sempre venticinque o trentamila per ordinario. (Ibid, t. ii., p. 296.)—In 1560, there were eighteen universities in France (See the Histoire de l’Instruction publique en Europe, by M. Vallet de Viriville, p. 193.)
[† ]Il studio è di forse sedici in vintimila scolari, ma molto miseri per il più; vivendo nelli collegii che sono stati fondati a questo. (Relation de Marino Cavalli, envoyé en 1546, ibid, t. i., p. 262.)—About 1550 there were seventy colleges in Paris, the greater part specially founded for cities and provinces of France, the names of which they bore. Some, as those of the Germans, the Lombards, the Scotch, of Sweden and Cornwall, were foreign foundations. (See the work already quoted of M. Vallet de Viriville, p. 166.)
[* ]See the Recherches sur les Finances de France, by Forbonnais, t. i., p. 18 and foll.
[† ]Li mercanti, per essere a questi tempi patroni dei danari, sono favoriti e accarezzati, ma non hanno niuna preeminenza di dignità . . . però anco questo ordine d’uomini va col resto del populo minuto e della plebe, e paga la sua gravezza come fanno gli ignobili et li villani. (Commentaires sur le royaume de France, by Michel Suriano, Relations des Ambassadeurs Vénitiens, t. i., p. 485.)
[* ]See below, chap. vii., and Forbonnais, Recherches sur les Finances, t. i., p. 290 and 339, and the following volumes, passim.