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CHAPTER VI.: THE STATES-GENERAL OF 1588; THE TIERS ETAT IN THE REIGN OF HENRY IV. - 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 1588; THE TIERS ETAT IN THE REIGN OF HENRY IV.
Summary: Proscription of the Calvinists, Bold Remonstrances of the Parliament—States-General of 1588; Murder of the Guises—Insurrection of Paris, Municipal Confederation against the Crown—Alliance of the Royal and Calvinistic Parties—Assassination of Henry III.; Henry of Bourbon acknowledged as King—States-General of the League—Henry IV. in Paris; his Character—His domestic and foreign Policy—Condition of the common Classes at the close of the Sixteenth Century.
The League had passed from the condition of a secret society for the defence of Catholicism to the condition of a revolutionary party preparing the way, by its denial of the rights of the heir presumptive to the crown, to future attacks upon the King himself. Its first hostile demonstration took place in 1585. An army was collected, and many provinces rose up in the name of the Cardinal of Bourbon, uncle to the King of Navarre, calling himself first prince of the blood, on the ground of his being a Catholic prince,* and having the Duke of Guise, the real leader of the rebellion, to support him.† Henry III. was called upon respectfully, but under the threatened alternative of war with orthodox France, to put into execution the resolution of the States-General—the reunion of all his subjects in the Roman Catholic form of worship. He yielded, and the treaty concluded with the rebels was accompanied by an edict, which revoked all the edicts of pacification which had hitherto been granted to the Calvinists.‡ The exercise of any form of worship except that of the Catholic religion was prohibited under penalty of death. The ministers of it were to leave the kingdom at the expiration of a month, and the rest of the Protestants at the expiration of six months, under the same penalty. This proscription was still more aggravated, and a new edict imposed by the party of the League reduced the time allowed to Protestants for their abjuration or banishment from six months to fifteen days.* All the property of the recusants, and of everyone who might assist them directly or indirectly, was to be seized and applied to the expenses of the war which the King was about to recommence, with all his forces united to those of the League.
In this manner the longest and most bloody civil war of the century commenced, of which Henry IV. bore the weight during a period of ten years with a constant heroism. It was inaugurated in a manner by a bull of excommunication, which declared that he had forfeited all right to the crown of France, and which annulled in regard to him, for the present and future, all oaths of allegiance and duty.† The question of the temporal supremacy of the Pope over the kingdom was mixed up in that armed debate with the question of toleration of a new form of worship; a similar attack was directed against the innate principle of liberty of conscience, and the national principle of the independence of the crown; and the majority in France, through their hatred of the one, seemed ready to sacrifice the other.
But in that general disorder there were still those who had eyes to see into what an abyss they were falling, and consciences to proclaim it. It was the highest class of the Tiers Etat, the chief magistracy, which uttered, as a cry of alarm, its proclamation, marked by good sense and patriotism. On the 18th July, 1585, when Henry III. went in person to the Parliament to have his first edict of proscription read and published, the court did not enroll the act in its registers till after strong remonstrances. Three months later, when the second edict arrived, and, together with its promulgation, there was required, by a signal instance of cowardice on the part of the King, the enrolment of the bull which declared the legitimate heir to the throne deprived of his rights, the court made fresh remonstrances, more urgent and energetic. “Sire,” said the supreme court, in language worthy of the Chancellor l’Hôpital, “the crime that you have wished to punish is connected with the conscience, which is beyond the reach of sword and flame. . . . If the whole party of the Hugonots were reduced to one man, there would not be one of us who would dare to pronounce him guilty of death, until his trial had been conducted in due form, unless he had been fairly arraigned and convicted of some capital and flagitious crime. Who is he, then, that shall dare, without any form of justice whatever, depopulate so many cities, destroy so many provinces, and convert the whole kingdom into a sepulchre? Who shall dare pronounce the word which shall expose to death so many thousands of men, women, and children, without any apparent cause or reason, if no crime but heresy can be imputed to them—heresy, a thing as yet not cognizable in our court, or at least undefined—heresy which they have been able to maintain against the most celebrated theologians of your kingdom—in which they have been born and bred for thirty years past, by the permission of your Majesty and of the late King, your brother?”*
With regard to the bull of the Pope, that sentence of civil death pronounced by the Holy See, in the name of a divine right of jurisdiction over all princes,* the Parliament described it with indignation as an attempt upon the sovereignty of the King and the independence of the kingdom. It recalled to the mind of that feeble Prince, Henry III., the example of his predecessors, and the traditional usage of those who were intrusted with the preservation of the laws of the country. “We do not discover,” it said, “in our registers, or in any evidence of antiquity, that the princes of France can have ever been subject to the jurisdiction of the Pope, nor that their subjects can have taken cognisance of the religion of their princes.”† Not venturing to reproach the King with his cowardice, it blamed itself for its connivance with the error of those who flattered themselves that they could induce the Protestants to renounce their form of worship, and destrov that party without a great effusion of blood. It declared that it had been sufficiently dishonoured in having been made instrumental in recalling so many edicts, which had been sanctioned by oath in the usual form; that its obedience, in order not to be stultified, should stop there; and it concluded its remonstrance with these strong and noble words, “Grant us this favour, Sire, and take back into your hands the appointments with which it has pleased your Majesty and the kings your predecessors to honour us, that you may be freed from the inconvenient difficulties which we are constrained to raise upon such edicts, and our own consciences discharged from the maledictions which God reserves for evil counsellors and magistrates. . . . It is more expedient that your Majesty should have no court of Parliament than one so useless as we are now become; and it is more honourable also for us to retire into private life, and there bewail the public calamities with the rest of our fellow-citizens, than to degrade the dignity of our offices by making them subservient to the dangerous intentions of the enemies of your crown.”*
This warning had no effect on the King or the nation; no one was any longer able to draw back; some were blinded by fanaticism, others seduced by the promises of ambitious parties, others entangled in the net of an association whose influence prevailed over that of the Government. Twenty-five years of civil war had not sufficed to subdue the violence of excited passions, and to give to all the last lesson, the lesson of necessity. Never had the cause of liberty of conscience appeared so completely lost; it maintained itself only by the heroism with which despair inspired the bands of the Protestants. Their chief, Henry of Navarre, constrained to war at once for his own right and his religion, performed prodigies of valour and talent in that twofold work, which seemed only calculated to lead him into positions of inconsistency. Moderate as well as bold, he had, even after the most complete victory,* the word peace continually on his lips and in his heart; he demanded nothing more than the re-establishment of the old edicts of toleration. The leader of the League, on his side, aided by the popular favour, rapidly pursued the daring plan which he had conceived, to avail himself of the counsels of the King, and to gain possession of his person; to keep him a prisoner by the intervention of the States-General, to be a kind of mayor of the palace, till the time came when he might usurp the throne under cover of the national will. Henry III., kept in check by that turn of fortune which was continually increasing against him, had only to hesitate and comply; the sense of the loss of his dignity at times tortured, but never roused him. Incapable of making a noble effort, he gave way time after time,* reserving to himself the last resource of cowards, treachery and assassination. Such are the elements of which one of the greatest dramas of our history is composed, which renders the year 1588 famous, which opens at Paris with the émeute of the barricades, and has its dénouement, at the second session of the states at Blois, in the murder of the Duke and the Cardinal of Guise.
The convocation of the States-General in 1588 was an act committed by the King against himself. That meeting, taking place at the end of a triumphant insurrection, and representing, not the whole of France, but exclusively the Catholic party, had for its mission and its object the establishment of the predominance of the states over the royal power.* There are two parts in its history: that which precedes and that which follows the assassination of the Guises, and the arrest of many of the deputies of the three orders.* In the first of these two periods, the states, with the Tiers Etat at their head, are seen maintaining against the King a struggle of principles upon the question of the sovereignty; they declare that they intend to proceed by resolution and not by petition; they attribute the title of fundamental laws only to the edicts made with their concurrence. In spite of the caution of their language, and their apparent submission to the ancient monarchical order, they threatened the crown by constituting an entirely new one in its place, by putting it under the permanent protection of the national representation, and by intrusting that protection for the present to the leader of the League. The second period in which the assembly struggles between fear and indignation presents, in the place of that aggressive hostility, only a passive resistance, under which is brooding in the heart of each an impatient desire to be dismissed, in order that they may retire to a place favourable for open rebellion.*
It was the Tiers Etat which here played the chief part; it was the prevailing influence of the day; it took the initiative in daring proposals made in regard to the crown, and in the violent ones against the Hugonots. Its cahier comprises the following demands:—That the ordinances made at the suggestion of the states be declared unalterable, and need not be verified in the court of Parliament; that, in regard to every other edict, the superior courts have full liberty of remonstrance, and be never compelled to enrol them;† that the Parliaments have no power to verify any edict, unless it shall have been first communicated to the procureurs-syndics of the states, and that all the provinces of the kingdom be able to elect procureurs-syndics for that purpose; that money be no more raised for any cause or under any form whatever without the consent of the States-General;‡ that the heretics be punished, according to the ordinances of Francis I. and of Henry II., and that stringent measures be taken against the abettors of heresy; that the King of Navarre be declared incapable of succeeding to the crown, and that all his possessions be confiscated.*
Among the demands which do not partake of the passions of the moment the following may be observed, repeated, for the most part, from the cahiers of 1576 and 1560:—The re-establishment of the ecclesiastical elections, in spite of the concordat of Francis I.; the scrupulous maintenance of election for the offices of the judicature; the enactment of the law against seigneurs guilty of exactions upon the inhabitants of their domains; the restoration of the right of the administration of civil justice to the municipal bodies; the uniformity of weights and measures.† In general, the oppositions of the Tiers Etat are not so strongly distinguished as before from those of the two other orders; a parity of feelings and opinions are here observed on many points. Besides, the cahier of 1588 does not offer, as regards the law and administration, the same abundance of subjects as the cahiers of 1560 and 1576,* whether it were that two meetings of the states, occurring so near together, had left little which was new to be observed and considered, or that the members of the Tiers Etat, belonging to the League, had been for that very cause more occupied with the necessity of immediate action than influenced by that spirit of reflection, from which proceeds the work of analysis in matters of legislation.
After the murder of the Duke of Guise, Henry III., liberated, as he supposed, exclaimed, “Now I am King!” He supposed that he had dealt the League its death-blow; he was soon undeceived. While he was wasting his time in making addresses and apologies to the states, the insurrection, excited by his crime, burst out at Paris, and spread from city to city. Whole provinces were soon drawn into this movement; and from Picardy to Brittany, from Brittany to Provence, a municipal confederation was organised against the Crown. The project of a revolutionary government conceived by the committees of the League was being put into execution under the influence of passions kindled to frenzy, and enthusiastic even to self-devotion.† They turned their eyes to the Swiss cantons, and talked of forming themselves into a republic after their example.* The Parisian democracy became master of the Parliament by a stroke of policy, suppressed the name of the King in the judicial acts, and appointed of its own authority a Lieutenant-General of the kingdom.† Meanwhile, Henry III., instead of acting with energy and despatch, relapsed into his usual softness of life, issued from his palace at Blois useless proclamations and orders which never reached their destination. Surrounded by the insurrection, as by a circle of iron which was contracting more and more closely upon him, he found his power at last reduced to the two banks of the Loire, between Tours and Beaugency. At this moment he took a resolution which showed the extremity of his distress; under the name of a truce, he made a treaty of alliance with the prince whom he had disinherited and proscribed, and intrusted the defence of his crown to that religious party whose intended extermination had been his boast.*
Four months after the murder of the leader of the League, Henry of Valois and Henry of Bourbon had an interview, at Plessis-lez-Tours, at which, having been reconciled, they sealed the union of the royal and Calvinistic parties. Their two armies were formed into one, which presently marched towards Paris, where the League was supreme, and from whence it exercised its influence over the provinces. Arrived under the walls of the city, which was struck with dismay at their approach, the King of France encamped at St. Cloud, the King of Navarre at Meudon. The preparations for the siege were concluded by the end of July, and the assault was appointed for the 2nd of August; but Henry III. never saw that day. He was stabbed by a young Dominican monk, excited to regicide by his fanaticism as a member of the League, by violent exhortations in the pulpit, by artful contrivances, and the consternation which he perceived prevailing in Paris.* In this way the League repaid to Henry III. crime for crime, and the assassination of the Guises and the murders of St. Bartholomew were avenged by the same blow. That prince, however, died a death which redeemed in some degree the weaknesses of his reign; he did not hesitate at that last moment in his duties as a king and a patriot; his last wish was to lay the foundations of a national reconciliation. He sent for the King of Navarre, and said to him, “My brother, the crown belongs to you when God shall be pleased to remove me.” Then addressing himself to the princes and nobles who surrounded his bed, he commanded them to swear obedience and fidelity to his lawful successor, and all took the oath upon their knees.†
It was on the 4th of August, 1589, that Henry of Bourbon, after having signed the promise to maintain the Catholic religion without alteration,* was acknowledged king by all the leaders of the royal army; but it was not till the 22nd of March, 1594, that, as conqueror of the League and himself become Catholic, he made his entry into Paris. Four years of contests, a constancy approved in every emergency and an admirable caution, signal victories and a definite agreement,† were necessary, in order that the principle of hereditary right joined to the interests of the national independence, should prevail against the party which maintained the principle of orthodoxy, together with the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people. We all know what were the vicissitudes of that great struggle, which was boldly maintained on both sides in the eyes of public opinion, and of which that opinion was at once the judge and the reward. There is one fact which predominates over the varied circumstances which mark its career—the gradual return of the bourgeoisie to the spirit of toleration of 1560 from greater reflection, and from that maturity of judgment which results from experience and misfortune. In proportion as the prince, forced to be the conqueror of his own kingdom, gained one of those glorious victories of humanity as well as of heroism, fanatic zeal lost ground, and, losing its hold upon the middle classes of the kingdom, retired into the inferior classes. It was among them that the dark enthusiasm and energy of the earlier days of the struggle were prolonged; it was they who imposed upon Paris, by a system of compulsion and terror, the practice of that amazing patience with which this great city endured the fatigues and calamities of a siege of four years’ continuance; lastly, it was they who, blindly delivered over to the protectorate of the King of Spain, presented the monstrous spectacle of a democratic party which was not a national one.
The League had claimed the power of transferring the royal power, and of making it, at least, for once, elective; it failed in its design, and only succeeded so far as to prevent the hereditary king from reigning, until he became a Catholic. Its last act of authority was to convoke the States-General without the royal mandate. Summoned and adjourned many times since the year 1590, that revolutionary assembly, which called itself national, while it was in reality weighed down by the patronage and ambition of Spain, at last assembled in Paris on the 28th of January, 1593.* The deputies who attended there in small numbers† found themselves before long in presence of that foreign influence, which, under cover of its interest for the Catholic faith, demanded with arrogance the sacrifice of the fundamental laws and independence of the country. They had to listen successively to three propositions made by the King of Spain: the first, the acknowledgment of the Infanta Isabella his daughter, grand-daughter of Henry II.,‡ as queen by right of birth; the second, that a prince of the imperial blood,§ affianced to the infanta, should be elected king; the third, that the infanta should marry a French prince, and that both should be declared conjointly possessors of the crown.∥
In spite of their obligations to Spain and of the need which the Catholic association had of its assistance, the deputies of the League still had the feeling of Frenchmen, and blushed at such demands. They rejected the two first propositions, and evaded the third, by saying that the hour was not arrived for them to proceed to the election of a king.* They did nothing, and this was their only merit. But the Parliament, or, to speak more correctly, the members of that court, who, from zeal for orthodoxy or fear of the League, had remained in Paris,† dared to do more. Performing an act of sovereignty in the face of the states and in opposition to them, they delivered a sentence which declared void every act made or to be made for the establishment of a foreign prince or princess, and protested that they would all die sooner than break or change that decree.‡ A month afterwards, Henry of Bourbon, by abjuring Calvinism in the cathedral of St. Denis, removed the obstacle which the national usages opposed to his being king in fact as well as by right; and the states of the League, ceasing of their own accord, soon left all the legal preliminaries available for his occupation of the throne.*
To the policy of a l’Hôpital, Henry IV. joined the force of arms; his victory after thirty-four years of national vacillation, of premature attempts and violent reverses, was the triumph of the principles of the immortal chancellor of Charles IX. The king who delivered conscience from religious oppression, and the country from foreign influence, was one of those great restorers, who appear after great disorders, to raise up the ruins and to give life to the seeds of good which are scattered in their dust. As soon as he had secured peace at home and abroad, twelve years were sufficient for him to obliterate the traces of the civil wars, to renew the face of the country by a constantly-increasing prosperity, and to lay the national policy on new foundations. He had an universal genius, a mind pliable and clear-sighted, prompt resolves, and a firmness not to be shaken in the determinations he had formed. To the wisdom of practical minds, to that instinct which goes directly to the useful and the possible, which seizes or rejects without prejudice and without passion, to a power of command the most absolute, he joined an attractiveness of manners and an elegance of conversation which were irresistible. His high virtues, mingled with some unaccountable weaknesses, have made him an unique pattern of a king at once amiable and dignified, deep in mind and light in tastes, full of greatness of soul and foresight, of popular sympathies and pride of race, and at all times and before all other considerations an admirable patriot.
There are three particulars to be observed in the work of the conqueror of the League: firstly, the definitive establishment of the liberty of conscience and of the civil position of the dissenters; secondly, the restoration and advancement of all that constitutes the wealth of a nation; lastly, the conception of a French policy, founded upon the maintenance of nationalities and the balance of the European powers. None of the earlier edicts of toleration had had the character of a permanent law; they were provisionary acts, treaties of peace concluded in the expectation of a reunion of the two forms of worship by a general or national council. But the two forms had never been able to coalesce, or be destroyed by one another; it was necessary that their separation, and, together with it, their respective rights, should be proclaimed and sanctioned by an irrevocable decree. Such was the object of the celebrated edict signed at Nantes on the 13th of April, 1598, to which that city has given its name. Recapitulating the essential and really practicable provisions of previous edicts, it guaranteed, on the one part, entire liberty of conscience to the individual; on the other, to the religions themselves privileges defined for each of them in proportion to its numbers and its situation in the country.*
By this last arrangement between natural justice and social necessity, the Protestants obtained the distinct right of dwelling in any part of the kingdom without being constrained to do anything contrary to their conscience; the admissibility to all the public employments, with the dispensation of all ceremony and form of oath on their entrance to office which might be contrary to their religion; the right of being tried only at tribunals composed half of Protestants and half of Catholics; the right of publishing books connected with religion, of founding colleges, schools, and hospitals, and, together with this, of being admitted as students into the universities, and the other schools of the kingdom, or, as poor and invalids, into the ancient hospitals. The private exercise of the new form was declared free for each family, but the public exercise of it was only permitted in the places where it had been authorised by the edict of 1577, together with one additional city, or a smaller place in each bailliage.* This charter of rights, which had the effect of rendering the State completely distinct and independent of the Church, became, under the son and grandson of Henry IV., the civil law of the two rival forms. It ruled them in peace—if not sincere, at least apparent—till it was broken by an infatuation of royal power, which, bringing back, after ninety-one years of toleration, the fanaticism and the proscriptions of the sixteenth century, disgraced one of the greatest reigns in our history with an indelible stain.†
With the exception of the edict of Nantes, and a remarkable law against duelling,‡ the whole legislation of Henry IV. proceeds upon subjects of public economy; and, in this respect, his interest in the general welfare, his knowledge of the circumstances conducive to the national prosperity, his creative genius, and the activity of his mind, are displayed in a remarkable manner. We know well the name which history associates with his in a common glory—the glory of having revived and developed, with an energy unexampled at that time, the productive powers of France. Maximilien de Bethune, Marquis of Rosny, Duke of Sully, appointed superintendent of finances in 1596,* was the agent who, in that undertaking, in which the obstacles were innumerable, devoted to the execution of the King’s views a bold resolution, and a perseverance which was equal to every emergency. As first minister in reality, if not in name, he introduced reform and energy into all branches of the government. He not only raised the finances from the low state to which they had been reduced by the enormous deficiency of the last reign,† increased by five years of anarchy, and the pecuniary compromises by means of which the submission of the chiefs of the League had been obtained—he not only replenished the empty treasury, but, going back to the sources of public wealth, he increased and multiplied them. Agriculture, encouraged with a zeal which gained over the nobility itself to its cause, rose to a height till then unknown; all the departments in the regulation of the soil, the waters and forests, the clearance of waste lands, the drainage of marshes, were the object of measures which called forth great private undertakings, by the force of imitation. The protection of Government was extended to all kinds of manufactures, and the cultivation of silk was spread through the whole kingdom. At the same time considerable sums were expended on roads, bridges, embankments, and the formation of navigable canals; and the design of making a communication between the two seas which wash the coasts of France was matured in the conversations of the great king and the great minister.*
While we admire the spirit of order, advancement, and progress which characterises the internal government of Henry IV., we should, perhaps, feel a still greater degree of admiration for his plans of foreign policy. He undertook to preserve France from the continual danger with which she was threatened by the preponderance of the house of Austria, and at the same time gave to France herself a preponderating position by reconstituting Europe on a new principle, that of the independence and equality of states. The system of the balance of power, realised half a century later by the treaty of Westphalia, was a creation of his mind; he first conceived it under ideal forms, which became his passion, but which his practical wisdom made him regard as secondary and dependent on that which might be possible or advantageous in its execution.* Death surprised him at the very instant when he was about to start on the commencement of that colossal war whose success was intended to level the ground on which he expected to build. The crime of a fanatic buried in the tomb of the king, who thus became the martyr of liberty of conscience, all those vast designs which, though still secret, and only guessed at from the greatness of their preparations, were holding the public mind in suspense from one end of Europe to the other, and filling the imagination with a mysterious expectation. When we reach this melancholy page of our history, when we read over again the sudden and violent termination of such a noble life and great career, it is impossible not to pause with emotion, not to feel, at the distance of more than two centuries, something of the anguish of his contemporaries, who saw France suddenly fall by the death of one man from order into anarchy, from political energy into a state of depression, from freedom of action into the slavery which a foreign influence brings upon government.
The reign of Henry IV. is one of those decisive epochs in which many events are brought to a close, and many take their commencement. Placed on the common boundary of two important centuries, it collected all the fruits of the social efforts and experiences of the one, and threw into their mould all the institutions which the other was destined to perfectionise.* Royalty, disengaged from the inconsistencies in which its position had been involved during the Middle Ages, then showed itself distinctly under its modern form, that of an administrative sovereignty; absolute in right and reality up to 1789, and, afterwards, subordinated to, or associated with the national sovereignty. The ministerial departments were then regulated in a reasonable manner, and their jurisdictions extended to all that the wants of a society, really civilized, required. Then, lastly, the progress of the nation towards unity was accelerated by a more general concentration of power, and the progress towards civil equality by the depression of the high aristocratic classes of the court, and by the simultaneous elevation of the different classes of the Tiers Etat.
Three causes concurred in diminishing, in favour of the high bourgeoisie, the interval which separated them from the nobility: the possession of public offices, and especially of judicial appointments, held by the same families, and become a kind of patrimony by the right of resignation in favour of another of the same family;* their devotion to important manufactures and undertakings, which created enormous fortunes; and that influence of mind which the revival of literature had established to the advantage of active minds. The whole body of the urban population, moreover, had been deeply agitated by the ideas and the troubles of the century; men of every rank and profession had been brought nearer to one another in the fraternity of one common faith, and of one common party. The League, above all, had closely united the artisan and the magistrate, the tradesman and the lord, and thrown them together in its deliberations; when the union was dissolved and its cabals broken up, there still remained something of its influence in the minds of those who returned again to the life of the workshop or manufactory—a sentiment of personal power and self-respect which they transmitted to their children.
With regard to the rural population, it appeared in the sixteenth century to be generally enfranchised from the barbarous and humiliating condition of serfdom; its liabilities to the proprietors of the soil were more and more fixed and modified, and from the end of the fifteenth century its admission to a share of political rights had signally marked the progress which had been effected in its civil condition. From that time, at each convocation of the States-General, there were in effect primary meetings, composed of the inhabitants of all the parishes, and concurring by their delegates in the formation of the cahiers, and in the election of deputies of the Tiers Etat. The delegates of each parish prepared the cahier of its grievances, and conveyed it to the chief place of the bailliage of the district; there, associated with the delegates of the chief place, they elected persons intrusted with the charge of consolidating in one single cahier the grievances of the parishes, and of conveying them to the city, the seat of the superior bailliage, where fresh delegates, elected in the same manner, and associated with the representatives of the city, drew up the provincial cahier of the plebeian order by a new compilation, and appointed its representatives to the States-General.* This innovation, which dates from the assembly of 1484, henceforth formed all the classes of the Tiers Etat into one single political body, and put an end to the necessity of the protection which the deputies of the great cities had, up to this time, exercised in favour of the people of the open country.† The latter found themselves in possession of the right of speaking in their own behalf; and it is from them that the remonstrances which concern them in the cahiers of 1484, 1560, 1576, and 1588, directly proceeded.‡
To return to the bourgeoisie, the soul of the TiersEtat, its condition after the fourteenth century presents to the observer the singularity of two opposite movements; one of progress, the other of decline. While magisterial and administrative employments, commerce, industry, science, literature, arts, the liberal and lucrative professions, were raising it in consideration, and creating for it important positions under a thousand forms, municipal freedom, which had originally formed its power and glory, was rapidly declining. The legislation of the fifteenth century had deprived the magistrates of the cities of their military authority; that of the sixteenth deprived them of their civil jurisdiction, restricted their criminal jurisdiction, and subjected their financial administration to a control which became more and more stringent. The privilege of a free and quasi-sovereign community, which had protected the revival and first developments of civil order, was treated in the same manner as the feudal privileges, and, like them, was levelled under the royal power, every encroachment of which, at that time, was a step towards national civilization and unity. But while the losses of the nobility were irreparable, those of the bourgeoisie were so only in appearance; if the beaten road was closed to them, new and broader ways were immediately opened. The continued elevation of the Tiers Etat is the predominant fact and the law of our history. This law of Providence has been accomplished more than once without the knowledge of those who were the agents of it, without the knowledge and even with the regrets of those who would naturally reap its fruits. The one party intended to work for themselves alone; the other, clinging to the remembrance of guarantees destroyed or evaded by the Government, believed that they were falling back, while they were continually advancing. In this way the Tiers Etat advanced, from the time of its accession to a share of power, up to the concluding years of the eighteenth century; then came a day when it might be said that it was nothing in the political state;* and on the morrow of that day, its representatives in the States-General, declaring themselves invested with the national sovereignty, abolished the system of the orders, and founded in France social unity, civil equality, and constitutional liberty.
[* ]The admitted right of succession in the collateral line to the kingdom of France made the nephew take precedence of the uncle, although the latter was a degree nearer of kin.
[† ]See the manifesto entitled, Declaration des causes qui ont mû Monsieur le Cardinal de Bourbon, et les pairs, princes, seigneurs, villes et communautés Catholiques de ce royaume, de s’opposer à ceux qui par tous moyens s’efforcent de subvertir la religion Catholique et l’Etat. (Mémoires de la Ligue, t. i., p. 56 and following.)—The provinces and cities which rose up were Champagne, Picardy, Normandy, Brittany, and Burgundy, Rheims, Châlons, Soissons, Péronne, Amiens, Abbeville, Mézières, Toul, Verdun, Rouen, Caen, Dijon, Mâcon, Auxerre, Orléans, Bourges, Angers, and Lyons.
[‡ ]Edict of July, 1585. Recueil des anciennes Lois Françaises, t. xiv., p. 595; Mémoires de la Ligue, t. i., p. 178.
[* ]Declaration of the 16th October, 1585. Mémoires de la Ligue, t. i., p. 227.
[† ]The sentence fulminated by Sixtus V. was equally aimed at the Prince of Condé as a heretic, as the son of a heretic, as a convert to Catholicism, as then restored to his religion as King of Navarre.—Itaque, in præcelso hoc solio, et in plenitudine potestatis quam ipse Rex regum et Dominus dominantium licet nobis indignis tribuit, . . . pronuntiamus et declaramus Henricum quondam regem et Henricum Condensem supradictos fuisse et esse hæreticos, in hæreses relapsos et impœnitentes, hæreticorum quoque duces, fautores et defensores manifestos publicos et notorios, sicque læsæ majestatis divinæ reos, . . . et specialiter eosdem fuisse et esse ipso jure privatos, Henricum quondam regem, videlicet prætenso Navarræ regno illiusque parte quam adhuc obtinuit, nec non Bearni; alterum vero Henricum Condensem, et utrumque eorumque posteros, omnibus et quibuscumque aliis principatibus, ducatibus, dominiis, civitatibus, et locis, feudisque et bonis etiam emphyteuticis, . . . . ac pariter eos ipso jure privatos et incapaces ac inhabiles ad succedendum in quibuscumque ducatibus, principatibus, dominiis et regnis, ac specialiter in regno Franciæ. (Sixti V. declaratio, &c., Goldasti Monarchia sancti romani imperii, t. iii., p. 125.)
[* ]Mémoires de la Ligue, t. i., p. 223.
[* ]Ab immensâ æterni regis potentiâ, beato Petro ejusque successoribus tradita auctoritas omnes terrenorum regum et principum supereminet potestates . . . inconcussa profert in omnes judicia, et ne divinæ maximè leges violentur summâ ope providet, et si quos ordinationi Dei resistentes invenit, severiore hos vindiciâ ulciscitur, et quamvis potentiores de solio dejiciens, veluti superbientis Luciferi ministros ad infima terræ deturbatos prosternit. (Sixti V. declaratio, &c. Goldasti, Monarchia sancti imperii, t. iii., p. 121.
[† ]Mémoires de la Ligue, t. i., p. 225.—The court cannot deliberate longer upon the admission of such a bull, so injurious to all Christendom and to the sovereignty of your crown; judging from this time forward that it deserves no other treatment than that which one of your predecessors made us display towards a similar bull which a predecessor of this Pope had sent to him—namely, to throw it into the fire in the presence of the whole Gallican Church. (Ibid, p. 226.)
[* ]Mémoires de la Ligue, t. i., p. 226 and 227. In this passage, and in the preceding quotations, the language of the sixteenth century has been here and there slightly modernised.
[* ]Battle of Coutras, the 20th of October, 1587.
[* ]Our will and intention is to convene the general and free states of the three orders of our said kingdom on the 15th of August next, in our city of Blois, when we expect some of the most notable persons of each province, bailliage, and séneschaussée to attend us in full assembly . . . to propose freely . . . what shall be most fit and proper completely to extinguish and abolish the divisions which exist among our subjects, even among the Catholics, and to attain a desirable and secure repose, by which our holy Catholic religion may be so firmly re-established, and all heresies swept and extirpated out of our kingdom, that our subjects may not have any further reason to fear a change so long as we live, or after our decease (Mandate to the Mayor of Paris, 31st May, 1588; Recueil des anciennes Lois Françaises, t. xiv., p. 614.)—And first, we swear and repeat the oath taken by us at our coronation, to live and die in the Catholic, apostolic, and Roman religion; to promote the advancement and preservation of it; to employ in good faith all our forces and means, without sparing our own life, to extirpate from our kingdom, countries, and lands subject to us, all schisms and heresies condemned by the holy councils, and principally by that of Trent, without ever making any peace or truce with the heretics, or any edict in their favour.
[* ]It was on the 12th of May that the insurrection called journée des barricades took place; the ordinance for the convocation of the states was issued the last day of the same month.—Letters were despatched from all parts through the provinces in order that each might be ready to send its deputies there, provided that they were Roman Catholics; for otherwise it was not permitted for any of the (Protestant) religion, or suspected of favouring those of that religion, to attend there. (Des Etats généraux, &c. &c.; t. xiv., p. 275.) The assembly was opened on the 16th October; there were present 505 deputies—to wit, 134 of the clergy, 180 of the nobility, and 191 of the Tiers Etat.—See the names of these last in Appendix II.
[* ]La Chapelle-Marteau, president of the Tiers Etat; Compans and De Neuilli, deputies of Paris; Leroi, deputy of Amiens; the Count of Brissac, president of the nobility, and the Sieur de Bois-Dauphin. Four deputies of the Tiers Etat, and three of the clergy, who were on the list, escaped. (23rd December.)
[* ]See the journal of Etienne Bernard, deputy of the Tiers Etat for Burgundy, Des Etats généraux, &c., t. xiv., p. 440 and following. The closing sitting of the states took place on the 16th January, 1589.
[† ]General cahier of the Tiers Etat (1588), Recueil des Cahiers généraux des trois Ordres, t. iii., p. 186.
[‡ ]General cahier of the Tiers Etat, art. 67 and 223.
[* ]May it please your Majesty to declare Henry of Bourbon. King of Navarre, a heretic and a notorious apostate, guilty of high treason against God and man, unfit and incapable of succeeding to the crown of France, deprived of all rights and prerogatives of prince and peer, himself as well as his heirs born or to be born. (Ibid, art. 2) Ibid, art. 3 and 4.
[† ]General cahier of the Tiers Etat, art. 14, 77, 193, 195, and 269.
[* ]It contains only 272 articles. The cahier of 1560 had 354; and that of 1576, 448.
[† ]See above, Chap. V., 146.
[* ]M. de Mayenne sets out for Paris, not to contend, but only to accept and give direction to so many people and cities as joined themselves, as if in emulation of one another, to the party of the union: some with strong hopes having imagined that they should live for the future like the Swiss, and be exempt from taxation and from paying their quit-rents and dues to their lords, others from hatred, indignation, and vexation, in consequence of the good opinion which they entertained of the late Duke of Guise, and among these some from their attachment to the Roman Catholic religion. (Palma Cayet, Chronologie novennaire, collect. Michaud, t. xii., p. 102.)—If on the other side it is proposed to reduce this kingdom to a republic, knowing that it is impossible to drive out the king and appoint another in his place, I confess that it will be a very easy thing to do, since it is only necessary to refuse obedience to him, and to be governed under the authority of forty counsellors and the mayors and echévins of the cities, without saying any more about the king, and to maintain firm alliance and confederation with one another for mutual support and defence against him. (Mémoires de Nevers, t. 1er, p. 919.)
[† ]The title given to the Duke of Mayenne was Lieutenant-General of the King’s Government and Crown of France.
[* ]The proofs are sufficiently known. . . . With what zeal and firmness I have always proceeded to the extirpation of the heresy and the heretics, how I shall more than ever expose my life, if it be necessary even to certain death, for the defence and protection of our holy Catholic, apostolic, and Roman faith, as the noblest tomb in which I could be buried, in the ruins of heresy. (Speech of the King, 16th October, 1588. Des Etats généraux, &c., t. xiv., p. 356.) See the letters of an armistice with the King of Navarre issued at Tours, 26th April, 1589. Recueil des anciennes Lois Françaises, t. xiv., p. 645.
[* ]This event took place in the morning of the 1st of August. The name of the monk was Jacques Clément.
[† ]Palma Cayet, Chronologie novennaire, collect. Michaud, t. xii., p. 150.
[* ]We, Henry, by the grace of God, King of France and Navarre, promise and swear, in good faith, and on the word of a king, by these presents signed by our hand, to all our good and faithful subjects, to maintain and preserve in our kingdom the Catholic, apostolic, and Roman religion in its entirety, without any change or innovation in it, whether in the government and exercise of it, or towards ecclesiastical persons and property. (Declaration and oath of the King on his accession to the throne; Recueil des anciennes Lois Françaises, t. xv., p. 3.
[† ]The battle of Arques, 13th of September, 1589, battle of Ivry, 14th March, 1590; abjuration of the King at St. Denis, the 25th July, 1593.
[* ]See the records of the States-General of 1593, published by M. Auguste Bernard, in the Collection des Documents inédits sur l’Histoire de France.
[† ]There were about 130, the greater part belonging to the Tiers Etat. Paris alone had twelve representatives of that order. See below, Appendix II.
[‡ ]Isabella-Claire-Eugénie, daughter of Philip XI. by his marriage with Elizabeth of France.
[§ ]The Archduke Ernest of Austria, brother of the Emperor Rodolph II., and nephew of Philip II.
[∥ ]In solidum. See the reports of the States-General of 1593, p. 242, 252, 287, 555; and in the same collection, Appendix I., the journal of Odet Soret, deputy of the Tiers Etat for Normandy.
[* ]Upon the proposition which has been made by M. le duc de Férie and other ministers of his Catholic Majesty to create and establish forthwith a royalty, the said states think that it will not only be ill-timed, but also dangerous both for the interests of religion and the State, to make that election and declaration at a time when we are so ill provided with men and means. (Deliberation of 4th July, Procès-verbaux des Etats généraux de 1593, p. 552.)
[† ]A part of the Parliament of Paris was then sitting at Tours, in consequence of an edict for the transference of their court issued by Henry III. in February, 1589.
[‡ ]Deliberation of the Parliament of June 28th, 1593, Procès-verbaux, &c., Appendix VIII., p. 740, 748.
[* ]There was no official closing of the states of 1593. The deputies quitted their post one after the other; the reports of the sittings cease: of the clergy, on the 13th July; of the nobles, the 8th of August; and of the Tiers Etat, the 22nd of December.
[* ]Now that God may be pleased to grant us the beginning of a happier season of repose, we have thought that we cannot use it better than by devoting its leisure to that which regards the glory and service of His holy name, and providing that He should be adored and worshipped by all our subjects; and as He has not been pleased to permit that this be still done in one form of religion, that it at least be done in the same spirit, and with such order that there may not be on that account trouble and tumult among them, and that we and this kingdom may be always able to deserve and maintain the glorious title of most Christian. . . . We have now judged it necessary to give to all our said subjects on every point a law general, clear, plain, and absolute, by which they may be governed, on all the differences which have heretofore arisen among them on this point, and may still happen hereafter, and with which both the one and the other may have reason to be satisfied, according as the circumstances of the time may allow. (Preamble of the edict of Nantes, Recueil des anciennes Lois Françaises, t. xv., p. 171.)
[* ]Edict of Nantes, art 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 21, 22, 24, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 43, 64, 66, and 67.
[† ]Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by the ordinance of Louis XIV., on the 17th October, 1685. See below, Chap. IX.
[‡ ]Edict of June, 1609. Recueil des anciennes Lois Françaises, t. xv., p. 351.
[* ]He replaced the eight controllers-general of the finances, and was named successively high surveyor of France, master of the artillery, and superintendent of buildings and fortifications.
[† ]See, on the state of the finances in 1576 and in 1588, l’Histoire de France de M. Henri Martin, t. x., p. 541, and t. xi., p. 137.
[* ]The project of uniting the Seine to the Loire, and the Loire to the Saône, was partly executed by the opening of the canal of Briare; a second project of joining the Aude to the Garonne remained unexecuted.—See the ordinance of May, 1597, upon waters and forests, the keeping up of public roads and rivers, &c., the edicts of April, 1599, and January, 1607, for the drainage of marshes; the edict of May, 1599, which creates an office of a grand surveyor of roads in France, the letters of August, 1597, establishing a manufactory of crystal glass at Melun; the edict of August, 1603, for the establishment of a manufactory of cloth, and cloth of gold, silver, and silk, at Paris; the declaration of the 16th November, 1605, for the formation of a nursery of white mulberry-trees in all the dioceses; and the edict of January, 1607, which established manufactories of tapestry in many cities of the kingdom. Recueil des anciennes Lois Françaises, t. xv., p. 141, 212, 213, 222, 164, 283, 291, and 322. An Assembly of Commerce, a kind of states-general of industry, was convened at Paris in 1604. See Archives curieuses de l’Histoire de France, t. xiv., p. 219 and following.
[* ]See, in the Economies royales of Sully, the project for the formation of a Christian republic, t. i., p. 243, 353, 437; t. ii., p. 150, 212, 220, 323, 339, and 418. Collect. Michaud, 1ere série, t. xiv. et xv.
[* ]See La Monographie politique de Henri IV., by M. de Carné, Etudes sur les Fondateurs de l’Unité nationale en France, t. ii., p. 1, &c.
[* ]The holder of an office in the magistracy or finance could resign it to a person of his own family or to any other person qualified to fill it. It was necessary that the resignation should have taken place at least forty days before the death of the person in possession, without which it was null, and the appointment returned into the hands of the King. Henry IV, exempted all the officers from this disadvantage; he conceded to them the hereditary property of their appointments, in consideration of an annual acknowledgment equivalent to a sixtieth part of the value of each office.
[* ]See Hist. des Etats généraux, by M. Thibeaudeau, t. i., p. 282, and t. ii., p. 14 and following.
[† ]See above, Chap. II., p. 46, and Chapter III., p. 77.
[‡ ]There will be found below, Appendix III., a cahier of a village prepared in 1576.
[* ]See the celebrated pamphlet of Sieyès. Qu’est ce que le Tiers Etat.