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CHAPTER VII.: THE STATES-GENERAL OF 1614. - 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 1614.
Summary: Inheritance of Offices—It is a means of Power for the Tiers Etat—States-General of 1614—Mutual Jealousies and Differences between the Orders—The Nobility and Clergy united against the Tiers Etat—Speeches of Savaron and De Mesmes, Prolocutors of the Tiers Etat—Speech of the Baron de Senecey, Prolocutor of the Nobility—Motion of the Tiers Etat upon the Independence of the Crown—Demands which it expresses in its Cahier—Cahier of the Nobility—Bitter Rivalry between the two Orders—Closing of the States.
Among the fiscal measures which were suggested to the Government of Henry IV. by an imperious necessity is one which, both at the time and subsequently, produced serious consequences—I mean the annual payment imposed on all the offices of the judicature and exchequer, and commonly called the paulette.* By means of this tax, the magistrates of the supreme courts, and the royal officers of every rank, enjoyed the possession of their places as hereditary property. The first result of this innovation was to raise the saleable value of the offices to an amount unknown till then; the second was to invest the civil functionaries with a new degree of consideration, that which is attached to advantages of an hereditary nature. Within less than ten years the passions and interests of classes were awakened and brought into collision by the effects of this simple financial expedient. The nobles—many of whom were poor, and many trammelled with entails—were deprived of all chance of their offices by their high price; and this took place at the very moment when, becoming more enlightened, they understood the error which their ancestors had committed, in excluding themselves from these offices through their aversion to study, and in abandoning them to the Tiers Etat. Thence new causes of jealousy and rivalry arose between these two orders: the one was irritated at seeing the other aggrandized in an unexpected manner by the appointments which it now felt regret at having formerly despised; the other, from the hereditary right which raised professional families to the level of military, began to imbibe the spirit of independence and pride, and the high opinion of self, which were before the attribute of those of noble birth.
However remarkable the progress of the middle classes had been during the course of the sixteenth century, it had been effected without a contest of interest and amour propre between the nobility and the commonalty; the great religious struggle subdued and weakened all the rivalries of society. No malignant proceeding between the two orders appeared in the States-General of 1576 and 1588. But after the passions, excited by the twofold faith and worship, had been tranquillised, other passions, remaining dormant for a while in the depth of the heart, were re-awakened; and thus, by the force of circumstances, the first quarter of the seventeenth century, together with recent grievances, was marked out for the gathering up and manifestation of all the antipathy which had for a long time been treasured up between the second and the third orders. This collision took place in 1614, in the body of the states, which were convened, on the majority of Louis XIII., to seek a remedy for all the ruinous waste and anarchy which had been caused by the regency during the four years which had elapsed since the last reign.*
It was on the 14th October that the assembly met in three separate chambers in the convent of the Augustins in Paris; it numbered four hundred and sixty-four deputies, of whom one hundred and forty belonged to the clergy, one hundred and thirty-two to the nobility, and one hundred and ninety-two to the Tiers Etat. Among these last the members of the judicial body and the other officers of the Crown were superior both in number and influence.* From the opening of the session signs of jealousy and opposition could be observed between the two lay orders; the Tiers Etat felt offended for the first time by some differences of ceremony shown towards them.† The prolocutor of the nobility exclaimed in his address: “This nobility, so much depressed at present by some of the inferior order under the pretext of certain accusations, shall resume its former splendour; they shall see by and by the difference which there is between them and us.”‡ The same affectation of pride on the one side, the same susceptibility on the other, marked almost all the communications of the chamber of the nobles with that of the commons.
When the adoption of a rule for the order of their proceedings was considered, the clergy and the nobles agreed on the subject; but the Tiers Etat, from distrust of everything that proceeded from them, stood aloof, and so caused their plan, although a good one, to fall to the ground. A short time afterwards the nobility attempted an attack upon the upper class of the bourgeoisie; it determined to petition the King for the suspension, and, by consequence, the suppression of the annual payment for offices, of which the lease was about to terminate, and it obtained the assent of the clergy to that request. The proposal of the two orders was addressed to the Tiers Etat, which was thus reduced to the alternative of either joining them, and thus delivering up the chief of its members to the jealousy of their rivals, or, by refusing its adhesion, of incurring the odium of defending through self-interest a privilege which offended public opinion, and added a new abuse to that of the venality of office.
The Tiers Etat gave a proof of self-denial. It agreed, contrary to its own interest, to the requisition for the suspension of the tax by means of which offices were made hereditary; and, in order that that requisition should have its full logical result, it followed it up by one for the abolition of the venality itself.* But it exacted from the two other orders sacrifice for sacrifice, and required them to join with it in soliciting the discontinuance of pensions, the number of which had doubled in less than four years,* and the reduction of taxes, which were overwhelming the people. Its answer presented the three following propositions in connexion; to petition the King, first, to remit a quarter of the taxes for the current year; secondly, to suspend the collection of the annual payment, and to order that offices be no longer venal; thirdly, to withhold the payment of all the pensions assigned upon the treasury or the royal domains. The nobility, who held the court pensions as a supplement to their patrimonies, were thus retaliated upon; but far from imitating the generosity of their opponents, they required that the propositions should be taken separately, that the annual payment should be considered by itself, and the questions of the pensions and the taxes should be referred to the debates on the cahiers.
The clergy made the same demand, involved in guarded and captious expressions, which had no more success with the Tiers Etat than the selfish candour of the nobles.* When they had considered the subject again, the chamber of the Tiers Etat decided that it would not separate its propositions, and this refusal was communicated by one of its most influential members, Jean Savaron, Lieutenant-General of the Sénéchaussée of Auvergne.
This member, a man of extensive knowledge and energetic character, spoke twice before the clergy, and concluded his second address in the following manner:—“When you aim at the extinction of the annual payment, do you not choose to perceive that your real intention is merely to attack the officers who hold the offices of the kingdom, passing over what you ought to demand with the greatest earnestness—namely, the abolition of the pensions, which involve many more important consequences than the annual payment? You are anxious to deprive the royal treasury of sixteen hundred thousand francs, which is annually paid into it from the paulette, and you are ready to burden the State with five millions, which the King has to pay every year, in order to purchase with a bribe the services of his own subjects! What advantage, what benefit, can the abolition of the paulette produce for the kingdom if you maintain the venality of offices, which alone causes the irregularity in the administration of justice? . . . It is, gentlemen, this accursed root which must be grubbed up—it is this monster which must be coped with, this venality of offices, which deprives and repels persons of merit and knowledge from holding them, while it favours the advancement of those who introduce themselves, very frequently without any qualification, on the stage and tribunal of justice by the profusion of an immoderate price; which deprives those whom God has placed in honourable but moderate circumstances even of the hope itself of ever attaining them. It is for this reason, gentlemen, that we respectfully beg you not to refuse us the co-operation of your order for purposes of such a sacred nature. It is for the people that we are labouring, it is for the interest of the King that we appear, it is against our own individual interests that we are struggling.”*
Before the nobles, Savaron expressed himself in a loud and proud tone, and his arguments were marked with irony and menace. He said that it was not the annual payment which closed the approach to office to those of noble birth, but their want of aptitude for them, and the venality of the appointments; that, moreover, the suspension of the paulette, the reduction of taxes, and the suppression of pensions could not be separated; that the abuse of pensions was become such that the King no longer found servants except by making pensioners of them—a state of things which was tending to ruin the treasury, to oppress and crush the people;* and he added, in conclusion, “Resume, gentlemen, the virtues of your predecessors, and the ways to honours and appointments will be open to you. History informs us that the Romans imposed such burdens upon the French,† that they at last shook off their obedience, and by so doing laid the first foundations of the monarchy. The people are now so burthened with taxes, that it is to be feared that a similar event may take place. God grant that I may be a false prophet!”‡
The nobles only replied with murmurs and invectives to the prolocutor of the Tiers Etat; the clergy had praised his message, while they refused him all cooperation: left alone to maintain its propositions, the Tiers Etat determined to present them to the King. It made them the first article of a memorial which contained demands for reform upon other points, and sent it to the Louvre with a deputation of a dozen members, and Savaron was once more intrusted with the office of prolocutor. The man who had given lessons of justice and prudence to the privileged orders, now appeared in the presence of royalty as the warm and bold advocate of the poor. “What should you say, Sire, if you had seen in your countries of Guyenne and Auvergne, men feeding, like beasts, upon grass? Would not this new misery, unheard of in your state, excite in your royal breast a desire worthy of your Majesty to render assistance in such a great calamity? And yet the truth of this is so certain that I engage to confiscate my property and my appointments to your Majesty, if I am convicted of a falsehood.”*
From this point Savaron went on to demand, together with the reduction of the taxes, the abolition of all the abuses denounced in the memorial of the Tiers Etat, and to treat afresh, with a sarcastic freedom, the points from which the disagreement between the Tiers Etat and the two other orders had sprung: “Your servants, Sire, while seconding the proposal of the clergy and the nobles, were disposed to solicit your Majesty to suspend the annual payment, which has rendered the price of the offices of your kingdom so excessive, as to make them almost inaccessible to all but those who happen to possess the greatest property and wealth, and very often the least merit, qualification, and capability; a consideration, it must be admitted, very plausible, but which seems to be devised in order to strike a blow at your servants in particular, and not with the design of securing the benefit of your kingdom. For to what purpose is it to ask for the abolition of the paulette, if your Majesty does not suppress the venality of appointments in every respect? . . . It is not the annual payment which has caused the nobles to deprive and cut themselves off from the honours of the judicature, but the opinion which they have entertained for a long period, that learning and study weaken courage, and render nobleness mean and cowardly. . . . . They ask you, Sire, to abolish the paulette, to cut off from your treasury sixteen hundred thousand francs, which your servants pay you annually, and they do not tell you that you may suppress the excess of pensions, which are so unbounded that there are some great and powerful kingdoms whose whole revenues do not amount to the sum you pay your subjects as the price of their fidelity. . . . What a pity that it should be necessary for your Majesty to supply each year five million six hundred and sixty thousand francs, which is the amount of the pensions that are paid from your treasury! If that sum were expended for the relief of your people, would they not have reason to bless your royal virtues? and yet this is a subject on which they are silent; they put off the abatement of the abuse till the cahiers are considered, and they desire at present that your Majesty suspend the quit-rents of the paulette. The Tiers Etat grants the one, and asks very earnestly for the other.”*
This address was a fresh subject of irritation to the nobles, who felt so provoked at it that they resolved to present a complaint to the King. They begged the clergy to join them in this proceeding; but that body, assuming the character of a mediator, sent one of its members to the assembly of the Tiers Etat to lay before it the grievances of the nobles, and to invite it to give some satisfaction for the sake of peace. When the deputy had spoken, Savaron rose and said proudly, that neither in deed, intention, nor word had he given offence to the nobles; that, as for the rest, before he served the King as an officer of justice, he had borne arms; so that he was able to give an answer to any one in the one character or the other.† In order to avoid a rupture, which would have rendered all business in the States impossible, the Tiers Etat accepted the mediation which was offered them, and consented to send a conciliatory message to the nobles; and in order that all cause of dissatisfaction and distrust should be removed, they chose a new speaker, the lieutenant civil, De Mesmes. De Mesmes was commissioned to declare that neither the Tiers Etat in general nor any of its members in particular had any design of giving offence to the order of the nobles. He made use of language at once honest and peaceable; but the ground was so hot, that, instead of appeasing the quarrel, his speech embittered it. He said that the three orders were three brothers, children of their common mother, France; that the clergy represented the eldest, the nobles the second, and the Tiers Etat the youngest; that the Tiers Etat had always recognised the nobles as raised in some degree above it, but that the nobles ought also to recognise the Tiers Etat as their brother, and not to despise it, as if it were of no account; that it was often found in domestic life that the eldest sons ruined the family, and that the youngest restored it.* It was not only these last words, but the comparison of the three orders to three brothers, and the notion of such a relationship between the Tiers Etat and the nobles, that excited a storm of dissatisfaction among the latter. Their assembly, in confusion, directed their reproaches against the ecclesiastical representatives who were present at the sitting, complaining that the messenger of the Tiers Etat, introduced at their instance, instead of making reparation, had offered fresh injuries more serious than the first. After some lengthy discussion upon what ought to be done, it was resolved that they should proceed forthwith with a complaint to the King.*
The audience which was demanded was not obtained till two days after; the nobles attended in a body. Their prolocutor, the baron de Senecey, concluded a verbose exordium with this description of the Tiers Etat:—“An order composed of people from the cities and the country; the last almost all bound to do homage, and under the jurisdiction of the two first orders; those of the cities, burgesses, tradesmen, artisans, and some placemen; and,” he continued, “these are the persons, who, forgetting their position, without the sanction of those whom they represent, wish to compare themselves to us. I am ashamed, Sire, to repeat to you the terms which have given us fresh offence. They compare your State to a family composed of three brothers; they say that the ecclesiastical order is the eldest, ours the second, and theirs the youngest; and that it often happens that houses ruined by the eldest are raised up again by the youngest. Into what a pitiable condition are we fallen, if this be true! . . . And not content with calling us brothers, they attribute the restoration of the State to themselves, in which, as France knows sufficiently, they have no share whatever; so everybody perceives that they could not be in any way compared with us, and a presumption on such poor grounds would be intolerable. Pronounce judgment, Sire, upon it; and, by a just decision, make them return to their duty.”* As they retired, the assembly of the nobles who accompanied their speaker expressed their unanimous assent by gestures and such words as these: “We do not choose that the sons of shoemakers and cobblers shall call us brothers; there is as much difference between us and them as between the master and the valet.”†
The Tiers Etat received the news of this audience and of these remarks with great composure; they decided that their orator should not only be approved, but thanked; that no recrimination against the nobles should be made before the King; and that they should proceed to the business of the cahiers without pausing to notice such squabblings.‡ The clergy then interposed afresh to procure a reconciliation, asking that some advances should be made by the Tiers Etat; that body replied that there had been no intention on their part to give offence on that occasion more than on the former; that the representatives of the clergy could themselves make this known to the nobles, to whom they had no other satisfaction to offer, and desired that they might be left undisturbed to work at their cahiers, and occupy themselves with business of greater importance.* But the difference between the two orders kept all in suspense; the Government, without making itself judge, redoubled its efforts for an agreement; an order was sent on the part of the King to the Tiers Etat, that they should take some measure to satisfy the nobles; but many days passed away without this order being obeyed.
During this time the memorial which contained the petitions of the Tiers Etat passed the examination of the council. The nobles and the clergy supported all the articles of it, except the one which was the subject of their difference; and in respect of this one, it was promised by the First Minister that the number of the pensions should be annually diminished by one quarter, and that the most useless ones should be suppressed.† This concurrence and this victory opened the way to a reconciliation. The Tiers Etat had their thanks conveyed to the two first orders for their favourable co-operation; its messenger to the nobles disavowed all intention of giving offence, and they received a suitable answer.‡ In this way the difference was terminated, from which no result of political importance could arise, but which is remarkable because the Tiers Etat performed in it the honourable part of disinterestedness and dignity; and a pride on the part of the people, cherished in the midst of study, and avocations which required intellectual labours, there showed itself openly, in the face of the pride of nobility.
A quarrel much more important, and without any admixture of private interests, occurred almost immediately after, and divided the three orders in the same manner as before, placing the Tiers Etat on the one side and the clergy and nobles on the other. The subject of it was the principle of the independence of the crown in regard to the church—a principle which had been proclaimed three hundred and twelve years before by the representatives of the bourgeoisie.* In compiling its general cahier from the provincial cahiers, the Tiers Etat took from the cahier of the Ile de France, and placed at the head of all the chapters, an article containing what follows: “The King shall be petitioned to have it decreed in the assembly of the States as a fundamental law of the kingdom, which shall be inviolable and evident to all, that as he has been recognised as sovereign in his kingdom, holding his crown from God alone, there is no power on earth, of any kind whatever, spiritual or temporal, which has any right over his kingdom, either to deprive the sacred persons of our kings of it, or to dispense or absolve their subjects from the fidelity and obedience which they owe to him, for any cause or pretext whatever. All the subjects, of whatever quality and condition they may be, shall keep this law as sacred and true, as conformable to the law of God, without any distinction, equivocation, or limitation whatever, which shall be sworn and signed by all the deputies of the States, and, for the future, by all beneficed clergymen and officers of the kingdom. . . . All preceptors, professors, doctors, and preachers shall be bound to teach and to publish it.*
These firm expressions, of which the meaning was at the bottom national, under the appearance of being altogether monarchical, consecrated the right of the state in that of the royal power, and declared the enfranchisement of civil society. At the mention of such a resolution the clergy took alarm; they made application to the Tiers Etat to have the article communicated to them, which they obtained with difficulty, and only at the same time that it was communicated also to the nobles. The last body, in abandoning the common cause of the laity and the state, repaid one act of favour to the ecclesiastical chamber by another; but the united proceedings of the two first orders had no influence on the third; they neither chose to retract nor to modify their article, and rejected, as it deserved, the proposition that they should acquiesce in a petition for the publication of a decree of the Council of Constance against the doctrine of tyrannicide.* The great question, laid down afterwards in the war of the League between the two principles of a legitimate right to the crown in virtue of birth, or of one made dependent on orthodoxy of belief, was here, in fact, agitated. The debate on this question, which the reign of Henry IV. had not decided,† and to which his tragical fate gave a melancholy and thrilling interest, was by a sort of coup d’état taken out of the province of the orders, and referred to the council, or rather to the person of the King.
Upon the invitation which was made to them on the subject, the Tiers Etat presented the first article of their cahier to the King; and some days afterwards the president of the chamber and the twelve presidents of the committees were summoned to the Louvre. Although Louis XIII. was of age, the Queen-mother was the speaker, and told the deputation “that the article concerning the sovereignty of the King and the security of his person having been referred to him, it was no longer necessary to insert it in the cahier; that the King considered it as though it were presented and received; and that it would be decided to the satisfaction of the Tiers Etat.”* This violence done to the liberty of the assembly excited great confusion in it; it understood the intention, and how the erasure, which was prescribed to it, would terminate. During three days it deliberated whether it should conform to the orders of the Queen. There were two opinions; one, that the article should be retained in the cahier, and that a protest should be made against the persons who were misleading the King and controlling his will; the other, that they should submit by merely making a remonstrance. The first had the numerical majority in its favour; but it was not carried; as the vote was made by provinces, and not by bailliages.† A hundred and twenty members, at the head of whom were Savaron and De Mesmes, declared themselves opposed to the resolution of the assembly, as made by the smaller number. They loudly demanded that their opposition should be admitted, and that effect should be given to it. The noise and confusion lasted during a whole sitting, and for the sake of peace a middle course was agreed to; they came to a compromise that the actual text of the article should not be inserted in the general cahier, but that its place should be formally preserved in it.* In fact, upon the authentic copies of the cahier, on the first page and after the title—Of the fundamental Laws of the State—there was a vacant space, and this note: “The first article, extracted from the report of the proceedings of the chamber of the Tiers Etat, has been presented to the King previously to the present cahier by the command of his Majesty, who has promised to reply to it.”
This reply was not given; and the question of the independence of the crown and country was adjourned by the weakness of a queen who was governed by foreigners. It was not till the end of sixty-seven years that the rights of the State, proclaimed this time in an assembly of bishops, were guaranteed by a solemn act, obligatory on all the clergy of France. But this famous declaration of 1682, in its fundamental points, is only a reproduction, almost word for word, of the article of the cahier of 1615; and it is to the Tiers Etat that the honour of the initiative is here due.† All that there was of courage and enlightenment in the public opinion of the time paid homage to it, and avenged it in its defeat. While the privileged orders were receiving letters of congratulation* from the Court of Rome, thousands of voices at Paris were repeating this quatrain, composed for the occasion, which at the present day might be called prophetic:
To its petition for guarantees in favour of the sovereignty and the security of the prince, the Tiers Etat added, in its cahier, under the same title—Des Lois fondamentales de l’Etat—the petition for a convocation of the States-General every ten years; and it was the only one of the three orders which expressed this desire. The cahier of 1615 recals by its merit, while it exceeds in extent, that of 1560.* It has that character of an inspired exuberance of resources which displays itself at the great epochs of our legislative history. Institutions of a political, civil, ecclesiastical, judicial, military, economic nature—it embraces them all; and, under the form of a petition, lays down the law upon each with a judgment and decision which are admirable. We see there the prudent ability which fixes upon what is practical, and liberal tendencies in favour of future progress; materials for an approaching legislation, and desires which could not be realised except by an entirely new order of things. I should like to give a complete idea of that work of patriotism and wisdom;† but I am obliged to limit myself to the analysis of certain points; and I shall choose those petitions which, belonging exclusively to the Tiers Etat, are not found in the cahier of either of the other orders.
They require that the archbishops and bishops be appointed according to the form prescribed by the ordinance of Orleans;* that is to say, from a list of three candidates elected by the bishops of the province, the chapter of the cathedral, and twenty-four notables, twelve from the nobility, and twelve from the bourgeoisie; that the crimes of ecclesiastics be tried by the ordinary tribunals; that all the incumbents be bound, under penalty of having their temporalities seized, to bring every year to the record-office of the courts of justice the registers of baptisms, marriages, and deaths, signed and numbered. That religious communities be not allowed to acquire real property, except for the purpose of increasing the circuit of their conventual houses. That the Jesuits be bound by the same laws, civil and political, as the other religious bodies established in France; that they acknowledge themselves subjects of the King, and be not allowed to have provincials who are not French by birth, and elected by French Jesuits.*
That nobles and ecclesiastics, being lodgers or householders in the cities, be obliged to contribute to the communal taxes. That no noble, or other person, be allowed to exact any service from the inhabitants of his domains, if he has not a right verified by the king’s judges. That all nobles and others be forbidden to compel any one to grind at their mills, to bake in their ovens, or to press at their wine-presses, or to make use of any other right of feudal service, whatever usage or possession they may allege, if they have not a title recognised as valid. That all the lay and ecclesiastical seigneurs be bound within a fixed period to enfranchise their property held in mortmain, by means of an indemnity determined by the king’s judges, provided that all the subjects of the king, in whatever place they dwell, be declared capable with full right to acquire, hold, and leave their property at their own option.†
That there be no longer more than two degrees of jurisdiction below the parliaments; that the courts of aids be reunited to the parliaments; that the professions subjected since the year 1576 to the system of exclusiveness by means of companies and guilds, be pursued without restriction; that all the edicts in virtue of which payments are levied upon the artisans in proportion to their industry be revoked, and that all letters of privilege granted as favors of the court, be declared null; that the tradesmen and artisans, whether belonging to a trade forming a company, or to any other, pay no more dues for being admitted masters, for setting up a business, or for any other part of their calling; that all the monopolies of trade or industry granted to individuals be abolished; that the customs exacted for passing from province to province be suppressed, and that all the offices for their collection be removed to the frontiers.*
In all this there is an aspiration towards the civil equality, judicial unity, commercial unity, and industrial liberty of our days. At the same time the Tiers Etat of 1615 repeats the protests of 1588 and of 1576 against the encroachments on the ancient municipal rights by the state. It demands that the magistrates of the cities should be appointed by free election, without the interference and uninfluenced by the presence of the royal officers; that the custody of the keys of the gates should belong to them, and that wherever that prerogative had been lost it should be restored; lastly, that all the municipalities should be able, within certain limits, to tax themselves without the authorisation of government.*
If inquiry be made into the cahiers of the three orders, in what manner their objects agree and in what they differ, it will be found that the difference is less between the Tiers Etat and the clergy, than between the Tiers Etat and the nobles. The clergy, influenced on one side by the liberal spirit of their doctrines, and on the other by their interests as a privileged order, do not follow a direct course in their politics; sometimes their votes are for the common right, the cause of the people, the removal of burdens from the poor and oppressed classes; sometimes, from their connexion with the cause of the nobles, they demand the maintenance of special privileges and exemptions chargeable with abuse. In the questions of the general welfare, administrative unity, and economic progress, they show that they are not strangers to the tradition of reforms, that they are not opposed to the great movement which, since the thirteenth century, advanced France by the power of the kings united with that of the people beyond the civil institutions of the Middle Ages. In a word, their evangelical sympathies, joined to their sympathies of race, incline them towards the Tiers Etat in all that does not affect their own temporal interests, or the spiritual interest and pretensions of the Church. It is on this last point, on the questions of the Papal power, of the Gallican liberties, of religious toleration, of the Council of Trent and the Jesuits, and almost exclusively upon them, that a serious disagreement is found in the cahiers of the Tiers Etat and the ecclesiastical order.*
But between the two lay orders the divergency is complete; it is an antagonism which never relaxes itself except at rare intervals, and which, seen from the position in which we are placed to-day, presents in its ideas, its manners, and its interests, the struggle between the past and the future. The cahier of the Tiers Etat of 1615 is a vast programme of reforms, of which some were effected by the great ministers of the seventeenth century, and others were reserved for the year 1789. The cahier of the nobles, in its essential part, is merely a petition in favour of all that has perished, or was destined to perish, in the progress of time and reason. There are some points in it already mentioned, for the most part in the preceding States-General, but accompanied on this occasion with an eagerness of jealous hatred against the royal officers, and, in general, against the superior class of the Tiers Etat.† The nobles do not confine themselves to defend the privileges and power which still remained in their hands; they wished to break down the administrative usages belonging to the French crown, to replace the soldier on the seat of the judge,* and to displace the TiersEtat from the superior courts and all the posts of honour. Not only do they claim the appointments in the army and the court, but they demand that the parliaments should be filled with nobles, and that there should be places reserved for them in all the ranks of the civil hierarchy, from the high appointments of the Government, down to the municipal offices.* Besides, in order to open to themselves the springs of wealth, at which the bourgeoisie were drinking, they demanded permission to pursue commerce without a sacrifice of rank. This was a sort of advancement in ideas; but the Tiers Etat, from a spirit of monopoly, protest against that request; they desire that commerce should be still forbidden to the nobles, and formally be so to all the privileged classes.* In this way privilege was opposed to privilege, and instead of liberty on the one side and the other, they wished for compensation on both.
This eager rivalry, which gives so much interest to the history of the States-General of 1614, was a cause of their want of power. The coalition of the two first orders against the third, and the ill feelings which ensued from it, prevented or weakened every common purpose, and neutralised the influence of the Assembly over the proceedings and spirit of the Government. Besides, whatever desire for the public good might have been entertained by the Court of the young King, the incompatibility of the wishes of the two orders would have constrained it to remain inactive, for the choice of a definite line of policy was a matter of too much difficulty and danger for it. It would have been necessary, in order to elicit light out of that chaos of ideas, to have had either a king worthy of the name, or a great minister. The Court of Louis XIII., far from sincerely looking for a more advantageous course, was only desirous of profiting by the misunderstanding of the States for the maintenance of the abuses and the continuation of the disorder. For fear lest some circumstance might occur to make the Assembly feel the necessity of mutual agreement, the Court pressed forward with all its power the presentation of the cahiers, promising that they should be answered before permission to separate were given to the deputies. The latter demanded that their right of continuing the meeting of the States until they had received the answer of the King to their cahiers should be recognised. This was to lay down the question of the power of the States-General, which still remained undecided, after three centuries. The Court gave an evasive answer; and on the 23rd of February, 1615, four months after the opening of the States, the cahiers of the three orders were presented to the King in solemn form in the great chamber of the palace of Bourbon.*
The following day, the deputies of the Tiers Etat attended at the Convent of the Augustins, the ordinary place of their sittings: they found the chamber dismantled of its seats and tapestry, and their president announced that the King and the Chancellor had prohibited them from holding any further meeting. More astonished than they should have been, they uttered complaints and invectives against the Minister and the Court; they accused themselves of indolence and weakness in the execution of their writ; they reproached themselves with having been, as it were, asleep four months, instead of opposing the Government and acting resolutely against those who were robbing and ruining the kingdom. A witness and actor in that scene has described it with expressions full of sadness and patriotic indignation. “One,” he says, “goes about beating his breast, confessing his cowardice, and anxious to redeem at any price an opportunity so fruitless, so pernicious to the State, so injurious to a young prince, whose censure he fears, when mature age shall have given him a full knowledge of the disorders, which the States have not retrenched, but increased, fomented, and approved. Another prepares for his return home, abhors his residence in Paris, desires his home, his wife, and his friends, that in the consolation of such tender pledges he may drown the recollection of the grief which his expiring liberty causes him. How—let us ask, what shame, what confusion for the whole of France, to see those who represent her so little considered and so degraded, that so far from being recognised as deputies, it seems hardly allowed that they are Frenchmen! . . . Are we different from those who entered yesterday the chamber of the Bourbon?”* This question, which was the very question of the national sovereignty, was asked again in another assembly one hundred and seventy-two years later, and then a voice replied, “We are the same to-day as we were yesterday; let us proceed to business.”*
But nothing was ripe in 1615 for the results which were effected by the Tiers Etat in 1789; the deputies, who were forbidden all deliberation, remained under the weight of their discouragement. Every day, according to the account of one of them,† they paced up and down the cloisters of the Augustins, to meet and learn what was intended towards them. They inquired of one another the news of the Court. Their desire was to be dismissed; and all were watching for the opportunity, anxious as they were to quit a city where they perceived themselves to be, says the same account, out of place and unemployed, without business either public or private.‡ The sense of their duty awakened them from that depression. They thought that, as the council of the king was engaged in preparing the answers to the cahiers, if it happened that any decision should be there taken, to the injury of the people, the blame would not fail to be cast upon their impatience to depart; and the nobles and clergy, moreover, would profit by their absence to obtain, by means of their solicitations, all sorts of advantages. For this twofold reason, the deputies of the Tiers Etat resolved not to ask separately for a leave of absence, but to wait till the council had decided upon the essential points, before they retired.* They therefore remained, and assembled frequently in different places, maintaining their character as deputies with a certain vigour against the prime minister. At last, on the 24th of March, the presidents of the three orders were summoned to the Louvre. They were informed that the number of the articles contained in the cahiers prevented the king from replying to them so soon as he could have wished; but that, in order to give to the States an instance of his good feeling towards them, he received in advance their principal petitions, and let them know that he had decided to abolish the venality of offices, to reduce the pensions, and to establish a chamber of justice against the mal-practices of the financiers; that he would provide for all the rest as soon as possible; and that the deputies were at liberty to depart.
These three points of the cahier were chosen with tact, as affecting at the same time the passions of the three orders. The nobles hailed, in the abolition of the inheritance and venality of offices, a great advantage in their own favour: the Tiers Etat hailed a great advantage for the people in the retrenchment of the pensions; and the Assembly had been unanimous in their execration of the financiers, and in demanding a special jurisdiction against their illegal profits.* It might even be said that the suppression of the paulette and of the venality was a common demand of the States, although each order had made that demand from different motives: the nobles, for their own advantage; the clergy, from their sympathy with the nobles; and the Tiers Etat, with a view to the public good, in opposition to their own individual interest.† With regard also to the article of the pensions, which had given rise to the division between the Tiers and the two other orders, the three cahiers were brought into agreement, more open, it is true, on the side of the clergy than on that of the nobles.* In this way, by a strange concurrence of circumstances, there were feelings which were opposed expressed in votes which were unanimous; and the promises of the king satisfied at one stroke generous desires and selfish designs. These promises, the only good tidings which the members of the States had to carry home to their provinces, were never kept; and the answer to the cahiers was not delivered till fifteen years after in a royal ordinance.
Such was the end of the States-General convoked in 1614, and dissolved in 1615. They form an epoch in our national history, as closing the series of the great assemblies held under the ancient monarchy; they form an epoch in the history of the Tiers Etat, of which they mark, at the commencement of the seventeenth century, the increasing importance, the passions, the enlightenment, the moral power and political impotency. Their meeting terminated only in a barren antagonism; and with them ceased to act and to live that old representative system, which was mixed up with the monarchy, without rules or defined conditions, and in which the bourgeoisie had taken a position, not by right, not by conquest, but at the call of the royal power. Admitted into the states of the kingdom without a struggle, without that eagerness of desire and effort which had led it to the enfranchisement of the communes, it had reached its position, in general, with more of distrust than of satisfaction, sometimes bold, frequently under constraint, always bringing with it a mass of new ideas, which passed more or less readily, more or less completely from its cahier of grievances into the ordinances of the kings. The effective agency of the Tiers Etat in the national assemblies was confined to that initiative influence, the fruit of which was slow and uncertain; all immediate action was rendered impossible for it by the double action of the privileged orders opposed to it or divergent from it. It is this which is seen more clearly than ever in the States of 1615, and it seems that the plebeian order, impressed with an experience of this kind, henceforward attached little value to its political rights.
A hundred and seventy-two years passed away without the States-General having been once convened by the crown, and without public opinion having availed itself of such powers as it possessed to bring about that convention.* Hoping everything from that power which had elicited from the people, and put into action through plebeian hands the elements of modern civil order, that opinion for a century and a half submitted itself without reserve to the crown. It embraced the form of simple monarchy, symbol of social unity, until that unity, of which the people deeply felt the need, appeared to their minds under more propitious forms.
[* ]From the name of the Commissioner Paulet, who farmed the collection of it: this payment was a sixtieth part of the revenue at which the office was valued. See above, Chap. VI., p. 211, note 1.
[* ]See the report of my brother, Amédée Thierry, on the competition for the historical prize decreed in 1844 by the Academy of Moral and Political Science, Mémoires de l’Académie, t. v., p. 826.
[* ]See the list given below, Appendix II.
[† ]“I remarked that my lord the chancellor, when addressing his speech to the clergy and nobility, took his hat off and bowed, which he did not do when he addressed the Tiers Etat.” (Relation des Etats généraux de 1614, by Florimond Rapine, deputy of the Tiers Etat of Nivernais, Des Etats généraux, &c., t. xvi., p. 102.)
[‡ ]Mercure François, 3e continuation, t. iii., année 1614, p. 32.
[* ]“In what high estimation will our provinces hold us, when they shall hear that we have despised our own peculiar interest with a noble courage, requesting that the offices which we possess hereditarily be devoted to the public, to the most capable and worthy, and not reserved for those who have the largest means, riches, and influence! . . . Next we shall constrain our detractors to have a confidence which they have not yet had in us—those who have considered us to be opposed entirely to the repeal of the unjust measure of the paulette. As the greater part of this assembly possesses the most exalted and honourable officers of the kingdom, so much the more ought we to lend our aid, for the sake of the liberty and integrity of the states, and the obligation of our consciences, towards the abolition of this payment, which foments ignorance, and closes the door to virtue and learning.” (Discours du Lieutenant-General de Saintes, Relation des Etats de 1614, by Florimond Rapine, p. 167.)
[* ]Since the death of Henry IV.
[* ]“However specious might be his words (of the Archbishop of Aix), yet he could never induce our body to give up its determination of putting our demands in the said propositions connectedly, because it was clearly seen that there was trickery, and that the clergy and nobility were on an understanding to effect the ruin of the officers, and the continuation of the taxation and oppression of the poor people, and did not intend that the suppression of their pensions should be demanded, so much did they make their interests their first consideration.’ (Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 182.)
[* ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 192.
[* ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 179.
[† ]That is, the Franks; the careful distinction of these two names is a precaution of modern science.
[‡ ]Procès-verbal et Cahier de la Noblesse des Etats de l’an 1615, MS. de la Bibliothèque impériale, fonds de Brienne, No. 283, fol. 52, &c.
[* ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 198.
[* ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 199 and following.
[† ]Ibid, p. 207.
[* ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 223.
[* ]Procès-verbal et Cahier de la Noblesse des Etats de l’An 1615. MS. de la Bibliothèque impériale, fonds de Brienne, No. 283, fol. 61, vo. Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 226.
[* ]Procès-verbal et Cahier de la Noblesse. MS. de la Bibliothèque impériale, fonds de Brienne, No. 283., fol. 63 vo.
[† ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 228.
[* ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 231.
[† ]Ibid, p. 242.
[‡ ]Ibid, p. 246—248.
[* ]See above, Chap. II., p. 45.
[* ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 283.
[* ]See in the relation of Florimond Rapine (Des Etats généraux, &c., t. xvi., 2nd part, p. 112-164) the address of Cardinal du Perron, Speaker of the clergy, and the reply of Robert Miron, president of the Tiers Etat.
[† ]Henry IV. reigned only in virtue of an agreement with his Catholic subjects.
[* ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, 2e partie, p. 194.
[† ]The provinces were very unequally represented in number; but the vote by bailliages, which, on this occasion was declared void, answered nearly to the vote by head. (See the Relation de Florimond Rapine, 2e partie, p. 197, and foll.)
[* ]Relation de Florimond Rapine, p. 205—207.
[† ]We declare, in consequence, that kings and sovereigns are not subject to any ecclesiastical authority by the order of God in temporal affairs. That they cannot be deposed, either directly or indirectly, by the authority of the rulers of the church. That their subjects cannot be dispensed from the submission and obedience which they owe to them, nor absolved from their oath of allegiance; and that this doctrine, necessary for the public peace, and not less beneficial to the church than to the state, ought to be inviolably observed as in conformity with the word of God, with the traditions of the holy fathers, and with the examples of the saints. (Declaration du 19 Mars, 1682; Manuel du droit public Ecclésiastique Francais, par M. Dupin, p. 126.)
[* ]Paulus, pontifex maximus, dilectis filiis nobilibus viris ordinis nobilium regni Franciæ in comitiis generalibus.—Dilecti filii nobiles vivi. . . . . Mirum in modum auctus est noster erga vos paternus amor ex his, quæ venerabilis frater Robertus episcopus Montispolitiani, noster apostolicus nuncius, nuper ad nos scripsit de alacritate animi, deque studiosâ voluntate quâ promptos paratosque vos ordini ecclesiastico istius regni exhibuistis ad tutelam divini honoris et defensionem auctoritatis sanctæ apostolicæ sedis. . . . . (Procès-verbal et Cahier de la Noblesse. MSS. de la Bibliothèque Impériale, fonds de Brienne, No. 283, folio 172.)
MSS. de la Bibliothèque Impériale, Collection Fontainieu. (Pièces, Lettres, et Negotiations, p. 187.)
[* ]There are 659 articles, forming nine chapters, entitled, “Fundamental Laws of the State; of the Government of the Church; of the Hospitals; of the University; of the Nobility; of Justice; of the Finances and Domains; of Suppressions and Revocations; Police and Trade.”
[† ]What I say applies to the articles of the cahier in general, and not to each in particular; many of them bear the inevitable mark of the prejudices which then prevailed, such as the prohibitive system, the usefulness of the sumptuary laws, and the necessity of the censure.
[* ]See above, Chapter V., p. 120. This form of modified election, if it were ever regularly followed, could only have been from the year 1561 to 1579; the ordinance of Blois, made at this last date, leaves to the King the entire and simple power of nomination.—The cahier of the nobles lays it down as follows: “That in conformity with the ordinance of Blois, none shall be admitted to ecclesiastical benefices, dignities, and appointments, but persons of proper age, integrity, sufficiency, and other requisite qualifications, . . . and that persons of noble birth be preferred for the said benefices.” (MS. de la Bibliothèque impériale, fonds de Brienne, No. 283, fol. 247,)
[* ]Cahier du Tiers Etat de 1615, Art. 7, 53, 33, 62, et 41. MS. de la Bibliothèque impériale, fonds de Brienne, No. 284.
[† ]Cahier du Tiers Etat, art 532, 165, 167, et 309.
[* ]Cahier du Tiers Etat, art. 249, 549, 614, 615, 616, 647, 387, and 389.
[* ]Cahier du Tiers Etat, art. 593, 594, and 528.
[* ]The concessions made by the nobility on these points gained them the alliance of the clergy in their quarrel with the Tiers Etat.
[† ]If it please your Majesty, you will not pay attention to all the articles which will be presented to you in the cahier of the Tiers Etat to the prejudice of the nobles in regard to offices for administration of justice, . . . considering that the said chamber consists for the most part of lieutenant-generals and officers of bailliages; their principal design has only been to increase their authority and augment their profits, to the prejudice of that claim which the nobles so worthily possess.—That your Majesty, considering the distress of the poor country people, whose poverty is the ruin of the clergy and nobles, ordain that persons of the Tiers Etat be not permitted for the future to have any payments imposed for any cause whatever, except those pertaining to your Majesty, without the consent of the clergy and the nobles dwelling in the province where such a tax shall have to be levied.—That all rights and privileges asserted by the inhabitants of the cities to sport upon the lands of your Majesty, and of the seigniories bordering on their cities be revoked and annulled, and all persons of the common classes, and not nobles, be forbidden to carry arquebusses or pistols, or to have sporting dogs, or any others which are not disabled by being hamstrung. That, in order to regulate the great disorder which exists at present among the Tiers Etat, who usurp the condition and the dresses of ladies, your Majesty is very humbly solicited that hereafter they may be prohibited from so making use of them, under the penalty of 1000 crowns. To prescribe to each class such a dress as may enable a distinction to be made in the condition of the person by wearing it, and that velvet and satin be prohibited, except to nobles. (Cahier de la Noblesse de 1615, fol. 233, 254, 229, 262 and 256.)
[* ]In the cahier of the nobility, see the article relative to L’Etat des Baillis et Sénéchaux, fol. 234.
[* ]That all the prévots des Maréchaux, vice-baillis, and vice-sénéchaux be nobles by birth, and that it be enjoined on those who be not of that condition to resign their offices within three months, in failure of which the office shall be declared vacant and open to application; that the great privileges and particular privileges of waters and forests be given only to nobles by birth. That the first consul or mayor of the towns and bastilles shall be taken from the body of the nobles, under penalty of the nullity of the election which shall be made to the contrary. That the two treasurers of France who shall be left, agreeably to the suppression which has been required, one shall be a noble by birth, and may not be of another condition. That none may be invested with the office of bailli or sénéchal, who is not a noble by condition, name, and profession of arms. Filling your supreme courts with men of noble family, as they were anciently, and that a third of the offices at least be appropriated to them. And inasmuch as it would be in vain to demand that it should please your Majesty to give the preference for the appointments over the supreme companies of your kingdom—that in every judicial and financial body a third of the judges and officers be nobles. (Cahier de la Noblesse, Ibid, folio 229, 232, 233, 234, 278, and 279.)
[* ]See Le Cahier du Tiers Etat, art. 161, and Le Cahier de la Noblesse, fol. 232.
[* ]See La Relation de Flor. Rapine, part iii., Des Etats Généraux, &c. t. xvii., p. 75, and following.
[* ]Relation de Flor. Rapine, iiie partie, p. 119.
[* ]It is the expression of Sieyès which elicited the oath of the Jeu de Paume.
[† ]Flor. Rapine, deputy of the Tiers Etat for Nivernais.
[‡ ]Relation de Flor. Rapine, iiie partie, p. 119.
[* ]Relation de Flor. Rapine, part iii., p. 129.
[* ]See L’Histoire de France, of M. Henri Martin, t. xii., p. 254, and foll.
[† ]They have themselves taken care to remind us of it in the articles of their cahier: “Experience has shown how pernicious is the establishment of the annual payment called paulette, which makes so many appointments of the judicature, as well as others, hereditary. . . . and deprives your Majesty of the means of being able to choose your officers and the nobles of the hope of ever obtaining them . . . . wherefore your Majesty is respectfully petitioned to cut off entirely the venality of offices of all sorts. . . . It is the only means of rendering your State more illustrious and prosperous—your Majesty well served, and your people consoled by the choice which you will make of capable persons. From this general benefit there will result one in particular to the advantage of your nobles, desirous of giving as many proofs of their fidelity in the exercise of judicial power, as they do in your armies on the occasions which present themselves to them. They very humbly beg it of you, sire.” (Cahier de la Noblesse de 1615, M.S. de la Bibliothèque Imperiale, fonds de Brienne, No. 283, fol. 238 et 239.)
[* ]See the Cahier of the Tiers Etat, art. 491 and 492; that of the clergy, art. 158; and that of the nobles, fol. 214, vo., M.S. de la Bibliothèque Imperiale, fonds de Brienne, Nos. 282, 283, and 284.
[* ]During the troubles of the Fronde, the States-General were convoked on two occasions—first, spontaneously by the Court in its struggle with the bourgeoisie; next, at the instance of the nobles united with the clergy; some philanthropists joined to the aristocratic party, called for them towards the end of the reign of Louis XIV. The Regent thought of them to support his power; and there was no question about them during the reign of Louis XV.