Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter xviii: Of the Remarkable Authority of the Council against Lewis the Eleventh - An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
Return to Title Page for An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
chapter xviii: Of the Remarkable Authority of the Council against Lewis the Eleventh - Robert Molesworth, An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor 
An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor, Edited and with an Introduction by Justin Champion (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Of the Remarkable Authority of the Council against Lewis the Eleventh
The Power and Authority of the Council and the Estates assembled, appears by the foregoing Testimonies to have been very great, and indeed (as it were) Sacred. But because we are now giving Examples of this Power, we will not omit a signal Instance of the Authority of this Council, which interposed it self in the Memory of our Fathers against Lewis the Eleventh, who was reputed more crafty and cunning than any of the Kings that had ever been before him.
In the Year 1460, when this Lewis governed the Kingdom in such a Manner, that in many Cases the Duty of a good Prince, and a Lover of his Country, was wanting; the People began to desire the Assistance and Authority of the Great Council, that some Care might therein be taken of the Publick Welfare; and because it was suspected the King would not submit himself to it, the Great Men of the Kingdom (stirred up by the daily Complaints and Solicitations of the Commons), “resolv’d to gather Forces, and raise an Army; that (as Philip de Commines expresses it) they might provide for the Publick Good, and expose the King’s wicked Administration of the Commonwealth.”; They therefore agreed to be ready prepared with a good Army, that in case the King should prove refractory, and refuse to follow good Advice, they might compel him by Force: For which Reason that War was said to have been undertaken for the Publick Good, and was commonly called the War du bien public. “Commines, Gillius, and Lamarc, have recorded the Names of those Great Men who were the principal Leaders, the Duke of Bourbon, the Duke of Berry, the King’s Brother; the Counts of Dunois, Nevers, Armagnac, and Albret, and the Duke of Charolois, who was the Person most concerned in what related to the Government. Wherever they marched, they caused it to be proclaimed, that their Undertakings were only design’d for the Publick Good; they published Freedom from Taxes and Tributes, and lent Ambassadors with Letters to the Parliament at Paris, to the Ecclesiasticks, and to the Rector of the University, desiring them not to suspect or imagine those Forces were rais’d for the King’s destruction, but only to reclaim him, and make him perform the Office of a Good King, as the present Necessities of the Publick required.” These are Gillius’s Words, lib. 4. fol. 152.
The Annals intituled the Chronicles of Lewis the Eleventh, printed at Paris by Galliottus, fol. 27. have these Words. “The first and chiefest of their demands was, That a Convention of the Three States should be held; because in all Ages it had been found to be the only proper Remedy for all Evils, and to have always had a force sufficient to heal such sort of mischiefs.” Again, Pag. 28. “An Assembly was called on Purpose to hear the Ambassadors of the Great Men, and met on the 24th Day in the Town-house at Paris; at which were present some Chosen Men of the University, of the Parliament, and of the Magistrates. The Answer given the Ambassadors, was, That what they demanded was most just; and accordingly a Council of the Three Estates was summon’d.” These are the Words of that Historian. From whence the Old Saying of Marcus Antonius appears to be most true. “Etsi omnes molestae semper seditiones sunt, justas tamen esse nonnullas, & prope necessarias: eas vero justissimas maximeque necessarias videri, cum populus Tyranni saevitia oppressus auxilium a legitimo Civium conventu implorat. Although all Sorts of Seditions are troublesome, yet some of them are just, and in a manner necessary; but those are extraordinary just and necessary, which are occasion’d when the People oppress’d by the Cruelty of a Tyrant, implores the Assistance of a Lawful Convention.”
Gaguinus, in his Life of Lewis the Eleventh, pag. 265. gives us Charles, the Duke of Burgundy’s Answer to that King’s Ambassadors. “Charles (says he) heard the Ambassadors patiently, but made Answer, That he knew no Method so proper to restore a firm Peace, at a Time when such great Animosities, and so many Disorders of the War were to be composed, as a Convention of the Three Estates. Which when the Ambassadors had by Special Messengers communicated to King Lewis, he hoping to gain his Point by Delays, summon’d the Great Council to meet at Tours, on the Kalends of April 1467; and at the appointed Time for the Convention, they came from all Parts of the Kingdom, etc.”;
The same passage, and in almost the same Words, is recorded in the Book of Annals, fol. 64. and in the Great Chronicle, Vol. 4. fol. 242. where these very remarkable Words are further added. “In that Council it was appointed, that certain approved Men should be chosen out of each of the Estates, who should establish the Commonwealth, and take care that Right and Justice should be done. But Gillius in the Place abovemention’d says: After the Battle at Montlebery, many well-affected and prudent Men were elected to be Guardians of the Publick Good, according as it had been agreed upon between the King and the Nobles; among whom the Count of Dunois was the Principal, as having been the chief Promoter of that Rising.” For it had grown into custom after the Wealth of the Ecclesiasticks was excessively increased, to divide the People into Three Orders or Classes, whereof the Ecclesiasticks made one; and when those Curators of the Commonwealth were chosen, twelve Persons were taken out of each Order. So that it was enabled in that Council, that 36 Guardians of the Republick should be created, with Power, by common consent, to redress all the Abuses of the Publick. Concerning which Thing, Monstrellettus, Vol. 4. fol. 150 writes thus: “In the first Place (says he) it was decreed, that for the re-establishing the State of the Commonwealth, and the easing the People of the Burthen of their Taxes, and to compensate their Losses, 36 Men should be elected, who should have Regal Authority, viz. 12 out of the Clergy, 12 out of the Knights, and 12 skilful in the Laws of the Land; to whom Power should be given of inspecting and enquiring into the Grievances and Mischiefs under which the Kingdom laboured, and to apply Remedies to all: And the King gave his Promise in verbo Regis, That whatsoever those 36 Men should appoint to be done, he would ratify and confirm.”
Oliver de la Marck, a Flemming, in his History, cap. 35. writes the same thing, and mentions the same number of 36 Guardians or Curators of the Commonwealth. And he farther adds; “That because the King did not stand to his Promise, but violated his Faith, and the solemn Oath which he had publickly sworn, a most cruel War was kindled in Francogallia, which set it all in a Flame, and continued near 13 Years. Thus that King’s Perjury was punish’d both by his own Infamy, and the People’s Destruction.”
Upon the whole Matter ’tis plain, that ’tis not yet a hundred Years compleat, since the Liberties of Francogallia, and the Authority of its annual General Council, flourished in full vigour, and exerted themselves against a King of ripe Years, and great Understanding; for he was above 40 Years old, and of such great Parts, as none of our Kings have equalled him. So that we may easily perceive that our Commonwealth, which at first was founded and established upon the Principles of Liberty, maintained it self in the same free and sacred State, (even by Force and Arms) against all the Power of Tyrants for more than Eleven hundred Years.
I cannot omit the great Commendation which that most noble Gentleman and accomplish’d Historian, Philip de Commines, gives of this Transaction; who in his 5th Book and 18th Chapter gives this Account of it, which we will transcribe Word for Word. “But to proceed: is there in all the World any King or Prince, who has a Right of imposing a Tax upon his People (though it were but to the Value of one Farthing) without their own Will and Consent? Unless he will make use of Violence, and a Tyrannical Power, he cannot. But some will say there may happen an Exigence, when the Great Council of the People cannot be waited for, the business admitting of no delay. I am sure, in the undertaking of a War, there is no need of such hast; one has sufficient leisure to think leisurely of that Matter. And this I dare affirm, that when Kings and Princes undertake a War with the consent of their Subjects, they are both much more powerful, and more formidable to their Enemies. It becomes a King of France least of any King in the World, to make use of such expressions as this. ‘I have a Power of raising as great Taxes as I please on my Subjects’; for neither he, nor any other, has such a Power; and those Courtiers who use such Expressions, do their King no honour, nor increase his reputation with Foreign Nations; but on the contrary, create a fear and dread of him among all his Neighbours, who will not upon any Terms subject themselves to such a sort of Government. But if our King, or such as have a Mind to magnify his Power; would say thus; I have such obedient and loving Subjects, that they will deny me nothing in reason; or, there is no Prince that has a People more willing to forget the hardships they undergo; this indeed would be a Speech that would do him Honour, and give him reputation. But such Words as these do not become a King; I tax as much as I have a mind to; and I have a Power of taking it, which I intend to keep. Charles the Fifth never used such Expressions, neither indeed did I ever hear any of our Kings speak such a Word; but only some of their Ministers and Companions, who thought thereby they did their Masters service: But, in my opinion, they did them a great deal of injury, and spoke those words purely out of flattery, not considering what they said. And as a further Argument of the gentle Disposition of the French, let us but consider that Convention of the Three Estates held at Tours, Anno 1484. after the decease of our King Lewis the Eleventh: About that time the wholesome Institution of the Convention of the Three Estates began to be thought a dangerous Thing; and there were some inconsiderable fellows who said then, and often since, that it was High-Treason to make so much as mention of Convocating the States, because it tended to lessen and diminish the King’s Authority; but it was they themselves who were guilty of High Treason against God, the King, and the Commonwealth. Neither do such-like Sayings turn to the Benefit of any Persons, but such as have got great Honours or Employments without any Merit of their own; and have learnt how to flatter and sooth, and talk impertinently; and who fear all great Assemblies, lest there they should appear in their proper Colours, and have all evil Actions condemned.”