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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

De la Chalotais and his comrades were exiled to Saintes


haughty affirmation of absolute power, a faithful echo of Cardinal Richelieu's grand doctrines, succeeded for a while in silencing the representations of the Parliaments; but it could not modify the course of opinion, passionately excited in favor of M. de la Chalotais. On the 24th of December, 1766, after having thrice changed the jurisdiction and the judges, the king annulled the whole procedure by an act of his supreme authority. "We shall have the satisfaction," said the edict, "of finding nobody guilty, and nothing will remain for us but to take such measures as shall appear best adapted to completely restore and maintain tranquillity in a province from which we have on so many occasions had proofs of zeal for our service." M. de la Chalotais and his comrades were exiled to Saintes. They demanded a trial and a legal justification, which were refused. "It is enough for them to know that their honor is intact," the king declared. A Parliament was imperfectly reconstructed at Rennes. "It is D'Aiguillon's bailiff-court," was the contemptuous saying in Brittany. The governor had to be changed. Under the administration of the Duke of Duras, the agitation subsided in the province; the magistrates who had resigned resumed their seats; M. de la Chalotais and his son, M. de Caradeuc, alone remained excluded by order of the king. The restored Parliament immediately made a claim on their behalf, accompanying the request with a formal accusation against the Duke of Aiguillon.
The states supported the Parliament. "What! sir," said the remonstrance; "they are innocent, and yet you punish them! It is a natural right that nobody should be' punished without a trial; we have property in our honor, our lives, and our liberty, just as you have property in your crown. We would spill our blood to preserve your rights; but, on your side, preserve us ours. Sir, the province on its knees before you asks you for justice." A royal ordinance forbade any proceedings against the Duke of Aiguillon, and enjoined silence on the parties. Parliament having persisted, and declaring that the accusations against the Duke of Aiguillon attached (_entachaient_) his honor, Louis XV., egged on by the chancellor, M. de Maupeou, an ambitious, bold, bad man, repaired in person to the office, and had all the papers relating to the procedure removed before his eyes. The strife was becoming violent; the Duke of Choiseul, still premier--minister but sadly shaken in the royal favor, disapproved of the severities employed against the magistracy. All the blows dealt at the Parliaments recoiled upon him.

King Louis XV. had taken a fresh step in the shameful irregularity of his life; on the 15th of April, 1764, Madame de Pompadour had died, at the age of forty-two, of heart disease. As frivolous as she was deeply depraved and baseminded in her calculating easiness of virtue, she had more ambition than comported with her mental calibre or her force of character; she had taken it into her head to govern, by turns promoting and overthrowing the ministers, herself proffering advice to the king, sometimes to good purpose, but more often still with a levity as fatal as her obstinacy. Less clever, less ambitious, but more potent than Madame de Pompadour over the faded passions of a monarch aged before his time, the new favorite, Madame Dubarry, made the least scrupulous blush at the lowness of her origin and the irregularity of her life. It was, nevertheless, in her circle that the plot was formed against the Duke of Choiseul. Bold, ambitious, restless, presumptuous sometimes in his views and his hopes, the minister had his heart too nearly in the right place and too proper a spirit to submit to either the yoke of Madame Dubarry or that of the shameless courtiers who made use of her influence. Chancellor Maupeou, the Duke of Aiguillou, and the new comptroller- general, Abbe Terray, a man of capacity, invention, and no scruple at all, at last succeeded in triumphing over the force of habit, the only thing that had any real effect upon the king's listless mind. After twelve years' for a long while undisputed power, after having held in his hands the whole government of France and the peace of Europe, M. de Choiseul received from the king on the 24th of December, 1770, a letter in these terms:--

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