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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

But for the particular regard I have for Madame de Choiseul


"Cousin,

the dissatisfaction caused me by your services forces me to banish you to Chanteloup, whither you will repair within twenty-four hours. I should have sent you much further off, but for the particular regard I have for Madame de Choiseul, in whose health I feel great interest. Take care your conduct does not force me to alter my mind. Whereupon I pray God, cousin, to have you in His holy and worthy keeping."

The thunderbolt which came striking the Duke of Choiseul called forth a fresh sign of the times. The fallen minister was surrounded in his disgrace with marks of esteem and affection on the part of the whole court. The princes themselves and the greatest lords felt it an honor to pay him a visit at his castle of Chanteloup. He there displayed a magnificence which ended by swallowing up his wife's immense fortune, already much encroached upon during his term of power. Nothing was too much for the proud devotion and passionate affection of the Duchess of Choiseul: she declined the personal favors which the king offered her, setting all her husband's friends the example of a fidelity which was equally honorable to them and to him. Acute observers read a tale of the growing weakness of absolute power in the crowd which still flocked to a minister in disgrace; the Duke of Choiseul remained a power even during a banishment which was to last as long as his life.

With M. de Choiseul disappeared the sturdiest

prop of the Parliaments. In vain had the king ordered the magistrates to resume their functions and administer justice. "There is nothing left for your Parliament," replied the premier president, "but to perish with the laws, since the fate of the magistrates should go with that of the state." Madame Dubarry, on a hint from her able advisers, had caused to be placed in her apartments a fine portrait of Charles I. by Van Dyck. "France," she was always reiterating to the king with vulgar familiarity, "France, thy Parliament will cut off thy head too!"

[Illustration: "France, thy Parliament will cut off thy Head too!"--249]

A piece of ignorant confusion, due even more to analogy of name than to the generous but vain efforts often attempted by the French magistracy in favor of sound doctrines of government. The Parliament of Paris fell sitting upon curule chairs, like the old senators of Rome during the invasion of the Gauls; the political spirit, the collected and combative ardor, the indomitable resolution of the English Parliament, freely elected representatives of a free people, were unknown to the French magistracy. Despite the courage and moral, elevation it had so often shown, its strength had been wasted in a constantly useless strife; it had withstood Richelieu and Mazarin; already reduced to submission by Cardinal Fleury, it was about to fall beneath the equally bold and skilful blows of Chancellor Maupeou. Notwithstanding the little natural liking and the usual distrust he felt for Parliaments, the king still hesitated. Madame Dubarry managed to inspire him with fears for his person; and he yielded.

During the night between the 19th and 20th of January, 1771, musketeers knocked at the doors of all the magistrates; they were awakened in the king's name, at the same time being ordered to say whether they would consent to resume their service. No equivocation possible! No margin for those developments of their ideas which are so dear to parliamentary minds! It was a matter of signing yes or no. Surprised in their slumbers, but still firm in their resolution of resistance, the majority of the magistrates signed no. They were immediately sent into banishment; their offices were confiscated. Those members of the Parliament from whom weakness or astonishment had surprised a yes retracted


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