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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The chancellor read out the edicts


as soon as they were assembled,

and underwent the same fate as their colleagues. On the 23d of January, members delegated by the grand council, charged with the provisional administration of justice, were installed in the Palace by the chancellor himself. The registrar-in- chief, the ushers, the attorneys, declined or eluded the exercise of their functions; the advocates did not come forward to plead. The Court of Aids, headed by Lamoignon de Malesherbes, protested against the attack made on the great bodies of the state. "Ask the nation themselves, sir," said the president, "to mark your displeasure with the Parliament of Paris, it is proposed to rob them--themselves--of the essential rights of a free people." The Court of Aids was suppressed like the Parliament; six superior councils, in the towns of Arras, Blois, Chalons-sur-Marne, Lyon, Clermont, and Poitiers parcelled out amongst them the immense jurisdiction of Paris; the members of the grand council, assisted by certain magistrates of small esteem, definitively took the places of the banished, to whom compensation was made for their offices. The king appeared in person on the 13th of April, 1771, at the new Parliament; the chancellor read out the edicts. "You have just heard my intentions," said Louis XV.; "I desire that they may be conformed to. I order you to commence your duties. I forbid any deliberation contrary to my wishes and any representations in favor of my former Parliament, for I shall never change."

One

single prince of the blood, the Count of La Marche, son of the Prince of Conti, had been present at the bed of justice. All had protested against the suppression of the Parliament. "It is one of the most useful boons for monarchs and of those most precious to Frenchmen," said the protest of the princes, "to have bodies of citizens, perpetual and irremovable, avowed at all times by the kings and the nation, who, in whatever form and under whatever denomination they may have existed, concentrate in themselves the general right of all subjects to invoke the law." "Sir, by the law you are king, and you cannot reign but by it," said the Parliament of Dijon's declaration, drawn up by one of the mortarcap presidents (_presidents a mortier_), the gifted president De Brosses. The princes were banished; the provincial Parliaments, mutilated like that of Paris or suppressed like that of Rouen, which was replaced by two superior councils, ceased to furnish a centre for critical and legal opposition. Amidst the rapid decay of absolute power, the transformation and abasement of the Parliaments by Chancellor Maupeou were a skilful and bold attempt to restore some sort of force and unity to the kingly authority. It was thus that certain legitimate claims had been satisfied, the extent of jurisdictions had been curtailed, the salability of offices had been put down, the expenses of justice had been lessened. Voltaire had for a long time past been demanding these reforms, and he was satisfied with them. "Have not the Parliaments often been persecuting and barbarous?" he wrote; "I wonder that the _Welches_ [i. e., Barbarians, as Voltaire playfully called the French] should take the part of those insolent and intractable cits." He added, however, "Nearly all the kingdom is in a boil and consternation; the ferment is as great in the provinces as in Paris itself."


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