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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The exon looked all round the room


The

indiscretion of a printer made M. d'Espremesnil acquainted with the great designs which were in preparation; at his instigation the Parliament issued a declaration as to the reciprocal rights and duties of the monarch and the nation. "France," said the resolution, "is a monarchy hereditary from male to male, governed by the king following the laws; it has for fundamental laws the nation's right to freely grant subsidies by means of the States-general convoked and composed according to regulation, the customs and capitulations of the provinces, the irremovability of the magistrates, the right of the courts to enregister edicts, and that of each citizen to be judged only by his natural judges, without liability ever to be arrested arbitrarily." "The magistrates must cease to exist before the nation ceases to be free," said a second protest.

Bold and defiant in its grotesque mixture of the ancient principles of the magistracy with the novel theories of philosophy, the resolution of the Parliament was quashed by the king. Orders were given to arrest M. d'Espremesnil and a young councillor, Goislard de Montsabert, who had proposed an inquiry into the conduct of the comptrollers commissioned to collect the second twentieth. The police of the Parliament was perfect and vigilant; the two magistrates were warned and took refuge in the Palace of Justice; all the chambers were assembled and the peers convoked. Ten or a dozen appeared, notwithstanding

the king's express prohibition.

The Parliament had placed the two threatened members "under the protection of the king and of the law;" the premier president, at the head of a deputation, had set out for Versailles to demand immunity for the accused; the court was in session awaiting his return.

The mob thronged the precincts of the Palace, some persons had even penetrated into the grand chamber; no deliberations went on. Towards midnight, several companies of the French guards entered the hall of the Pas-Perdus; all the exits were guarded. The court was in commotion, the young councillors demanded that the deliberations should go on publicly. "Gentlemen," said President de Gourgues, "would you derogate from the ancient forms?" The spectators withdrew. The Marquis d'Agoult, aide-major of the French guards, demanded admission; he had orders from the king. The ushers opened the doors; at sight of the magistrates in scarlet robes, motionless upon their seats, the officer was for a moment abashed; he cast his eye from bench to bench, his voice faltered when he read the order signed by the king to arrest "MM. d'Espremesnil and De Montsabert, in the grand chamber or elsewhere." "The court will proceed to deliberate thereon, sir," replied the president. "Your forms are to deliberate," hotly replied M. d'Agoult, who had recovered himself; "I know nothing of those forms, the king's orders must be executed without delay; point out to me those whom I have to arrest." Silence reigned throughout the hall; not a word, not a gesture indicated the accused. Only the dukes and peers made merry aloud over the nobleman charged with so disagreeable a mission: he repeated his demand: "We are all d'Espremesnil and Montsabert," exclaimed the magistrates. M. d'Agoult left the room.

He soon returned, accompanied by an exon of the short robe, named Larchier. "Show me whom I have to arrest," was the officer's order. The exon looked all round the room; he knew every one of the magistrates; the accused were sitting right in front of him. "I do not see MM. d'Espremesnil and Montsabert anywhere," he at last said, tremulously. M. d'Agoult's threats could not get any other answer out of him.


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