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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Members of the noblesse of Brittany


useful ameliorations in the criminal legislation, amongst others total abolition of torture, completed the sum of edicts. A decree of the council declared all the parliarnents prorogued until the formation of the great bailliecourts. The plenary court was to assemble forthwith at Versailles. It only sat once; in presence of the opposition amongst the majority of the men summoned to compose it, the ministers, unforeseeing and fickle even with all their ability and their boldness, found themselves obliged to adjourn the sittings indefinitely. All the members of the Parliament of Paris had bound themselves by a solemn oath not to take a place in any other assembly. "In case of dispersal of the magistracy," said the resolution entered upon the registers of the court, "the Parliament places the present act as a deposit in the hands of the king, of his august family, of the peers of the realm, of the States- general, and of each of the orders, united or separate, representing the nation."

At sight of this limitation, less absolute and less cleverly calculated, of the attempts made by Chancellor Maupeou, after seventeen years' rapid marching towards a state of things so novel and unheard of, the commotion was great in Paris; the disturbance, however, did not reach to the masses, and the disorder in the streets was owing less to the Parisian populace than to mendicants, rascals of sinister mien, flocking in, none knew why, from the four points of

the compass. The provinces were more seriously disturbed. All the sovereign courts rose up with one accord; the Parliament of Rouen declared "traitors to the king, to the nation, to the province, perjured and branded with infamy, all officers and judges" who should proceed in virtue of the ordinances of May 8. "The authority of the king is unlimited for doing good to his subjects," said one of the presidents, "but everybody should put limits to it when it turns towards oppression." It was the very commandant of the royal troops whom the magistrates thus reproached with their passive obedience.

Normandy confined herself to declarations and speeches; other provinces went beyond those bounds: Brittany claimed performance "of the marriage contract between Louis XII. and the Duchess Anne." Notwithstanding the king's prohibition, the Parliament met at Rennes. A detachment of soldiers having been ordered to disperse the magistrates, a band of gentlemen, supported by an armed mob, went to protect the deliberations of the court. Fifteen officers fought duels with fifteen gentlemen. The court issued a decree of arrest against the holders of the king's commission. The youth of Nantes hurried to the aid of the youth of Rennes. The intermediary commission of the states ordered the bishops to have the prayers said which were customary in times of public calamity, and a hundred and thirty gentlemen carried to the governor a declaration signed by the noblesse of almost the whole province. "We, members of the noblesse of Brittany, do declare infamous those who may accept any place, whether in the new administration of justice or in the administration of the states, which is not recognized by the laws and constitutions of the province." A dozen of them set off for Versailles to go and denounce the ministers to Louis XVI. Being put in the Bastille, eighteen of their friends went to demand then back; they were followed by fifty others. The officers of the Bassigny regiment had taken sides with the opposition, and discussed the orders sent to them. Among the great lords of the province, attached to the king's own person, MM. de La Tremoille, de Rieux, and de Guichen left the court to join their protests to those of their friends; the superintendent, Bertrand de Molleville, was hanged- in effigy and had to fly.

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