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quence of this regulation was, that confpicuous fituations in the parliaments were frequently filled by very young men, and the courts thus obtained the advantage of uniting the activity and ardour incident to that period with the experience and caution of maturer years. The operation of thefe advantages was frequently visible in the history of France. Their remonftrances are of a date as diftant as the reign of Louis the Eleventh; they gradually became more active, and of more perceptible influence; they had particularly appeared as a curb and reftraint upon the administration of the laft reign during a period of fifty years, till at length it was refolved entirely to annihilate them; a refolution that was carried into effect in January 1771. At the commencement of the prefent reign in 1774, it was thought proper to begin with the popular measure of their restoration; and at this time their privileges, the offspring of innumerable encroachments, were limited and defined.
The government of Louis the Sixteenth had proceeded with little interruption on their part, till about the middle of the adminiftration of Mr. de Calonne. In the year 1785 that minifter was involved in a violent controverfy with the parliament of Bourdeaux, upon a question refpecting the royal domains; and in the clofe of that year the parliament of Paris was with extreme difficulty prevailed upon to regifter the loan with which the accounts of the year were concluded. They remonftrated against fuch a measure as highly prodigal, at a time when the war had already ceafed near three years. Mr. de Calonne, who forefaw that the fituation of the finances would by no means permit this to be
the laft extraordinary pecuniary ope ration of government, conceived himself obliged to have recourse to a political expedient answerable to the emergency, and not to risk the reputation of government by a renewal of the ftruggle with the fupreme court of judicature. The notables were affembled: they parted without doing what adminiftration expected from them; and that fituation, which Mr. de Calonne feared to encounter, was deftined to try the ability of the archbishop of Toulouse. He had hitherto ventured only upon a petty loan of 250,000l.; he was now to enter upon the greater and more arduous business of taxation.
The first step adopted by adminiftration in purfuance of the plan they had now digefted, was the efta blifhment of the new council of fi nances; and the regulation for that purpofe is dated on the fifth of June. This measure appears to have been extremely popular, as it was fuppofed that many profufe and prodigal measures had at all times been adopted by government, in confequence of the irrefponsible manner in which the revenues were con ducted, there exifting no practical check on the controller general, who, if he were able to prevail upon the mind of the king, might in the most covert manner difpofe of the public money. By the prefent regulation an efficient council of finances was introduced, to confift of the keeper of the feals, the prefident of the finances, the minifters of ftate, the controller general, and two counsellors. This council was to meet at least once in every month; was to fuperintend the loans, the taxes, and all the principal opera tions of finance; was to exercife the annual diftribution of funds neceffary to the different departments,
and to prepare for the prefs an annual account, to be published in the month of December, of the revenues of the enfuing year. This regulation was accompanied with certain fuppreffions of office and retrenchments in the departments fubordinate to the controller general. It was also upon this occafion that the duke de Nivernois, who had diftinguished himself in feveral embaffies as well as in certain productions of polite literature, and Mr. de Malefherbes, uncle to the keeper of the feals, and who had been celebrated for his writings in favour of the civil establishment of the proteftants, were declared minifters and counsellors of state.
It was reported that minifters had at this time conceived the project, which was in a future inftance carried into execution, of a féance royale in the parliament of Paris, differing from a bed of juftice, be cause the members would in this cafe have freely been permitted in the prefence of the king to debate the measures they were called upon to regifter, and because a bed of juftice has ufually been fubfequent to the diicution of the laws and the remonftrances of the courts, while the féance royale was intended to accompany the introduction of the edicts, and to fuperfede delay. It was confidered as equally belonging to the nature of both thefe proceed ings, to conclude with a peremptory regifter by the fole authority of the king.
If this meafure had been at all in contemplation, it was however for the prefent poftponed. The characteristic of the adminiftration of the archbishop of Touloufe was irrefolution and the want of fyftem; and the confequence of this feature was, that men perceived he had
harsh measures in referve, and were not influenced by his expoftulations, or were fatisfied that he had not fortitude enough for a series of feverities, and therefore gave no attention to his threats.
On the twelfth of June, the day faid to have been deftined for the féance royale, four edicts were fent to the parliament of Paris to be regiftered, for eftablishing the provincial affemblies, for liberating the commerce of grain, for abolishing the corvée in kind, and for impofing the duty upon ftamps. The three firft of thefe were registered, not without a confiderable degree of difcuffion, upon the twenty-fecond, the twenty-fifth, and twenty-eighth days of June refpectively.
The ftamp tax was destined to encounter a greater degree of difficulty. The parliament was entirely filent refpecting it till the fixth of the fol lowing month. They then voted an addrefs to the fovereign, demanding the communication of fuch docu ments as fhould enable them to judge of the neceflity of introducing new taxes, and of the extent and folidity that were likely to be given to the promised retrenchments. The king, they obferved, had engaged himself with the conclufion of the year publish the account of the receipt and expenditure; but, if the people were entitled to information in the fequel, the parliament had a claim to it previously to regiftering the tax, as the very name of verifying the royal edicts implied.
This addrefs was by no means fa, vourably received by adminiftration. The parliament enforced their de mand by remarking, that that which they now required had already been granted to the affembly of notables; but it was conceived by their antagonists, that the parB 2
liaments and the notables ftood upon a very different footing. The notables had neither a fixed character nor a permanent exiftence. They were compofed of perfons nominated by the king, and called together upon particular emergencies at his difcretion. Extraordinary indul gences might therefore be granted to them, without feeming to involve the establishment of general principles which might one day be turned to the difadvantage of the grantor. But the parliament was a permanent body. Its invafions on the crown had already been attended with confiderable fuccefs. If therefore the exiting form of government were thought in any degree worthy of defence, it fhould feem neceffary to have refifted the prefent demand.
But if the exifting form of government were to be abandoned, it might be ftill open for confideration what form fhould be fubflituted in its place. The demand of the parliament was of no equivocal nature. They had fixed upon the most valuable prerogative incident to a national affembly, and which, if once fecurely placed in their hands, would have amounted to a furrender at difcretion of the monarchical fupremacy. To call for documents and accounts, to investigate through their affiftance the allegations, and enquire into the conduct of minifters, is the unalienable right of the reprefentatives of a free people. But the most fervent advocate of freedom might be permitted to doubt, whether vesting this right in fo limited an aristocracy as the parHament of Paris, could poffibly conduce to the general welfare. It was however little likely that fuch a ceffion fhould be-advifed under the adminiftration of the archbishop of Touloufe, who had long profeffed
to be, upon the moft liberal princi ples, the adverfary of the ambitious prerogatives of the juridical corps.
In the mean time the parliament perfifted in its requifition. They prefented on the fifteenth of July a fecond addrefs, in which they flated that they were bound in a double capacity, being to their fellowfubjects the organ of majefty, and to majefty the furety of his fubjects' loyalty and obedience. Thus called upon, they felt themfelves obliged to repeat their former requefts; and they intreated the king, by the fidelity they had fworn to him, to grant him their confidence. They would never abuse it; it was neceffary for the good of his service, and would fecure the welfare of his people; in the fovereigns of France the language of confidence had ever been the moft fuccessful attraction to love and obedience. This addrefs experienced the fame fate as that which had preceded it.
It was however at this conjuncture that the parliament of Paris adopted a new line of conduct, which fixed upon them at once the attention of their country and of Europe. The idea of affembling the ftates-general of the kingdom had been obfcurely hinted at in the refolutions of the notables, and had formed a frequent topic of their difcuffions. This idea, new, interefting, and fublime, was calculated to attract the attention of certain young and enterprising minds in the juridical corps. Without nicely calculating the nature of fuch a meafure, or the effects it might be expected to produce, they fubftituted fervour and enthusiasm in the place of investigation. The true foundation of political freedom had already been laid. It had been infinuated by the moft refpectable authority,
that the nation alone, affembled in its representatives, had the right of taxation. Such an opinion, fo authenticated, was not likely in the prefent enlightened flate of the human mind to remain in barrennefs and inactivity. From the notables the flame had diffufed itself with different degrees of vehemence in the public and the parliaments. Previously to the period at which we are arrived, it had been repeatedly moved to fupplicate the fovereign to affemble the states-general of the kingdom; and the propofition, after long debates, had in each inftance been rejected by ftill decreafing majorities. The day, upon which this important vote ultimately adopted, was the fixteenth of July.
It has fufficiently appeared by the event, that, when the parliament of Paris declared themselves in favour of a national affembly, they gave the death's wound to the ambitious and ufurping prerogatives which had long formed the exclufive object of their purfuit. If they had been able to reafon with the elevation of genuine philofophers, and to fee the event in the caufes that produced it, it is fcarcely to be fuppofed that they would have been thus eager to co-operate for their own deftruction. But they judged of the future by the paft. They faw that the ftates-general of France had frequently been affembled without adopting any one important meafure; and they hoped, that the event in the prefent inftance would be fimilar, or that at leaft their plans would rather tend to introduce fome trifling reftrictions upon the exifting government, than to erect an entire fyftem of liberty upon its ruins. They fimply voted, that "a national affembly would be
neceffary previoufly to the impofition of a new tax ;" and they no doubt imagined, that the ftates-general, who would owe their exiftence to the parliamentary remonftrances, would gratefully confine their dif cuffions within the limits that the parliaments prefcribed to them. At any rate new taxes could not frequently be neceffary; the ftates-general that met to-day would at the clofe of their meeting be adjourned fine die; and in the interval of their precarious feffions business would fpeedily return into its old channel.
It cannot be very hazardous to affirm, that thofe members who were actuated by an exclufive and monopolifing fpirit, and thefe conftituted a vaft majority, felt no very anxious impatience to obtain what they very importunately demanded. But this is no uncommon exhibition of human character. Government treated them in the prefent inftance with a greater degree of phlegm and moderation than they expected or defired. If the taxes had been given up to their remonftrances, they would have acquired no contemptible fhare of popularity. If on the other hand the king fhould have recourfe to a bed of juftice, to a register by compulfion, to arbitrary imprifonment and exile, they would appear to be fuffering in the public caufe, and would acquire the reputation of martyrs. But thus to leave them to themselves was the most cruel of all dilemmas. They could not stand still they would hardly be willing to retract. Every moment in which no new incident occurred, tended to weaken their intereft in the public opinion. Nor was this all; the parliamentary ftruggles had never obtained more than a partial popularity; and, now that the minds of
men feemed to be awakening to the great fundamental queftions of government, were likely to be lefs interesting than before, To act their part with grace and effect, it was neceffary they fhould adopt the paffions and predilections of their countrymen, They would, by this means, acquire the reputation of the utmoft difintereftednefs, without, as they appear to have conceived, rifking the lofs of any thing to which they were confiderably attached.
The remonftrance of the parliament defcanted with great feverity upon the late adminiftration; and, as the idea of remonftrating had originated with the youngest and moft adventurous members of the affembly, the compofition was every where fraught with falfe facts, and daring and groundlefs affertions. They began in the highest ftyle of exaggeration. They remarked, that after five years of peace, after an augmentation of revenue during the prefent reign to the amount of 5,400,000 it was fcarcely to have been expected, that the name of tax fhould have been pronounced by a beneficent fovereign, but for the purpose of alleviating the burthens of the people. They alluded to the preamble of the loan of 1785, in which Mr. de Calonne had afferted, that the difcharge of the arrears of the war was now nearly completed, and the refources of France approaching to a moft profperous itate. They fpoke of the zeal which they had then fruitlefsly exerted to difclofe the embarraffed and ruinous tate of the finances; and they reprefented all the misfortunes of France, as accruing from the king's choice of a minifter, who feemed to be difapproved by the voice of the public, that voice which
can fcarcely err, because a multitude of men can hardly receive an impreffion contrary to the truth.
The remonftrance farther expreffed great anxiety respecting the promifed retrenchments. Such projects were too apt to prove fallacious. Men applauded them loudly in the grofs, and oppofed them in the detail. Perhaps the defign was already in part undermined; perhaps the men upon whom the reform preffed the moft feverely, had already excited doubts refpecting its extent or its duration. Sure they were, that, if the king had fooner understood the real fituation of the finances, he would not have permitted the prodigality of a recent period, immenfe buildings, extenfive purchafes, fcandalous liberalities, and, above all, the palace which had lately been erected for the clerks of the revenue. They had no doubt, that, if an impartial fcrutiny were exerted, the reforms, inftead of amounting to 1,660,000 1. might eafily be raised to double that fum per annum.
They proceeded to speak of the flamp tax, which had been approved by the affembly of notables, in the fevereft terms. It was more dangerous than the exploded gabelle. The gabelle only opened a door to fraud and deception; the ftamp tax oppreffed the nation through the medium of erroneous judgment. The minuteft accuracy could fearcely be fufficient to diftinguish among the vaft variety of ftamps; men would daily,' nay hourly, be expofed to punishment for an unintentional error; and the bafis of civil policy would be undermined by their not daring to produce in a court of juftice the most authentic vouchers, because they were not written upon ftamped paper. The tax was a