history of representative government in France is almost a complete
blank. So long was the period during which the States General were
suspended, that, when at length it was deemed advisable to convene them
again, the chancellor, in his opening address, felt compelled to enter
into explanations respecting the nature and functions of a body which
perhaps not a man living remembered to have seen in session.1 Yet,
while the desuetude into which had fallen the laudable custom of holding
the States every year, or, at least, on occasion of any important matter
for deliberation, might properly be traced to the flood of ambition and
pride which had inundated the world, and to the inordinate covetousness
of kings,2 there were not wanting considerations to mitigate the disappointment
of the people. Chief among them, doubtless, in the view of shrewd observers,
was the fact that the assembling of the States was the invariable prelude to an increase of taxation, and that never had they met without benefiting the king's exchequer at the expense of the purses of his subjects.3 Meanwhile the nation bore with exemplary patience the accumulated
burdens under which it staggered. Natives and foreigners alike were lost
in admiration of its wonderful powers
1 Chancellor L'Hospital's remarkable words were: "Or,
messieurs, parceque nous reprenons l'ancienne coustume de tenir les
estats jà délaissés par le temps de quatre-vingts ans ou environ, où
n'y a mémoire d'homme qui y puisse atteindre, je diray en peu de
paroles que c'est que tenir les estats, pour quelle cause Fon assembloit
les estats, la façon et manière, et qui y présidoit, quel bien en vient
au roy, quel au peuple, et mesmes s'il est utile au roy de tenir les
estats, ou non." The address in full in La Place, Commentaires de
l'Estat de la République, etc. (Ed. Panthéon), 80.
2 Michel Suriano, ubi supra.
3 "Tellement que sous ces beaux et doux appasts, l'on
n'ouvre jamais telles assemblees que le peuple n'y accoure, ne les
embrasse, et ne s'en esiouysse infiniement, ne considerant pas qu'il n'y
a rien qu'il deust tant craindre, comme estant le general refrain
d'iceux, de tirer argent de luy.... Au contraire jamais on ne feit
assemblee generale des trois Estats en cette France, sans accroistre les
finances de nos Roys à la diminution de celles du peuple." Pasquier,
Recherches de la France, l. ii. c. 7, p. 82.
The endurance of the Tiers État. Absolutism of the crown. of endurance. No one suspected that a terrible retribution for this same people's wrongs might one day overtake the successor of a long line of kings, each of whom had added his portion to the crushing load. The Emperor Maximilian was accustomed to divert himself at the expense of the French people. "The king of
France," said he, "is a king of asses; there is no weight that can be
laid upon his subjects which they will not bear without a murmur."1
The warrior and historian Rabutin congratulated the monarchs of France
upon God's having given them, in obedience, the best and most faithful
people in the whole world.2 The Venetian, Matteo Dandolo, declared to
the Doge and Senate that the king might with propriety regard as his own
all the money in France, for, such was the incomparable kindness of the
people, that whatever he might ask for in his need was very gladly
brought to him.3 It was not strange, perhaps, that the ruler of
subjects so exemplary in their eagerness to replenish his treasury as
soon as it gave evidence of being exhausted, came to take about the same
view of the matter. Accordingly, it is related of Francis the First
that, being asked by his guest, Charles the Fifth, when the latter was
crossing France on his way to suppress the insurrection of Ghent, what
revenue he derived from certain cities he had passed through, the king
promptly, replied: "Ce que je veux"--"What I please."4 1 "Il rè di Francia è rè d'asini, perchè il suo popolo
supoorta ogni sorte di peso, senza rechiamo mai." Michel Suriano,
Commentarii (Rel. des Amb. Vén., Tommaseo), i. 486.
2 Guerres de Belgique (Éd. Panthéon), 585.
3 "Egli può riputar poi tutti li danari della Francia esser
suoi; perche nelli suoi bisogni, sempre che li dimanda, gli sono portati
molto volontariamente per la incomparabil benevolenza di essi popoli."
Relaz. Ven. (Albèri), ii. 172.
4 Cayet, Hist. de la guerre sous le règne de Henry IV., i.
248. We shall see that Francis carried out the same ideas of absolute
authority in his dealings both with reputed heresy and with the Gallican
Church itself. He seems even to have believed himself commissioned to do
all the thinking in matters of religion for his more intellectual
sister; for, if Brantôme may be credited, when Constable Montmorency, on
one occasion, had the temerity to suggest to him that all his efforts to
extirpate error in France would be futile until he began with Margaret
of Angoulême, Francis silenced him with the remark: "No more on that
the four Procurators of the nations were entrusted with the
administration of the general interests of the vast scholastic community.
The faculties. Chancellor and rector.
With the rise of new branches of science to contest the supremacy of the
old, the institution of other faculties was called for. The demand was
not conceded without a determined struggle of so serious a character as
to require the intervention of two popes for its settlement.
Nevertheless, before the end of the thirteenth century, the three new
faculties of theology, medicine, and law had assumed their places by the
side of the four original nations. The faculties were represented in the
rector's council by three Deans,
invested with power equal to that enjoyed by the procurators of the
nations. While the rector, always chosen from the faculty of arts,
was the real head of this republic of letters in all that concerned
its inner life and management, the honorable privilege of conferring
the degrees that gave the right to teach belonged to the chancellor
of the university.1 The former, elected every three months,
began and ended his office with solemn processions, the first to
invoke the blessing of heaven upon his labors, the second to render
thanks for their successful termination. The chancellor, holding
office for life, was an ecclesiastic of the church of Paris, originally
the bishop or someone appointed by him, who, if he enjoyed less
direct control over the scholars in their studies, was yet the chief
censor of their morals,2 and the representative of the university
in its dealings with foreign bodies, and especially with the Roman See.3