History of the rise of the huguenots

A long break in the history of representative government

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A long break in the history of representative government.

Compensating advantages.

the Eighth, in 1483, to that of Charles the Ninth, in 1560, the

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

subject! She loves me too much; she will never believe anything but what

I desire." Femmes illustres: Marguerite, reine de Navarre.

Fruits of the abasement of the people.

Yet it must be noted, in passing, that the studied abasement of the

Tiers État had already begun to bear some fruit that should have

alarmed every patriotic heart. It was, as we have seen, impossible to

obtain good French infantry except from Gascony and some other border

provinces. The place that should have been held by natives was filled by

Germans and Swiss. What was the reason? Simply that the common people

had lost the consciousness of their manhood, in consequence of the

degraded position into which the king, and the privileged classes,

imitating his example, had forced them. "Because of their desire to rule

the people with a rod of iron," says Dandolo, "the gentry of the kingdom

have deprived them of arms. They dare not even carry a stick, and are

more submissive to their superiors than dogs!"1 No wonder that all

efforts of Francis to imitate the armies of free states, by instituting

legions of arquebusiers, proved fruitless.2 Add to this that trade

was held in supreme contempt,3 and the picture is certainly

sufficiently dark.
Checks upon the king's authority.

Yet, while, through the absence of any effectual barrier to the exercise

of his good pleasure, the king's authority was ultimately unrestricted,

it must be confessed that there existed, in point of fact, some powerful

checks, rendering the abuse of the royal prerogative, for the most part,

neither easy nor expedient. Parliament, the municipal corporations, the

university, and the clergy, weak as they often proved in a direct

struggle with the crown, nevertheless exerted an influence that ought

not to be overlooked. The most headstrong prince hesitated to disregard

the remonstrances of any one of these bodies, and their united protest

sometimes led to the abandonment of schemes of great promise for the

royal treasury. It is true that parliament, university, and chartered

1 "Stanno a quelli soggetti più che cani." Relaz. Ven., ii.


2 Ibid., ubi supra.

3 "Mercatores aspernantur," says Chassanée in 1527, "ut vile

atque abjectum omnium genus." Catal. Gloriæ Mundi, fol. 200.

borough owed their existence and privileges to the royal will, and that

the power that created could also destroy. But time had invested with a

species of sanctity the venerable institutions established by monarchs

long since dead, and the utmost stretch of royal displeasure went not in

its manifestation further than the mere threat to strip parliament or

university of its privileges, or, at most, the arrest and temporary

imprisonment of the more obnoxious judges or scholars.
The Parliament of Paris

The Parliament of Paris was the legitimate successor of that assembly in

which, in the earlier stage of the national existence, the great vassals

came together to render homage to the lord paramount and aid him by

their deliberations. This feudal parliament was transformed into a

judicial parliament toward the end of the thirteenth century. With the

change of functions, the chief crown officers were admitted to seats in

the court. Next, the introduction of a written procedure, and the

establishment of a more complicated legislation, compelled the

illiterate barons and the prelates to call in the assistance of

graduates of the university, acquainted with the art of writing and

skilled in law. These were appointed by the king to the office of

counsellors.1 In 1302, parliament, hitherto migratory, following the

king in his journeys, was made stationary at Paris. Its sessions were

fixed at two in each year, held at Easter and All Saints respectively.

The judicial body was subdivided into several "chambers," according to

the nature of the cases upon which it was called to act.
Becomes the supreme court.

From this time the Parliament of Paris assumed appellate jurisdiction

over all France, and became the supreme court of justice. But the burden

of prolonged sessions, and the necessity now imposed upon the members of

residing at least four months out of every year in the capital, proved

an irksome restraint both to prelates and to noblemen. Their attendance,

therefore, began now to be less constant. As early as in 1320 the

bishops and other ecclesiastical officers were excused, on the ground

that their duty to their dioceses and sacred functions demanded their

presence elsewhere. From

1 Mignet, ubi supra, ii. 173.

the general exemption the Bishop of Paris and

the Abbot of St. Denis alone were excluded, on account of their

proximity to the seat of the court. About the beginning of the fifteenth

century, the members, taking advantage of the weak reign of Charles the

Sixth, made good their claim to a life-tenure in their offices.1

Provincial parliaments.

The rapid increase of cases claiming the attention of the Parliament of

Paris suggested the erection of similar tribunals in the chief cities of

the provinces added to the original estates of the crown. Before the

accession of Francis the First a provincial parliament had been

instituted at Toulouse, with jurisdiction over the extensive domain once

subject to the illustrious counts of that city; a second, at Grenoble,

for Dauphiny; a third, at Bordeaux, for the province of Guyenne

recovered from the English; a fourth, at Dijon, for the newly acquired

Duchy of Burgundy; a fifth, at Rouen, to take the place of the inferior

"exchequer" which had long had its seat there; and a sixth, at

Aix-en-Provence, for the southeast of France.2

Claim to the right of remonstrance.

To their judicial functions, the Parliament of Paris, and to a minor

degree the provincial parliaments, had insensibly added other functions

purely political. In order to secure publicity for their edicts, and

equally with the view of establishing the authenticity of documents

purporting to emanate from the crown, the kings of France had early

desired the insertion of all important decrees in the parliamentary

records. The registry was made on each occasion by express order of the

judges, but with no idea on their part that this form was essential to

the validity of a royal ordinance. Presently, however, the novel theory

was advanced that parliament had the right of refusing to record an

obnoxious law, and that, without the formal recognition of parliament,

no edict

1 See the sketch by Daniel, Histoire de France, reprinted in

Leber, Collection de pièces relatives à l'histoire de France, vi, 266,

etc.; also Mignet, ubi supra, ii. 177, etc.

2 Mignet, ubi supra, ii. 212; Floquet, Histoire du

parlement de Normandie, tom. i.; Daniel, ubi supra; Vicomte de

Bastard-D'Estang, Les parlements de France, i. 189.

could be allowed to affect the decisions of the supreme or of any inferior tribunal.

Indulgence of the crown. The Chancellor's oath.

In the exercise or this assumed prerogative, the judges undertook to

send a remonstrance to the king, setting forth the pernicious

consequences that might be expected to flow from the proposed measure if

put into execution. However unfounded in history, the claim of the

Parliament of Paris appears to have been viewed with indulgence by

monarchs most of whom were not indisposed to defer to the legal

knowledge of the counsellors, nor unwilling to enhance the consideration

of the venerable and ancient body to which the latter belonged. In all

cases, however, the final responsibility devolved upon the sovereign.

Whenever the arguments and advice of parliament failed to convince him,

the king proceeded in person to the audience-chamber of the refractory

court, and there, holding a lit-de-justice, insisted upon the

immediate registration, or else sent his express command by one of his

most trusty servants. The judges, in either case, were forced to

succumb--often, it must be admitted, with a very bad grace--and admit

the law to their records. We shall soon have occasion to note one of the

most striking instances of this unequal contest between king and

parliament, in which power rather than right or learning won the day. In

spite, however, of occasional checks, parliament manfully and

successfully maintained its right to throw obstacles in the way of hasty

or inconsiderate legislation. In this it was often efficiently assisted

by the Chancellor of France, the highest judicial officer of the crown,

to whom, on his assuming office, an oath was administered containing a

very explicit promise to exercise the right of remonstrance with the

king before affixing the great seal of state to any unjust or

unreasonable royal ordinance.1
1 The formula is worthy of attention: "Quand on vous

apportera à sceller quelque lettre, signée par le commandement du Roi,

si elle n'est de justice et raison, ne la scellerez point, encore que

ledit Seigneur le commandast par une ou deux fois; mais viendrez devers

iceluy Seigneur, et lui remonstrerez tous les points par lesquels ladite

lettre n'est pas raisonnable, et après que aura entendu lesdita points,

s'il vous commande la sceller, la scellerez, car lors le péché en sera

sur ledit Seigneur et non sur vous." In full in M. de Saint-Allais, De

l'ancienne France (Paris, 1834), ii. 91; see also Capefigue, François

Premier et la Renaissance, i. 106.

Abuses in the administration of justice.

Not that either the Parliament of Paris or the provincial parliaments

were free of grave defects deserving the severe animadversion of

impartial observers. It was probably no worse with the Parliament of

Bordeaux than with its sister courts;1 yet, when Charles the Ninth

visited that city in 1564, honest Chancellor L'Hospital seized the

opportunity to tell the judges some of their failings. The royal

ordinances were not observed. Parliamentary decisions ranked above

commands of the king. There were divisions and violence. In the civil

war some judges had made themselves captains. Many of them were

avaricious, timid, lazy and inattentive to their duties. Their behavior

and their dress were "dissolute." They had become negligent in judging,

and had thrown the burden of prosecuting offences upon the shoulders of

the king's attorney, originally appointed merely to look after the royal

domain. They had become the servants of the nobility for hire. There

was not a lord within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Bordeaux but

had his own chancellor in the court to look after his interests.2 It

was sufficiently characteristic that the same judicial body of which

such things were said to its face (and which neither denied their truth

nor grew indignant), should have been so solicitous for its dignity as

to send the monarch, upon his approach to the city, an earnest petition

that its members should not be constrained to kneel when his Majesty

entered their court-room! To which the latter dryly responded, "their

genuflexion would not make him any less a king than he already


1 Certainly not than with the Parliament of Aix. See its

shortcomings in the papers of Prof. Joly, of the Faculté des Lettres of

Caen, entitled "Les juges des Vaudois: Mercuriales du parlement de

Provence au XVI^e siècle, d'après des documents inédits." Bulletin de

l'hist. du Prot. fr., xxiv. (1875), 464-471, 518-523, 555-564.

2 "Qu'il n'y a pas un seigneur en ce ressort, qui n'aye son

chancelier en ceste Cour." Boscheron des Portes, Histoire du parlement

de Bordeaux (Bordeaux, 1877), i. 191-194, from Registers of Parliament.

3 "La génuflexion ne le ferait pas moins roi qu'il était."

Ibid., i. 185.

The University of Paris.

Among the forces that tended to limit the arbitrary exercise of the

royal authority, the influence of the University of Paris is entitled to

a prominent place. Nothing had added more lustre to the rising glory of

the capital than the possession of the magnificent institution of

learning, the foundation of which was lost in the mist of remote

antiquity. Older than the race of kings who had for centuries held the

French sceptre, the university owed its origin, if we are to believe the

testimony of its own annals, to the munificent hand of Charlemagne, in

the beginning of the ninth century. Careful historical criticism must

hesitate to accept as conclusive the slender proof offered in support of

the story.1 It is, perhaps, safer to regard one of the simple schools

instituted at an early period in connection with cathedrals and

monasteries as having contained the humble germ from which the proud

university was slowly developed. But, by the side of this original

foundation there had doubtless grown up the schools of private

instructors, and these had acquired a certain prominence before the

confluence of scholars to Paris from all quarters rendered necessary an

attempt to introduce order into the complicated system, by the formation

of that union of all the teachers and scholars to which the name of

universitas was ultimately given.
If the origin of the University of Paris, like that of the greater

number of human institutions, was insignificant when viewed in the light

of its subsequent growth, the meagreness of the early course of

instruction was almost incredible to those who, in an age of richer

mental acquisitions, listened to the prelections of its numerous and

learned doctors. The Trivium and the Quadrivium constituted the

whole cycle of human knowledge. Grammar, logic, and rhetoric were

embraced in the one; music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy in the

other. He was indeed a prodigy of erudition whose comprehensive

1 See Pasquier's conclusive argument in his chapter: "Que

l'opinion est erronée par laquelle on attribue l'institution de

l'Université de Paris à l'Empereur Charlemagne." Recherches de la

France, 800. So universally accepted, however, in Pasquier's time, was

the story of Charlemagne's agency in the matter, that "de croire le

contraire c'est estre hérétique en l'histoire," p. 798.

intellect had mastered the details of these, the seven liberal arts, or,

to use a familiar line of the period,

Qui tria, qui septem, qui omne scibile novit.

But the ignorant pedagogues of the eleventh century gave place, in the

early part of the twelfth, to instructors of real merit--to Peter

Abelard, among others, and to his pupil Peter Lombard, the fame of whose

lectures attracted to Paris great crowds of youth eager to become

proficient in philosophy and

The four nations.

Hitherto there had been but one faculty--the Faculty of Arts; but among

the students a distribution into four "nations" had been effected. The

Nation of France embraced the students coming from the royal

dominions, which then comprised a limited territory, with Paris as its

capital, together with the students of Italy, Spain, and the east. The

Nation of Picardy consisted of students from the province of that name

and from the neighboring County of Flanders. The Nation of Normandy

received youths belonging to the rich provinces of Normandy and

Brittany, and to the west. The Nation of England gathered those who

came from the British Isles, as well as from the extensive territories

in southwestern France long held by the kings of England. After the

reconquest of Guyenne, however, the German students became the

controlling element in the fourth nation, and the designation was

changed to the Nation of Germany. The Rector of the university and

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

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