to grant or to raife any money by the levy of new taxes upon the people; a declaration evidently defigned to lay the king under a neceffity of convoking the ftates general of the kingdom.

Whatever were the particular motives of the party by whofe influence that body was induced to make this voluntary furrender of its authority, the new doctrine ran like wild-fire through the nation. In proportion to the general odiousness of taxes, was the joy at this emancipation from all actual authority to raife new ones; whilst the patriotifm of that body, which had thus teftified its own incompetence, in order thereby to establish the difqualification of the crown, was fcarcely less than idolized. Thus circumftanced, it would not have been eafy for the parliament, however inclined, to retract its own meafure, and to refume a competence which it formally declared it did not poffefs; as little could it renew that ancient authority in the crown, which it had juft endea voured to cancel,

In the mean time that fpirit of liberty which we have heretofore had occafion to take notice of, and for the growth and progrefs of which we then affigned different causes, was not only now every where fpread, but feemed already, in fome inftances and places, difpofed to over-leap all reftraints, and to trample upon that diftinction of ranks, and thofe lines of fubordination, which had hitherto not only been deemed neceffary to the well being of government, but even to the prefervation of fociety.

This was accompanied by its ufual concomitant, a fpirit of inno. vation, which attempted to reach and to embrace every thing, The

French feemed transformed to a nation of projectors; and every projector wished to be a reformer. Nothing almoft could be heard. or listened to but reforms; and the language and difpofition feemed to become as prevalent at court as with the people or parliaments. Two inftances, however, occurred, in which this fpirit was landably and advantageoufly exerted. The firft was a general reform in the codes both of civil and criminal justice, a reform long wifhed, and than which nothing could be more wanted; but its difficulty and magnitude had hitherto deterred any minifter from venturing upon fo arduous an undertaking. M. de Lamoignon, the keeper of the feals, had not only the courage to encounter thefe difficulties, but the happinefs and honour to form fo excellent a plan for compleating the defign, as to leave but little to be done by those who were defined to be his fucceffors in carrying it into execution. And, for the relief of thofe perfons who might be liable to trial in the interim, before the great work could be perfected, he introduced feveral moft humane and effential regulations into the immediate proceedings of the criminal courts; particularly with respect to evidence, and the mode of obtaining it (in which the system was extremely faulty) and ftill more particularly in thofe cafes where the life of the accused was affected.


The fecond was the edict in favour of the proteftants, which was introduced by the king on the memorable 19th of November, and was registered by the parliament on the 29th of January 1788. This edict contained 37 articles, the greater number as well as the most effential of which, were those re

lating to marriages, births, baptifms, and burials, fubjects which had frequently been the cause of great trouble, difficulty, and grievance to the proteftants, with refpect to the legitimacy of their iffue, and the legal descent of their inheritances. While all France was waiting with the utmost attention and folicitude, the iffue of the conteft between the king and the parliament of Paris, relative to lettres de cachet, an incident took place in Langue doc which threw the whole kingdom into a ferment upon that fubject. M. de Catalan, the prefident of the parliament of Tholoufe, having, in conjunction with that body, refufed to regifter the late edict for levying a tax of two twentieths on the nation, the king immediately or dered a lettre de cachet to be iffued against the prefident, the execution of which was committed to the count de Perigord, governor general of the province. M. de Catalan was accordingly arrefted, and fent prifoner to an old caftle at the foot of the Pyrenean mountains.

The month of April brought on an argumentative written difcuffion between the parliament of Paris and the king, which afforded not only a more full explanation of the refpective claims of the parties than had yet appeared, but likewife fome view of their feparate opinions with refpect to fundry great questions of law, upon which the French conftitution was either fuppofed to be founded, or its prefervation appendant.

April 11th. The parliament prefented a remonftrance, in which, representing the 19th of November as the epoch of a direct attempt to fubvert the public rights, and to establish defpotism, and itat

ing all the fubfequent proceedings as a continuation of the fame fyltem, they inform the king that his parliament can never allow, that one act of arbitrary power fhould deftroy the effential rights by which his fubjects had been governed for 1300 years paft. They then enumerate feveral loofe indefinite charges against government, as the grounds or juftification of the prefent remonftrance,that public liberty is attacked in its very principles; that defpotifm is fubstituted for the law of the land; that the privileges of magiftracy are trampled upon, and parliament made the mere inftrument of arbitrary power.

They declare that their privileges are not their own; that they are. the property of the people at large, and that they, as trustees or confervators, are bounden to preserve them from violation. That the will of the king, alone, does not make a law complete, nor does the fimple expreffion of that will conftitute the formal act of the nation. It is neceffary that the king's will, in order to be effective, fhould be published under legal authority; and that in order to make the publication of it legal, it must have been firft freely difcuffed. Such, fire! are the principles of the French conftitution."

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In fupport of this doctrine they go back to the early stages of the French monarchy, and endeavour to fhew from history, the ancient as well as the more recent circumftances which attended the pafling of laws, and which they reprefent as having been held indifpenfably neceffary to give them validity. Under the first race of kings, the fovereign being furrounded by his court, either prefented a new law



to the people, or they demanded one. In the firft inftance, the acceptance of the people, whofe fuffrages were entirely free, established the law: in the second, the propofed law was confidered and debated by the court, (which was the royal council) according to whofe fuffrages, which were equally and inviolably free as thofe of the people, it was confirmed by the king's affent, or rejected. The fame order was observed under the second race. The court was compofed of noblemen, bishops, and fenators. They were ftyled the adjutants, co-operators, and adminiftrators of the public weal. In all cafes, laws were enacted with the confent of the people, and the confirmation of the king through his court.

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Under the third race of kings, they say, that the form of government did not change, although the court went under different names. It was at different times called the king's court, the court of France, the royal court, the common council, and the parliament.

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Upon the whole it does not feem that the information obtained by thefe refearches into the ancient hiftory of the French monarchy, was much to the purpose, or ferved to throw any additional light upon the subjects of the prefent difputes. The confent of the people to the paffing of laws would have been equally curious and important, if it had been fhewn in what manner it was given or obtained whether the whole nation affembled in one vaft plain, to afford the fanction of its confufed voice; or whether the fuffrages were communicated by delegation. It might perhaps be found no lefs difficult


to establish the fact in one cafe than in the other.

It is always to be remembered in confidering these contefts, (and though we have heretofore mentioned it, it is of fo much confe quence to the fubject that wę fhall venture to repeat the observation) that the French parliaments are properly courts of juftice. That thefe bodies are merely adminiftrators of the laws, without any power to make, or even, in the smalleft degree, to alter or amend them. And that they are not farther removed from the powers of legiflation, than from the moft diftant pretence of being confidered in any degree as the reprefentatives of the people. The powers of legiflation have refided folely in the crown, ever fince the convocation of the flates has fallen into difufe; and it poffeffed them equally before, in the intervals between the meetings of thofe affemblies.

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We have formerly fhewn, that the practice of calling upon the parliaments, or courts of juftice, to enregifter the king's edicts, did not originate in an idea of their communicating any authority or force to thofe laws, nor even with a view of receiving their approbation, but merely as notaries to record and authenticate their existence, and thereby, as well to promulgate them, as to prevent any doubts being entertained by the public of their reality. The parliaments, however, as their popularity and power increased, and times and circumstances proved favourable to the defign, affumed a right of judging whether thefe edicts were injurious to the public; and if this was determined in the affirmative, they, under the colour of a fort


of legal fiction, refused to register them. For they pretended, that being injurious to the people, and contrary to the king's wifdom, juftice, or clemency, they did not believe them to be the king's real acts, but confidered them as an impofition practifed by his minifters; and on this ground they prefented memorials or remonftrances to the king, placing, in the ftrongeft colours they could, all the evil confequences which they prefumed would attend their being paffed into laws.

In troublesome times, or under weak administrations, this oppofition was frequently fuccefsful, and the contested point was given up by the king. But if the governing power was firm and determined, the king had recourfe to what was called a bed of justice; that is, he went in perfon, attended by feveral of the great officers of ftate, to authenticate and confirm his own deed, in the prefence of the parliament, all the members of which had previous notice to attend; and as all debate was precluded by his prefence, he had nothing farther to do, than to order the edict to be registered, a command which he faw executed upon the spot. The circumftance of the French courts of justice holding the fame name with the English parliament, we prefumed might render this illuftration not entirely unneceffary, although it be in part a repetition.

We now return from this digreffion to the remonftrance. After the quotations from hiftory, and precedents which they had adduced, the parliament tell the king bluntly, that he could not fuppofe himself able, in defiance of all thefe teftimonies, to destroy the conftitution at a fingle blow, by concentrating parliament

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glory of triumphing over the "laws; but we will venture to an"fwer to your majefty, for the cou

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rage and fidelity of those who "have the execution of them."

The king, in his anfwer, after obferving that he had perufed their remonftrances very attentively, profeffes to answer them with fuch precifion, that they fhould no longer doubt of his intentions, nor again attempt to oppose them. He tells them it was quite unneceffary to talk to him of the nature or prefcription of enregiftering, or of the manner which they adopted in giving their fuffrages. When he went to his parliament upon the fubject of a new edict, it was in order to benefit by their difcuffion of it, and from the light which he thus received, to determine in his own mind, after hearing their arguments and opinions, upon the propriety of pafing the law, and of having it accordingly regillered. This was exactly what he had done on the 19th of November. Every thing had been conducted precifely according to law, and to the ancient and established forms, at that fitting. He had heard all their opinions, and therefore their deliberations


deliberations were complete; they had done their part; he then decided according to his own judgment, and thereby fulfilled his. Their voices were not collected, becaufe his prefence rendered it unneceffary; his decifion did not reft upon the number of votes: of what avail could it be then to know the exact majority, when their number afforded them no power?

For he infifted, that the collecting of fuffrages was only neceffary in his abfence, as the most perfect means of affording him a precife knowledge of the fentiments of his parliament; but his presence rendered it not only unneceffary, but idle. He farther argued, that if the plurality of voices, in his courts, could forcibly direct his will, the monarchy would be changed to an ariftocracy of magiftrates; an event, as contrary to the rights and interefts of the nation, as to thofe of the fovereign power. That would be, indeed (he Continues) a ftrange conftitution of government, which fhould reduce the will of the king to fubmit to that of his minifters; and subject the fovereign power to as many different determinations, as there were deliberations in the various courts of juftice throughout the kingdom. But it behoved him to guaranty the nation from fuch a misfortune.

He likewife lays it down as a pofition or rule not to be departed from, that parliament had no authority to pafs any arrets (or decrees) either upon fubjects of legislation or adminiftration, which did not come to them from him. That he therefore them for fuch arrets reproves as they had thus paffed, and prohibits them from a repetition of the practice. And ftates, that to deroy, and leave no trace of an error,

which he is difpofed to attribute to a momentary furprize or illufion, is to purify, and not to alter their registers.

He then feems to advert to their

quotations and precedents, by putting the following queftion: For how many falutary laws, which now daily form the rules for guiding your judgments, is France indebted to the authority of her former monarchs? who not only ordered them to be registered without any regard to the plurality of fuffrages, but in direct oppofition to them, and in defiance of reluctant or refifting parliaments.-The king concludes abruptly, ruptly, Thefe are the principles "which ought to regulate your con"duct; and I fhall never fuffer the "fmalleft deviation from them."

With opinions fo directly oppofite in regard to the prerogatives and authority of the crown, the privileges of parliaments, and the rights of the fubject, as were now avowed by the contending parties, little hope of any compromife or amicable conclufion could remain; and it became every day more apparent, that things were drawing to a crifis, the management of which would be attended with greater difficulties than were yet forefeen; but which could fcarcely fail in its effect of proving decifive, and of either eftablishing on a firmer bafis the authority of the crown, or of modelling, altering, and perhaps greatly reducing its power. All civil public bufinefs was at a ftand; for the provincial parliaments, as well as that of Paris, either refufed to act under the prefent circumftances, or were disabled from acting; fo that it was morally impoffible things could continue long in their prefent ftate.

In the mean time, the minifters


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