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gala de tous les jours qui peut n'être pas fort amusant pour le prince, mais qui ait l'élément necessaire d'un peuple d'oisifs et de parasites.
As late as the 17th century, all who could afford to follow exclusively the profession of arms at their own expense, were deened Gentilshommes. They formed the greatest part of the army, and might be entitled to the immunities they enjoyed, as a compensation for their services; but, since the system of standing armies was introduced, all military service has been requited with suitable pay: And yet in France, till the time of the Revolution, the nobles enjoyed the monopoly of the ariny and navy; (even in 1789, a lieutenant in a marching regiment had to prove his nobility for four generations); and all places of any importance were understood to belong to them. The familles de robe (very inferior to the noblesse d'épée) divided with the higher class of plebeians the judicial functions, which became almost hereditary among them.
In time, the exigencies of the treasury suggested the expedient of selling a variety of trifling offices conferring nobility on the purchasers. The practice began under Charles IX.Louis XIV. granted five hundred lettres de noblesse in a single year (1696)—the price was in general about two thousand crowns ;-and Louis XV. continued the practice. The ready money these sales produced was convenient for the moment: but the loss of revenue resulting from the exemption of taxes enjoyed by the new nobles, soon turned the scale the other way; and rigorous inquiries were instituted from time to time against those deemed faux nobles. A person of this exalted class turning farmer (on other people's lands), or merchant, or seeking profit by any trade, lost his cast–became a plebeian or roturier, * but might buy in again by what was called lettres de rehabilitation. A compendious mode of making room for new purchasers of nobility was adopted in the last year of Louis XIV.'s reign,-all ennoblements by offices merely titular, obtained since the year 1689, being annulled by a royal edict of 1715,-regardless, it seems, of bona fide purchasers! The number of noble families in France, just before the Revolution, although much less than in the preceding century, was still seventeen or eighteen thousand, including about 90,000 individuals. Among these, the ancient families did not reach two hundred, but the number of pretenders to nobility was immense ; and as titles were very easily obtained, they were also very easily assumed; and France was overrun by needy adven
* Roturier is derived from a word of low latinity, ruptuarius-one who breaks the earth, a labourer.
turers, calling themselves Comtes or Marquis, whose multitude and mode of life could not fail to bring nobility into contempts The well known joke of the celebrated Arlequin Carlin owes its currency to the sarcastic justness of the reflection it conveys:
Quel dommage que Pere Adam n'ait pas songé à acheter une • charge de secretaire-du-Roi-nous serions tous nobles !'
It was in this way that nobility was first discredited. The throne had not suffered less in public opinion---the last half of Louis XV.'s reign having been profligate beyond all former examples: But the people were not yet ripe for a revolution, which the virtues of his unfortunate successor, and the
valuable improvements in the Government made during his reign, could not arrest in its progress twenty years after. It seemed as if all the powers of the State conspired their own ruin; for the magistrates, in a fit of ill humour with the Court, appealed to the people, by declaring themselves incompetent to sanction taxes. The words Etats Generaux were uttered for the first time within the walls of the Parlement of Paris, and gave undoubtedly the signal of the Revolution.
The King's Judges, under the name of Parlement de Paris, were the assessors of the peers of France, forming the King's Council; and they assumed by degrees the name of Cour des Pairs, even when the peers were not present. The King's edicts were recorded in Parlement: this had led to an usurpation of power on their part, or at least to an inconsistency,
at of not recording when they thought proper, and defeating, in fact, the legislative power of the King; although they admitted, in principle, that he was absolute,--sans dependance et sans partage. Any officer of the King, acting under a royal edict not recorded, and therefore not known by the Court, was exposed to rigorous, and even capital punishment. The predecessors of Louis XVI. came more than once to their Parlement de Paris with a military retinue (Louis XIV. affected even to appear, on one of these occasions, booted and spurred, with a whip in his hand), to have their edicts recorded in their presence; and the refractory magistrates were sometimes imprisoned, exiled, or suspended. Their obstinacy prevailed generally whenever their own privileges were in question ; and they rarely yielded, except when the interest of the people was concerned : Rebel- : lious, during the minorities of Louis XIII. and Louis XIV., they raised armies against the latter when a child, but were perfectly obedient to these monarchs in the zenith of their power. In short, the resistance of the Parlemens, unconnected, irregular, and partial as it was, had all the inconveniences of a democratic
democratic check, without any of its advantages. Such; however, is the aversion to arbitrary power, that even this phantom of a representation was revered; and when Louis XV. dissolved, public opinion soon compelled him to recal them. Factious however as they were, it is but justice to say, that no set of men ever exhibited higher models of private and public virtuesif that name can be applied to mere fidelity to a party. The purity of their administration of justice was quite unimpeached, although arbitrary in a great degree. Judges in their own cause, they found means of punishing those who ventured to question the legality of their pretensions.
From this outline of the legislative and judicial departments; we may judge what the government was in other respects. The finances had always been a profound mystery, even to those who were officially bound to understand them; and Europe saw, with astonishment, two Ministers, successively at the head of that department, unable to determine between them whether the deficiency in the public revenue was ten or eighty millions a year. Every province of France had its distinct privileges, and was administered by different and inconsistent laws. The fiscal despotism of the Intendans clashed with the paternal despotism of the Parlemens; and the people were at the
mercy of both. Lines of customhouses divided the interior of the kingdom, and made the circulation of the crops or manufactures from one province to another as difficult as if they had been foreign countries; while enormous differences of dus ties tempted unfortunate smugglers to violate absurd laws, for which they often forfeited their lives.
The noblesse and clergy enjoyed certain exemptions from taxes, and many personal privileges, every one of which constituted not merely an indignity, but a positive oppression, tơ the people at large. Individual liberty was everywhere at the mercy of authority; but the tremendous power was used mildly against the upper ranks of society; and the whole weight of abuses fell upon the lower class : For instance, the poor of the capital were constantly watched by the agents of the police; and when their extreme poverty became too apparent, although they might not be absolute beggars on the streets, they were carried off in the dead of night, whole families at a time, from their wretched abodes in the Faubourg St Marceau, or St Antoine, and taken to certain receptacles of vice and wretchedness, known by the name of depôts de mendicité, where prostitutes and pickpockets, the sick and the insane, infancy and old age, were huddled together without distinction, and often swept off by malignant diseases. The whole labour of repair. VOL. XXXIV. NO. 67.
ing highways (corvées) fell upon the peasantry, who used them the least.
We shall add to this melancholy catalogue some facts collected from an official report published in 1816, on the comparative state of the Paris Hospitals now and in former times. The Hotel Dieu, the oldest, probably, in Europe, existed as early as the seventh century, and was distinguished by the almost incredible vices of its administration. It appears that formerly the tenants of this horrid abode were often four in a bed, sometimes six, the allowance of room for each being only eight or nine inches; and there have been instances of one or two more being lodged over the tester of the bed! The places of those who died were instantly filled with new victims ;-—the clothes of those brought in were thrown together into a common store-room, to be returned to those who survived, loaded with the combined effluvia of the mass of dirt and corruption! The mortality, although vast, seems to have been less than might have been expected, (2 out of 9 yearly); but this is explained by the practice of receiving into the hospital many poor in good health, and who, therefore, did not die. fire, which happened about the year 1770, cleansed the Augean stable, and it never was so bad afterwards; but the great improvement did not take place till within fifteen or twenty years. The sick are now placed single in a bed; the space of air allowed for each is equal to 10 or 12 cubic toises of 6 feet, instead of 1} or 2 they had formerly; the average mortality of all the hospitals is now 2 out of 15, including lying-in women, whose mortality is 1 out of 24, instead of 1 out of 14 as it was formerly.
With all this, France had never been in so fair a way to see the defects of its old institutions corrected, and civil liberty introduced with success, as it was just before the Revolution.--A reform of criminal jurisprudence had begun; torture was abolished; the administration of prisons and hospitals was greatly improved; provincial administrations, the most beneficial, perhaps, of any improvement in its consequences, had been tried ; servage of all kinds, and the corvées, were at an end ; several of the grievances of the Protestants had been removed, and the exercise of their religion allowed. The scandalous fortunes made by favourite Ministers in former reigns, were unknown under Louis XVI., and the general aspect of the country was that of a progress both towards happiness and freedom: But the restless impatience of reformers could brook no delay. A cure without their specific, and otherwise than by their hands, was no cure to them; and they found associates in a vicious court,
where men of the first rank took a pride in the designation of roués, (meaning, literally, felons on the wheel). Society was infected throughout with this profligacy, disguised under the shallow and crude philosophy of the day. Those generalizations admit, of course, of very many exceptions—but that such were the great outlines appears undoubted :-We need, indeed, no other proof than the peculiar atrocity and extravagance of the revolution that ensued ;-for the people, in all civil commotions, show themselves the more ferocious in proportion as they are less enlightened and more enslaved.
It would have required an abler and firmer hand than that of Louis XVI. to guide the helm in such a tempest. « Il est affreux de penser, M. Mounier says, qu'avec une ame moins bienfaisante, un autre prince eut peut-être trouvé le moyen de maintenir son pouvoir ?' This is not improbable, and it is a melancholy and humiliating consideration : Yet we think a greater share of sincerity, or at least of consistency and perseverance, without less goodness and virtue, might have extricated him more effectually from his difficulties, and with far greater glory. Profoundly corrupt as the French people were at that period, they were even then, as they are now, and have always been, peculiarly susceptible of a sudden impulse of generosity, and apt to be carried away by any great and magnanimous example: The measure of assembling the States-General in 1789, without arranging previously the mode of voting of the three orders of the State, and bringing inveterate enemies face to face, with arms in their hands, by way of settling their differences, was in the highest degree imprudent and unwise ; yet, even after this mistake and its immediate consequences, if the monarch had boldly and frankly come forward in the National Assembly, big as it was with the elements of mischief, with nearly such a charter in his hand as his brother did five-andtwenty years after-if he had proposed nearly such bases as those of our government, the extreme popularity of the measure would have given him an ascendancy equal to the occasion, not only over the great mass of the people, but over the Nobility themselves, who must have seen the necessity of submitting to an exchange of their frivolous honours and privileges, which were lost at any rate, for any purpose of constitutional influence or legislative power; as they submitted without a murmur, under Bonaparte, to the same sacrifices without any compensation. The monarch, thus armed, as he would have been, with the irresistible will of millions, would have found himself all at once stronger than the strongest of his royal an