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to; but of these a short recapitulation is necessary to bring the subject into one view.

Under the first or the Merovingian race of the kings of France, we have seen that the royal prerogative was extremely inconsiderable. The general assemblies of the nation, the Champs de Mai and the Champs de Mars, which met annually at stated seasons, possessed the right of electing the kings, of providing them a certain revenue, and of enacting laws for the regulation of the whole com> munity. Under the second or Carlovingian race, the power and authority which the vast abilities of Charlemagne had added to the crown, dwindled entirely away in the hands of his weak posterity; and the national assemblies possessed a prerogative and jurisdiction almost as extensive as in the time of his predecessors. But under the third race of monarchs, termed the Capetian, the constitution had so far changed, that the national assemblies had lost their legislative authority, or at least entirely relinquished the exercise of it. From that period their jurisdiction extended no further than to the imposition of new taxes, the determination of questions respecting a disputed succession to the crown, appointing a regency during the minority of a monarch, and sometimes presenting an humble remonstrance to the sovereign, in the name of the subject, against any measures of the crown which were felt as national grievances. The kings now began gradually to assume the power of legislation, which towards the end of the fourteenth century was considered as a right which resided wholly in the crown. The power of taxation immediately followed; nor does it

appear that the first exercise of these rights by the crown without consent of the national assemblies, was attended with the smallest murmur on the part of the people, and these assemblies, now completely stripped of all their valuable powers, were very seldom convoked, and at length entirely laid aside.

Another power, however, insensibly arose, which in some measure supplied their place, in imposing a small restraint and limitation on the amplitude of the regal prerogative; I speak of the French parliaments and particularly the parliament of Paris. During the feudal government, the parliament of Paris was nothing more than the king's court, to which he committed the supreme administration of justice within his own domains, as well as the power of deciding with respect to all cases brought before it, by appeal from the courts of the barons. As this court was commonly supplied with judges of great ability, and the forms of procedure were better regulated than those of the provincial jurisdictions of the kingdom, of all of which the judges were likewise in the king's nomination, the parliament of Paris gradually acquired a degree of reputation, dignity, and respect superior to the provincial parliaments. The kings of France, when they first began to assume the legislative power, that they might the better reconcile the minds of the people to this new exertion of prerogative, produced their edicts and ordonnances in the parliament of Paris, that they might be approved and registered there before they were published and declared to be of authority through the kingdom. The monarchs were

likewise accustomed to consult with this court with respect to the most arduous affairs of government, and frequently regulated their conduct by its advice in declaring war, making peace, or in other matters of public concern Thus by degrees the nation began to look upon the parliament of Paris as the supreme depository of the laws of the kingdom, and as a body which divided in some respects the powers of sovereignty with the monarch, and was a check upon any violent abuse or exorbitant stretch of his authority: and the parliament, availing itself of this general belief, and naturally disposed to extend its own powers and prerogatives, at various times made a bold stand for the liberties of the people, ventured to question the right of the monarch to lay on arbitrary impositions, and frequently refused to verify and register bis edicts.

Yet, strictly speaking, the parliament of Paris must be considered as having usurped these powers, to which, from the original constitution of that assembly, they had no legal right. In fact, they were nothing more than a supreme court of justice; they were in no shape the representatives of the people. They were a set of judges nominated by the king, paid by him, and removable by him at pleasure from their office, The practice of registering and verifying the royal edicts in this court was, as we have already observed, introduced by the monarchs to reconcile the people to that change of the constitution which gave the king the sole legislative authority. We know for certain that when this practice first began, the parliament acted as a mere official instrument, and never


pretended to refuse to register or give their sanction any edict which was presented to them. Even after the lapse of above two centuries, since they first assumed the right of questioning and refusing to verify the royal edicts, they possessed in reality no power to maintain and defend this privilege. When the parliament refused to give its sanction to any of the royal edicts, the king had only to repair in person to the hall where they were assembled, and command the edict to be read, verified, and registered; and the order of the sovereign must have been obeyed; for it was one of the fundamental laws of the French monarchy that, in the presence of the king, the function of every magistrate is suspended for the time.

Yet even these powers of the parliament of Paris, though they could be thus defeated by the sovereign, were no inconsiderable restraint upon his authority. They effectually prevented that anthority from degenerating into absolute despotism, at least, by opposing every encroachment of the crown, and by giving the alarm to the nation when any measure was attempted to be carried into execution which would have proved a serious grievance. The parliament of Paris was frequently broken for a contumacious resistance to the will of the monarch, and its members driven into banishment; but it happened in general that the measure which had been the cause of their resistance was abandoned by the prince, and the nation was thus delivered from a grievance against which otherwise they could have had no redress.

The constitution of the provincial parliaments, which were twelve in number, was in every re

spect the same with that of the parliament of Paris. It was necessary that the king's edicts should be registered by them before they became of general force. They were the chief courts of justice in the province, and some of them acted likewise in a ministerial capacity, as the parliaments of Burgundy, Brittany, Dauphiné, Provence, Languedoc, and French Flanders, who, when the king thought fit to raise a new tax or assessment upon the province, settled the proportions payable by individuals, and directed the mode of levying it.

The king of France was then to be considered as an absolute prince, but whose authority was at the same time considerably restrained by the consuetudinary regulations of the kingdom, and could not easily become entirely despotic or tyrannical. The crown was hereditary, but it could not pass to a female-nor to a natural son, though legitimated; and it was settled by a royal edict in 1717, that, upon the total failure of the line of Bourbon, the crown should be elective, the choice lying in the states of the kingdom, clergy, nobility, and citizens.

The royal revenue was computed to be about three hundred millions of livres, or twelve millions three hundred thousand pounds sterling; but it must necessarily have varied considerably according to the pleasure of the monarch, for it consisted of two separate funds, one of which was fixed, and the other arbitrary. The fixed or ordinary revenue of the crown comprehended the royal domains, or the king's patrimonial lands, lordships, and forests; the duty on wine, called the aids; the duty on salt, called the gabelle; the land-tax,

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