INTRODUCTION.

Brienne, expecting opposition from the parliament, procured the enrolment of this edict by a lit de justice, and to conciliate the magistracy and public opinion, the protestants were restored to their rights in the same sitting, and Louis XVI. promised an annual publication of the state of finances, and the convocation, of the states-general before the end of five years. But these concessions were no longer sufficient: parliament refused the enrolment, and rose against the ministerial tyranny. Some of its members, among others the duke of Orleans, were banished. Parliament protested, by a decree, against lettres de cachet, and required the recall of its members. This decree was annulled by the king, and confirmed by parliament. The warfare increased.

The magistracy of Paris was supported by all the magistracy of France, and encouraged by public opinion. It proclaimed the rights of the nation, and its own incompetence in matters of taxation; and, become liberal from interest, and rendered generous by oppression, it exclaimed against arbitrary imprisonment, and demanded regularly convoked states-general. After this act of courage, it decreed the irremovability of its members, and the incompetence of any who might usurp their functions. This bold manifesto was followed by the arrest of two members, d'Epremenil and Goislard, by the reform of the body, and the establishment of a plenary court.

Brienne understood that the opposition of the parliament was systematic, that it would be renewed on every fresh demand for subsidies, or on the authorization of every loan. Exile was but a momentary remedy, which suspended opposition, without destroying it. He then projected the reduction of this body to judicial functions, and associated with himself Lamoignon, keeper of the seals, for the execution of this project. Lamoignon was skilled in coups d'etat. He had audacity, and combined with Maupeou's energetic determination a greater degree of consideration and probity. But he made a mistake as to the force of power, and what it was possible to effect in his times. Maupeou had re-established parliament, changing its members; Lamoignon wished to disorganize it. The first of these means, if it had succeeded, would only have produced temporary repose; the second must have produced a definitive one, since it aimed at destroying the power, which the other only tried to displace; but Maupeou's reform did not last, and that of Lamoignon could not be effected. The execution of the latter was, however, tolerably well framed. All the magistracy of France was exiled on the same day, in order that the new judicial organization might take place. The keeper of the seals deprived the parliament of Paris of its political attributes, to invest with them a plenary court, ministerially composed, and reduced its judicial competence in favour of bailiwicks, the jurisdiction of which he extended. Public opinion was indignant; the Chatelet protested, the provinces rose, and the plenary court could neither be formed nor act. Disturbances broke out in Dauphine, Brittany, Provence, Flanders, Languedoc, and Bearn; the ministry, instead of the regular opposition of parliament, had to encounter one much more animated and factious. The nobility, the third estate, the provincial states, and even the clergy, took part in it. Brienne, pressed for money, had called together an extraordinary assembly of the clergy, who immediately made an address to the king, demanding the abolition of his plenary court, and the recall of the states-general: they alone could thenceforth repair the disordered state of the finances, secure the national debt, and terminate such conflicts of authority.

The archbishop of Sens, by his contest with the parliament, had postponed the financial, by creating a political difficulty. The moment the latter ceased, the former re-appeared, and made his retreat inevitable. Obtaining neither taxes nor loans, unable to make use of the plenary court, and not wishing to recall the parliaments, Brienne, as a last resource, promised the convocation of the states-general. By this means he hastened his ruin. He had been called to the financial department in order to remedy embarrassments which he had augmented, and to procure money which he had been unable to obtain. So far from it, he had exasperated the nation, raised a rebellion in the various bodies of the state, compromised the authority of the government, and rendered inevitable the states-general, which, in the opinion of the court, was the worst means of raising money. He succumbed on the 25th of August, 1788. The cause of his fall was a suspension of the payment of the interest on the debt, which was the commencement of bankruptcy. This minister has been the most blamed because he came last. Inheriting the faults, the embarrassments of past times, he had to struggle with the difficulties of his position with insufficient means. He tried intrigue and oppression; he banished, suspended, disorganized parliament; everything was an obstacle to him, nothing aided him. After a long struggle, he sank under lassitude and weakness; I dare not say from incapacity, for had he been far stronger and more skilful, had he been a Richelieu or a Sully, he would still have fallen. It no longer appertained to any one arbitrarily to raise money or to oppress the people. It must be said in his excuse, that he had not created that position from which he was not able to extricate himself; his only mistake was his presumption in accepting it. He fell through the fault of Calonne, as Calonne had availed himself of the confidence inspired by Necker for the purposes of his lavish expenditure. The one had destroyed credit, and the other, thinking to re-establish it by force, had destroyed authority.