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popular and formidable, became the objects of general disaffection or contempt.

The wars with the English contributed to make the national feeling of the people of France stronger than the provincial; and the arbitrariness of the wealthy nobles disposed not a few among those subject to it, especially in the towns, to look to the royal authority as to a court of appeal and refuge. Louis XI. made a wise use of these facts. His ear was always open to the reasonable complaints of his subjects. He did more than any of his predecessors to ensure independency and prosperity to Paris, and to the towns of France generally; and, by thus winning for himself the affection of the people, he became strong enough to lay an effectual curb on the disaffection of the nobles. The latter had a right to an important position in the balance of political powers in their country; but they had exaggerated their claims-had aimed at too much, and, in so doing, had put everything to hazard, and by degrees they lost everything.

In their palmy days, the nobles of France were too much the rivals of the king to allow of its being possible that he should act cordially with them as coadjutors. And when those days had passed, the care with which the legislature, the executive, and the judicial powers of the state were allied with the crown, left the nobles without the means of imposing any check of a definite and constitutional nature on the royal prerogatives. Even in the States-General, they were merely the elective deputies of their order; and having the clergy and the commons severed from them in separate chambers, they found themselves exposed, on such occasions, to a combination of forces against which resistance could rarely be successful.

Nothing, however, tended so much to lower the noblesse of France, and to render them incompetent to any constitutional service in the affairs of the state, as the mercenary and extravagant multiplication of their number. This was effected profusely by royal patents; but still more widely and certainly, when it became law, that the privileges of the noble should descend to all his sons, and even to his more remote male descendants-and the rank was made to take with it everywhere the usual exemptions from taxation. A power thus dilated became no power; and an order which was felt as becoming only more and more burdensome, as it became more and more useless, was an order the fate of which might be easily foreseen.

Frenchmen were right, then, in the idea that France should possess her order of nobles. But in early French history the aristocratic principle comes forth in exaggeration. The thing



needed for France was, that the privileges of the order resting on that principle should be limited, defined, and perpetuatednot that the order itself should be corrupted that it might be destroyed. The former policy might have given stability and greatness to French history, the latter has prepared the way for nearly all the changes and disorders that have followed. France is clearly designed to be the seat of a powerful monarchy. But that monarchy must ultimately be constitutional, and a constitutional monarchy is not possible without a peerage. cratic idea, which is a pervading idea in French history taken as a whole, is a right idea for France, and an idea to which the French mind must return, thoughtfully and wisely, if that fine country is ever to be secure in the possession of constitutional freedom. Hitherto, excess on this point has generated excess, and amidst the violences of action and reaction, the voice of wisdom has striven in vain to obtain a hearing.

The aristo

But it will not be always thus. It may be true that in no country has the doctrine of political equality been expressed in terms so definite, so emphatic, and with so much iteration, as in modern France. But it is not less true, after all, that the French people are the most courtly people in the world; the most fascinated by the kind of show which the courtly alone can bring before them; and the most eager to welcome the influences which give conspicuousness to their great men, whether those influences have respect to birth, to wealth, or to the more natural forms of greatness. The democratic feeling in France has been intense-volcanic; but the aristocratic feeling has been deeper, more diffused, and more enduring. The two feelings have place in the same national mind, but we have still to learn that they exist there in the same proportions. Each has its mission for the France that is to be, and the time will come in which the two will be seen to work together.

As the aristocratic element had been thus unduly depressed in French history, in consequence of its exaggerated manifestations, so, in its turn, has it been with the monarchy. For a while, indeed, the monarchical power was felt everywhere in that country as a cementing and wholesome influence. The loyalty of Frenchmen, for many generations, was not a mere sentiment, but a feeling for which good reasons might be assigned. Both the defects and the severities of the kingly rule might be in some particulars considerable, as compared with our notions on such matters; but in comparison with the rule which had preceded, it was often felt as bringing a relief of which we can ourselves form but an imperfect conception. The crown had to

win its way to the place of a real, in the place of a nominal, ascendancy. Its policy, accordingly, was marked by conciliation, especially towards the people.

It was in this spirit that Louis XI. conferred charters on a multitude of towns, as the documents still existing show, empowering them to choose their own magistrates, and to hold popular assemblies for the management of their own affairs. With this view, also, he was careful to attach the provincial mind generally to his authority, by instituting and encouraging meetings of the three estates in the provinces, in furtherance of the same idea of local government. One of his memorable boons to the provinces consisted in his causing the customary laws in the provinces to be collected, and a supreme court of justice to be set up in each of them. His maxim, in brief, was, to cede to the people whatever might be ceded to them, consistently with his own personal supremacy in political affairs. Hence it has happened, that the name of Louis XI. has descended to us as that of one of the most tyrannical, and at the same time one of the most popular, of the French monarchs. Neither firmness alone, nor conciliation alone, would have sufficed to realize the object which Louis had set before him- both were needed. The character of the man, too, embraced these opposites, and many beside. Louis XI. was a person who might be charged with avarice, and, at the same time, with prodigality. He might be censured as disposed to confide in men imprudently, and, at the same time, as living a life of suspicion and distrust. would be easy to applaud him as one of the greatest benefactors of his country, for he was such; and, at the same time, to describe him as a man who, while he could achieve great things, even for a great people, was himself devoid of real greatness. What was due to his office as a king he saw and felt, and he loved the French people because they were willing to respect that office, and he hated the French nobles, because it seemed to be in their nature to impose humiliating restrictions upon it. In the time of his successor, strange to say, the republican Swiss contributed to place the monarchy of France on a solid basis. Providence, also, appeared to favour this consummation. Ere long, some leading princely families became extinct. The duke of Orleans ascends the throne of France, an heiress of Brittany becomes queen.


Louis XII. succeeded Louis XI. He pursued and extended the policy of his father, but did so under the guidance of a better nature, and richly deserved the popularity which attended him during his reign, and which survived with his memory. In this



manner the aristocratic power in France became weaker, and the monarchical power became stronger.

Well would it have been if the monarchical power, in these its prosperous days, had shown itself wise enough to profit by the experience which had befallen the aristocracy, and had known where to stop. But it did not evince that wisdom. Political powers which have been depressed, and suddenly become ascendant, are generally full of promises of good, and are not always without fruit of some correspondence with such professions. But the virtuous in such cases is too commonly of short continuance.

Francis I., who succeeded Louis XII., prepared the way for those excesses in the history of the French monarchy, which had been so conspicuous in the history of the French aristocracy, and which were to lead to results so similar. Francis was a man of capacity and energy, of considerable taste, fond of splendour, and a prince of such high ambition as to be little bound by considerations of truth or honour, where these were felt as impediments in the path of his purposes. At the very commencement of his reign he gave signs of dissatisfaction with the concessions which had been made to the popular feeling, especially during the two preceding reigns. He did his best, indeed, upon all occasions, to convey to the mind of his subjects the impression that his lofty chivalrous spirit was as truly French as their own. But he, nevertheless, taught them, before the close of his career, that in respect to taxation, and many other matters, his will, as that of their king, must be frequently above all law. Both the successes and reverses of the wars in which he was almost ceaselessly engaged, brought with them so many sudden and pressing exigencies, that the difficulty of obtaining supplies through any of the forms that might occasion delay, furnished plausible excuses for many acts of arbitrary power, and so filled the past with dangerous precedents for the future. The time had come in which a little considerate attention sufficed to secure the loyalty of the nobles, and in which both nobles and people became pervaded by the sentiment, that submission to the authority of the crown as worn by Francis I. must be a reasonable service for all Frenchmen. In war, the balance of power in Europe had come to lie between the king of France and the emperor; and in peace, the court of Francis was the brilliant expression of the revived taste and extraordinary genius of the sixteenth century. I,' said the Emperor Maximilian, 'am a 'king of kings, for no one feels it to be a duty to obey me; the 'King of Spain is a king of men, for his subjects submit to his

'will, though not without opposing it; but the king of France is 'a king of beasts, for no man dares to refuse what he demands.' Francis, we are told, laughed aloud when he heard this saying, and felt proud of the intimation that his power in the estates of his kingdom was so much greater than that of the emperor in his Diet, or that of the king of Spain in the assembly of the Cortes. But the occasion of this laughter was in reality no laughing matter. Power swollen to such a height was power sure to be abused, and to be so abused as to bring retribution along with it.

The precedents in favour of an arbitrary policy supplied by the reign of Francis I. would not be lost on the rulers of France under his successors, Henry II., Francis II., and Charles IX. Under these princes, the minds which governed France were Italian, not French. Among these exotic influences, the first place in respect to power fell to the evil genius of Catherine de Medicis, the wife of Henry II. The next, to the Guises, especially to the Cardinal of Lorraine. To this period, especially, belong the religious wars of France, the atrocities of which reached their climax in the Bartholomew massacre.

It was left to Henry IV., the first Bourbon, to bring the disorders of that unhappy interval to a close. Henry soon raised the finances of the kingdom above the bankrupt state in which he found them; he also pursued, and with some success, the policy of Francis I., which aimed at elevating France to the place of a ruling power in the affairs of Christendom; he succeeded in bringing the discordant elements of the kingdom into a greater degree of political harmony; he changed the position of the nobles from that of jealous rivals of the crown into that of friendly courtiers and loyal subjects; he augmented the general content and the general prosperity by opening paths to distinction and rank on the ground of wealth or profession, irrespective of claims derived from territory; he also did much to abate the strifes, if not to subdue the enmities, which had divided the Catholic and the Huguenot; and to him pre-eminently it pertained to preside over the destinies of France when the influence of her men of letters, ere long to become so potent in her history, began to develop itself, and the line was manifestly passed which separates between the France of feudalism and the middle age, and France as known to us during the last two centuries. The qualities of Henry IV., both as a man and a king, were of so popular a description, and the genius for government possessed by himself and his ministers was so elevated, as to preclude us from looking to his reign for those examples of arbitrariness, which, in European history, are almost invariably the signs,

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