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Louis the Thirteenth's Reign to the Ascendency of Cardinal Richelieu.
HISTORY OF FRANCE.
LOUIS THE THIRTEENTH'S REIGN TO THE ASCENDENCY OP
The noble.character of Henry IV., his early distresses, his valor, and final triumph, render his life a drama, the interest of which hurries on the historian, forbids him to pause for reflection or remark, and rigidly confines his task to that of simple narrative. If the fate and progress of political society be overlooked by us in this rushing throng of personages and events, we but imitate the age itself, which unfortunately lost sight of any principles save those of bigotry and self-interest. Never did a nation throw away such advantages, as France at this period. The royal authority was in the dust, yet the shadow of an attempt was not made to establish civil rights. A great portion o£the kingdom had embraced reform, and ret no means could be devised for securing even tolerance to this body, except the verbal promise of. a despot on the one hand, and organized revolt on the other.
It is not always just, however, to condemn a country for its loss of liberty. Representative freedom, that great political result of modern times, was as little the effect of human providence, as the great physical discoveries that have contributed with it to change the face of civilization. Had not England preserved the boon more by a devoted attachment to old institutions than by any legislative'skill, it is to be feared that not even all our modern ingenuity could have invented a durable constitution. If the French, then, are to be blamed, it is more for fickleness than servility; and even this censure will be rendered lighter by considering the causes that led to she different fate of liberty in the two countries.
Many of these have been already pointed out. The aristocracy on either side of the channel differed essentially in character. The noblesse of England, crushed by the imperious spirit of the Conqueror, were subjects, and sympathized with the mass; in France, the same class were either princes, or the followers of princes. Thus, whilst the former raised the standing bulwark of law around their privileges, including', for greater security, those of the people, the French aristocracy, aiming at nothing short of independence at one time, at
11 times more eager to share than to limit the royal authority held a contempt for aught like constitutional maxim or law and, full of recklessness and presumption, sought no other guarantees for their existence than intrigue or the sword.
The blending of classes was another fortunate circumstance for England. Nobility, considered in France to extend to the whole blood, was here confined, with the most beneficial injustice, to the eldest son. The younger branches fell into the ranks of the lower aristocracy, or lesser landholders, who again found themselves assorted with the chiefs of the burgess class in the lower house of parliament Thus was solved, and apparently by chance, one of the greatest difficulties of social organization; a difficulty which convulsed the republics of Greece and Rome, and proved the great stumbling-block to upset the latter. France, less fortunate, adopted the classic division of patrician and plebeian; a line equally dangerous to draw as to efface.
The consequence of this was the absolute extinction of what is called the middle orders. In the present day we can scarcely conceive the non-existence of this immense and predominant class, composed, as it is, not only of small commercial and landed proprietors, but of titie professional men of all ranks. In France, however, every owner of land was then a noble, if not in wealth, at least in privileges and spirit. The professions held apart; the church, the legists, each forming ah aristocracy of its own. Commerce rarely afforded the means of amassing large fortunes. Paris was no sea-port, like London: its citizens could not arrive at the same degree of wealth, enlightenment, or influence. Moreover, the great cities of France had never succeeded in obtaining any thing like, chartered rights. Nor is this mere speculation. We have manifest proofs of the absence of a middle class. In the elections for the tiers^etat, or commons, we find those chosen to
epresent the people to be universally either lawyers or financiers; the only two issues, indeed, for the plebeian to rise to eminence. Hence it was, that in the past times of trouble, when the great towns stood forth in behalf of liberty, butchers and men of vile trades were its leading supporters; and their ferocity marred the cause, more than their zeal aided it Hence, when the rational doctrines of the Reformation wer6
1610. NORTH AND SOUTH OF FRANCE COMPARED. 9
preached, the citizen of London listened and adopted: he of Paris, on the contrary, held fast to Catholicism, and sacrificed at once his civil and religious liberty on the altars of orthodoxy.
All this, however, is much more true of the north thftn of the south of France. This latter region had, in the early ages of the monarchy, started before its neighbor in the race of civilization. It was far superior to the north in industry, commerce, wealth, in letters and refinement, hi the development of municipal freedom, and in religious tenets drawn from uncorrupted tradition and a rational knowledge of the Scriptures. The conquest of Provence and Languedoc by the bigoted followers of De Montfort covered this bright prospect with a cloud of ignorance and oppression. But still the region was not all spoiled of its advantages. There are several proofs of this. Montaigne is one, who owed much of his free spirit to his residence at Bourdeaux, a commercial town of the south. The schools of law, and the study of the pandects, so strengthening to reason and restorative of common sense, were far more active and famous in the south than in the north. De Thou, who wished to hear Cujas lecture, was obliged to betake himself to Valence, in Dauphiny, for that purpose. To these causes was in great part owing the adoption of reform by the cities of the south. Nismes, Montauban, Thoulouge, and La Rochelle, were its fortresses. Ths majority of the population southward of the Loire were Hu • guenots. Their churches were registered, and found to num ber 760, at the time of the edict of Nantes.
The reformers had established a perfect representative system. On the conversion of the king to Catholicism, in 1594, they had held an assembly of deputies, by which a council general, or executive committee, was appointed to represent and manage their interests, now that the prince had deserted them. The reformed provinces were declared to be ten in number: each was to appoint a member of the council, which was to consist of four gentlemen, four commoners, and two clerics. Provincial or inferior councils were at the same time formed, to take care of the fortresses of surety, to. see that they had Protestant governors, and that the troops were regularly paid: they even agreed to stop the produce of the faille fcr this latter purpose, if necessary. Moreover, the reformers levied an annual revenue of 450,000 crowns. Here was a federal assembly, as complete as could be desired. By its influence and exertions the edict of Nantes was procured, which Henry was too much in the power of the Catholics to have granted, without the plea of necessity pressing him from the