Reading Arlette Jouanna's Le Prince absolu (Paris, 2014) has inspired the reflections that follow. My aim is to attract readers to the book!
kwThe second volume of a two-volume study (the heavier work of analyzing the concept of absolutism appears in volume 1), but there are important explorations and elaborations that are presented through close readings of works by Ferrier, du Chastelet, Silhon, Sirmond, Colomby, Pirezac and others, that then frame the princely and ministerial vocabularies, 1620-1640.
Instead of attempting to summarize volume 1, I shall quote an introductory paragraph from Jouanna's La France du XVIe Siècle (Paris, 1996), because it captures her project that came to fruition in the more recent two-volume study:
Au cours de la Renaissance, les institutions de la monarchie française se précisent peu à peu; mais l'éventail des orientations possibles reste très ouvert. On ne peut pas encore parler de monarchie absolue, ni d'absolutisme (qui est d'ailleurs un mot forgé à la fin des années de la Révolution, répondant à une création historiographique datant de ce temps), ni de proto-absolutisme, qui suppose une sorte de déterminisme de l'histoire. La monarchie demeure de nature consultative. Mais les contemporains ont cru déceler une tendance à l'affirmation croissante de la "puissance absolue" du roi, certains pour s'en réjouir, d'autres pour s'en inquiéter.
Jouanna casts a critical eye on all those works that have "the rise of" before the concept Absolutism, as a telos, an inevitable consequence of the eventual consensus on the meaning of a concept, and then its political and social historical reality. I heartily agree with her. But before turning to her volume II, I wish to go back to the problem of contexts for the understanding of the tags and terms that, assembled, would eventually come to be known as Absolutism.
One can go back too far -- to Gierke, Figgis, the Carlyles, and Allen, to mention only a few of the historians who address the relations between ideas and political-institutional change in the French Monarchy. But I do go back to W.F. Church's Constitutional Thought in Sixteenth-Century France (Cambridge, MA, 1941), because his contexts and chapter on Absolutism are still important today.
Church draws a clear distinction between writers and commentators who were jurists, and those who were publicists, some of whom he characterized as second-rate or mediocre (p. 308). He does not leave them out, but there is an implication that they did not very much alter the thought about institutions of the État de droit. There is also a distinction between extreme royalists such as Louis d'Orléans (an ex-Leaguer) and the jurists, also royalists but not extreme, such as Loisel, Loyseau and Bodin. The main themes involve comments on contract, property and the power to make positive law. There is also some attention to arguments about fundamental law.
The late Jacques Poujol (dear friend for half a century, Cévenol, Resistant, and editor of Claude de Seyssel) set out, in 1954, to write L'évolution et l'influence de l'idée absolutiste en France de 1498 à 1559, completed as a doctoral thesis now on deposit in the Bibliothèque du Protestantisme français, rue des Saints-Pères. He published two articles from it: "Jean Ferrault et les Privilèges du Roi ...," in Studies in the Renaissance 5 (1956); and "1515, cadre idéologique du developpement de l'absolutisme en France...," Colloque de Tours, 17 (197), pp. 259-272. He went on to do a lot of work on Seyssel, and edited the Monarchie de France in 1961 (Paris, Librairie d'Argences).
Church sets his chapter in the late-sixteenth-century crisis of absolutism and divine right. Poujol does close readings and pays some attention to Franco-German relations, because Ferrault, one of his principal sources for absolutist thought, lays out claims for royal absolute authority in France grounded on grants of these powers by various popes, Christ's vicars on earth and endowed with Plenitudo potestatus. Ferrault is a reader of Gratian more than Roman law. Francis I's thirteenth privilege is the right to present a candidate for election to the Imperial Crown. Poujol acknowledges his debt to Gabriel Hanotaux's Essai sur les libertés gallicanes.
Ferrault had sat at the feet of Cosme Guynier, earning a master's degree in civil and canon law. Poujol supplies considerable critical bibliographical research, not only on Ferrault but also about those around him. Ferrault's Privilèges would become widely available. Charles Dumolin (or his editor?) reprints it in his Opera... (Church cites the 1681 edition, vol. II). Other texts are explored as Poujol finds France inexorably driven toward enhanced claims for royal power. Claude de Seyssel's emphasis on "freins" failed to stem the tide. And the turn (Lefèbvre d'Etaples and Erasmus) to searching the Bible for support for absolutist kingship (and finding it!) does not surprise.
Poujol loosens his sources from their moorings, but he stops to puzzle, for example, over the famous tag Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem, a Roman-law tag that he says was more ambiguous than it might seem, because "le prince en exerçant son pouvoir a hérité sa puissance du peuple" (1515, "Cadre idéologique," p. 263, of the 2007 reprint available at the Bibliothèque du Protestantisme). The point may not seem important, but because of the emphasis on the origins of power in the sixteenth century, there were potential difficulties that were not there in "Principis legibus solutus est." There is a lengthy discussion of what Budé did with this passage in his Annotationes to the Pandects.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a tag, as of 1702, may be: "a brief and usually familar quotation added for special effect; a much used or trite quotation." Not an étiquette, but a lieu commun, or commonplace, which the O.E.D. defines, as of 1561, as "a statement generally accepted; a stock theme; a platitude." The "quod principi placuit..." tag took on a life of its own in early-modern French Political thought. Roman law may have lost some authority, but the tags from it did not. Nor did there seem to be a need to offer philosophical, or any other kind of argument in favor of it. All this is wonderfully elucidated by Francis Goyet in Le Sublime du "lieu commun" (Paris, 1996).
Kenneth Pennington's The Prince and the Law (Berkeley, 1993) puts the "legal-state" context back in place and suggests how dangerous it is to read a tag as the "publicists" (Church's word) do. His account of what Baldus writes about the quod principi placuit tag (p. 206) humbles this reader and prompts him to think of abandoning this little review altogether! There should also be a word of humble praise for the work of France's currently greatest legal historian, Jean Hilaire, whose works are rarely cited by historians who seek to characterize the history of absolutism. See Hilaire's Histoire des Institutions publiques et des faits sociaux, XI-XIXe siècle (Paris, 7th edition, 1997), for an overview that builds on numerous precise, highly technical studies. There are still reasons to consult Olivier-Martin too!
If it was one thing to argue that papal grants of powers to French kings made them equal if not superior to Holy Roman Emperors, it was quite another to argue that the temporal powers of French kings were equal to those of the popes within the kingdom of France.
In his 2014 the First French Reformation (Cambridge, UK), Tyler Lange works out the tangle of debates about church-state relations within the conciliarist context, and Louis XI-Francis I's intense drives to increase royal powers. The jurist Guy Pape wrote that the prince was "God on earth" (p. 57), a temporal absolutism that would be elaborated with more direct borrowings from canon law by theologians and parlementaires who believed that enhanced authority was absolutely necessary once royal judges took away episcopal jurisdiction over heresy cases. The duels with the popes over Church councils had unleashed absolutist ideas of sovereignty (the pope's powers come from God alone), with similar claims from French kings. Lange's study explores jurisdictional shifts in favor of the French crown, for appointments, revenues and heresy. There was little if anything doctrinal about it. A key figure in all of this was Cosme Guymier, a canonist who was both a member of the Faculty of Theology and the Parlement. All the old chestnuts would be worked over again and again (e.g., what if the pope is a heretic), as ideas of absolute sovereignty were propounded. Still, Guymier did remove the king's moral obligations to work toward the salvation of his subjects (p. 39). Lange finds that recent scholarship on the robe has over-emphasized the secular consequences of humanism. his emphasis on education in theology is supported by statistics that help us understand why the parlementaires sought to take over the jurisdiction that assured doctrinal uniformity in the Gallican church. The implication is that this occurred largely for religious reasons, not financial ones, since there was certainly little financial gain in trying persons charged with heresy?
After reading Lange on the successful efforts of Francis I to increase the powers of the Crown, deliberately or not, diminishing the powers of representative institutions, J. Russell Major's works immediately come to mind. In addition to three volumes on specific estates-general meetings, there is Representative Government (New Haven, 1980), and what amounts to a shorter version of the same, published in Baltimore in 1994. Major measures Francis's actions (New Haven edition, p. 54) and does not find them tipping any balance toward very arbitrary government. Lange finds a stronger correlation between absolutist ideas and government actions. Major finds that Bodin believed that the provincial estates enhanced royal authority. His discussion of the concept of sovereignty in Bodin does not include the word "absolute," though he empowers the king to make positive law. If there is a breach in the dike toward justifying more power for the Crown, it is the argument of "necessity" (op. cit., p. 257).
There are strong similarities between Church's 1941 thesis and Lange's thesis of 2014. Constitutionalism, that word that stops most early-modernists in France in their tracks (Jouanna uses the word in a precisely defined way), provides the framework for both books. Like Poujol, Lange brings in how studies of kingship in the Bible was a source for defining royal powers (p. 252). There is much more here on the technical construction of absolutism, not just as an idea but as a dimension of the French constitution: "Even though the constitutional synthesis that emerged at the end of the 1520s was generally absolutist, it carried the seeds [sic, Marianne Horowitz!] of the claim, so damaging in the eighteenth century that the Parlement of Paris was a representative body" (p. 229).
In just one short sentence Church summed up Bodin's importance, namely, stating that kings have the power to legislate, that is, to make positive law. We can understand Jouanna's views on so much that has been written about absolutism, when we ponder this excerpt from the preface to the third edition of Bodin's Republic:
I am amazed by those who believe that I have given more power to one man than is becoming to an honest citizen. For specifically in Book I, chapter 8 of my République and in other passages as well, I did not hesitate, even in these dangerous times, to refute the opinions of those who would expand the right of the treasury and the regalian prerogatives, and to have taken the ground that these opinions gave kings unlimited power above the law of God and nature. And what could be more public [-spirited] than what I have dared to write -- that even kings are not allowed to levy taxes without the fullest consent of the citizens? Or of what importance is it, that I also held that princes are more strictly bound by divine and natural law than those who are subject to their rule? Or that they are obligated by their contracts just as every other citizen? Yet the opposite of this has been taught by almost all the masters of juristic science.
This quotation can be found at the beginning of Julian Franklin's Jean Bodin and the Rise of Absolutist Theory (New York, 1973), p. 102. Immediately after this, Franklin comments: "The Republic, however, was more radical than Bodin knew. Almost all the institutional restraints, on which older writers had tended to insist, were now deprived of binding status." Again and again Franklin emphasizes that the traditions about sovereignty from the Middle Ages were ambiguous, and that Bodin did not eliminate them all.
In Church, we found Ferrault bound with Du Moulin's Opera; in Franklin he is bound with an edition of Grassaille! The point is unimportant, except that it confirms the hypothesis that there was a triple trajectory in sovereignty studies: 1) immediate political crises with Imperial, papal and religious divisions that prompted attempts to construct an unattackable authority on which to found French royal power; 2) there was a relatively closed vocabulary of about about a dozen terms that all the jurists tackled: property, contract, inalienability of the royal domain, fundamental law, privileges, marks, corporations, sovereignty, nature, jurisdictions, absolutes, mixed, public and crown; 3) over the early-modern centuries, there was a very slow evolution from Roman and canon law as grounds for authority, toward an argument grounded on nature (Church, Houllemare), after a few decades in the mid-century when history was the philological, Atticist (Fumaroli) foundation of law.
Still, inspiration from the history of the Early Church, the early church fathers and biblical scholarship failed to produce foundations for order. Roman law and imperial political culture became suspect. We shall find that most of the writers whose works Jouanna explores, that date from the first half of the seventeenth century, were not jurists. Loyseau and Le Bret became almost exceptional. For the last half of the century, the exception would be Domat, as Church suggested in his "The Decline of French Jurists ...," French Historical Studies 5 (1967), pp. 1-40.
The heart of Franklin's work on Bodin and sovereignty is the argument about indivisibility. If a sovereign gives over some of his or its power to someone or something else, he is no longer sovereign (pp. 28ff). It is tempting to find some of these Bodinian short statements as naive or too simple. He moves toward truth, almost, by the commonplace. Also, there is the philological-historical argument: that the mono in monarchy can only mean one. This, and the loci, always makes me think of a young analytical philosopher at Columbia in the 1960s who proved without a doubt that there could be no hills without valleys. But thought in commonplaces is certainly not naive, nor always philosophical.
In his Appendix B, Franklin asks whether Bodin's idea of indivisibility is derived from some other writer, and he cautiously answers in the negative. When Baldus wrote imperium est indivisible, Franklin finds it "exceptional" (p. 111) in medieval civic law, and notes that the thought in which the phrase is located is quite conventional. I am not sure that is a convincing reason for excluding it as having been influential on Bodin. Lange does not cite Franklin in his bibliography; perhaps there is good reason not to, since Franklin notes, about Bodin, that "There is no indication, however, that Bodin was familiar with Torquemada's work [including a phrase about indivisibility or had any interest in the debates of the conciliar and later conciliar epoch" (p. 113). Isn't that interesting, and curious, for someone who read so much on so many subjects!
Historians have often taken up the research methods of the lawyer who searches through his sources for precedents and tags to support his argument, with little respect for the contexts in which they are found. Budé's thought about absolute powers is set in a historical, mirror-of-princes context at one point, and as comment on Roman law in another. Louis d'Orléans had some legal education, but his arguments rest neither on history nor on law; they rest on statement, the obiter dicta of the publicist, cast in rhetoric.
Jouanna begins her second volume with a brief overview of the intense political storms that occurred in the reign of Henry IV and beyond. Popes did not abandon their claims of authority, not merely over the churches in Venice and France, but also over the sources of sovereignty and the administration of the sacraments. For canonists in Rome, the claim that the king held his power from God alone seemed a dangerous, heretical notion.
And the king's sacred person seemed to be increasingly simply ontological, not the (partial) consequence of the coronation ceremony. True, this was a matter of tone and attitude, not law. Kings received communion in "les deux espèces," as a result of their royal priestly status, not because their bodies were more saintly. But thanks to so many decades of dispute, and to the tendency of just about anyone to pick up a pen and begin writing about kingship, a veneer of the sacred, beyond the thaumaturgy and coronation, came into place. Within its imaginative purview, divine-right theory brought the claim that kings were in fact Gods (a lower-case "gods"?). Léonor d'Étampes, bishop of Chartres, asserted this, and it perhaps came as no surprise that kings-are-gods became a current of thinking back in the 1590s (see Church, pp. 308f), supported by hasty readings of the Bible.
Guez de Balzac, that seventeenth-century Snowden (without gaining their permission, he published letters written by people who were still alive), sought to be still more explicit about divinity in royalty in his Le Prince. The result was disfavor.
Richelieu replied to critics or engaged writers to do so, and he carefully managed the news. So did Louis XIII. And look what happened to Saint-Cyran! As far as I know, however, neither the cardinal nor the king approved, or disapproved, assertions about royal divinity.
In her very successful attempt to remain brief, Jouanna does not mention the obvious. The Church and Catholic Spain had the vent en poupe at court, not only before Henry IV's assassination, but continuing down to at least the mid-century. Ex-Leaguers were joined by younger members of the elite (both women and men) to establish not only a Catholic presence in all institutions, but a devout Catholic presence. Jacques-Auguste de Thou did not become premier président of the Parlement because he was a Catholic, but because he was not a new Counter-Reformation Catholic. After his own conversion, du Perron worked to the point of harassment to convert such leading figures of the day as Casaubon and Turquet de la Mayerne. Sully, that overbearing Huguenot, had to go, and he did. Jouanna notes, "La conception du pouvoir monarchique propre à Richelieu et à ses partisans différait moins de celle des dévots qu'on ne l'a souvent dit" (p. 37). To that, I say Amen. But the clashes over foreign policy were crucial, and Marie de Médicis wanted Richelieu disgraced, period.
In the next three, very strong chapters, Jouanna not only interprets some familiar thinkers on the basis of what they might say in response to current issues under discussion (for example, divine right and reason of state), she also frames this thought within what were already prevailing or current attitudes among readers of the time. The idea of the "state" had evolved from that somewhat loose Italian notion of what a prince might lose or enhance ---- akin to reputation (Mattingly) ---, to an idea of a sovereign who dominated his subjects. Louis XIII would say "l'État," but he also would say "mon État," an indication of that still-earlier resonance that had now become something that almost dominated the king. Lois performed certain actions in order to preserve his state.
And yet, Jouanna encounters the familiar expression about the liberty that the French asserted they possessed! How could this sense of liberty be reconciled with the state that is the dominant force in society? Seneca had considered all this in his commentary on slavery. A man may be shackled, but in his mind he is still free! Machiavelli had rejected Senecan political thought, in order to propose a proto-republican civic-mindedness centered on militia defense rather than mercenary armies. and elections to councils whose members rotted regularly. Some of the writers whom Jouanna reads probably had read Machiavelli, or one of his apologists, and were deliberately rejecting him by restating the idea of liberty in one's for intérieur. In his Testament politique Richelieu relies on Seneca for the warp; but here and there one encounters themes from the Prince, an example being the chestnut: Is it better for the prince to be loved or hated?
It is not Jouanna's purpose to try to go behind the thought that is part of the congeries of beliefs and attitudes prevailing in the seventeenth century. But there is little that is truly new or original in the thought of a Charron or a Ferrier; thus we can approach the question of how texts were read by readers familiar with the major antique and medieval authors. I am deeply indebted here to Peter Stacey's Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince (Cambridge, UK, 2007). Yet it is the not very original thinker who captures prevailing attitudes in his time.
Jouanna does not become bogged down in older historiographies. For example, she presents Ferrier and other members of Richelieu's writing stable, without taking into account the Meinecke thesis on von Albertini's work, and those who wished to refute it, or nuance it, such as W.F. Church and E. Thuau. As I read about Ferrier's thought, a phrase jumped out: "amateur de l'État." It had never before caught my attention. Lover of the state, the affective relation, suggests that while the divinization of the king, and in some instances even of his body, continued, there occurred simultaneously an anthropomorphic attitude about the state, abstract yet capable of inspiring love. Great nobles in rebellion would claim that their opposition was directed at the state, and principally at the royal councilors, not at the king; and yet when they angrily left the court, they personally offended the king by not telling him they were leaving, and why -- a signal discourtesy in court society.
In the Succinct narration, part 1 of the Testament politique, Richelieu recounts the recent history of the reign, and states emphatically that the king had decided and participated in every major action that turned out well. The text should not be read as history, but as an illustration of royal knowledge. His principal (not premier) minister only did what he could to "solliciter les diligences." The idealized divine-right king worked through Richelieu's mind and hand, to carry France to a lofty spiritual state. Doubt sometimes came over the cardinal; he feared not only that the king would disgrace him, but that God would abandon him.
For Richelieu, the king must take counsel.The diplomatics of the chancery still required counter-signatures and so forth; but Louis could order someone's arrest by a verbal command, or by a simple billet signed and sealed with his personal private seal, could instruct the superintendants of finance to make a payment from his own accounts, or from those of the Crown. It is therefore not surprising that the principal minister had a very small margin of action in his own name -- except by his offices of admiral, governor, or abbot. Despite popular legend, just about everything that Richelieu ever did was done in the king's name, even when he evoked his property or his non-royal offices or benefices when signing.
While arguments about prudence, dissimulation, the arcana imperii, and raison d'État circulated in the pamphlet literature, the cardinal wrote out his policies for the king, and often sent similar statements to the Gazette for publication. There is disjuncture between the cardinal's vocabulary and the vocabulary of the prominent thinkers of his day. Although the cardinal uses "raison d'État" when discussing cas royaux in the Testament politique, the Roman-law argument about necessity may frequently be found in both his Testament politique and his correspondence.
I am uncertain about whether Richelieu sought to shut down the "espaces institutionnels de délibération" (p. 98). Jouanna is right not to spend time describing the Assembly of the Notables (1627), because it led to a dead end, that is, a refusal to favor increased revenues for the Crown. After this failure, Richelieu concluded that he would do whatever was necessary to find money for the campaign against the Huguenots.
The tensions with the sovereign courts derived from the judges' assertion that they could deliberate on affairs of state, and Louis XIII and Richelieu said they could not. The Crown had to turn to the Parlement on what were political matters, for example, royal marriages and succession questions!
Local estates pretty much breathed a sigh of relief after Marillac's disgrace. The cardinal wanted them to vote money, and that was about all he cared about. There were few calls for an estates-general, once it became apparent that Condé had sought to coerce Marie de Médicis through pressure from the estates in 1614. The situation would differ little at the end of the Fronde des princes; the debacle surprised few, except, perhaps, Condé's numerous noble clients who waited to be told what to do. Mazarin did not want that sort of meeting, but Anne was coerced into calling one, in an effort to keep the support of Gaston, and others.
On reflecting about Jouanna's analysis of the political and ethical thought under the first two Bourbons, two features stand out. The first is the balance and clarity of Le Bret's thought. it has often been characterized to fit preconception about Richelieu and absolutism. Le Bret states categorically that the prince has absolute, indivisible powers; but among many other aspects of his thought, Le Bret emphasizes the need for all to act within the law. He and Richelieu frame thought and action in similar ways during the exceptional emergency situation of the moment, caused by the military effort. The French financial situation was already critical after the wars in the South, and the siege of La Rochelle. There was scarcely time to build up a war chest before "open war" began in 1635. Recall the last section of the Testament politique: it is a projector-type plan (e.g., Laffemas and Montchrétien) for paying off debt and balancing the budget. Here is where Le Bret and Richelieu share similar views. If the king has absolute power, he should
use it only rarely, and then return to legal fiscal measures (and not to new venal offices!). Richelieu had no idea of how long the war with Spain would last, but he thought it would be short. But the point is that neither Le Bret nor Richelieu promoted a "rise of the state" by consciously flouting the law. Each could be charged with naiveté; but as Church concluded in Richelieu and Reason of State (Princeton, 1972), but cannot be charged with consciously acting illegally or unethically. The trajectory of state-building laid out by Meinecke from Machiavelli to Bismarck did not stand up under newer and more extended research.
The second point that comes to mind is the creation of new meanings of power, attributed to old words, namely, premier ministre and intendant. The first expression gave Richelieu a congeries of powers that he actually acted upon; the second gave coercive powers to overrule town governments, confiscate war materiel, and coerce the trésoriers de France to collect royal revenues under the eyes of a column of surly-looking troops.
Jouanna notes the cas royaux: they had a far deeper influence over the "public" than did the absence of the estates-general. Collective identification with the victims, or their brutal rejection (Concini) must be understood as a continuity. Richelieu knew what it was to be humane; but he steeled himself against such feelings, from a belief in "education," that is, exemplary punishment. Louis XIII was no more humane than his father had been (Biron). Very few would be put to death for political treasons during the Fronde. Fouquet's exile, rather than execution, marked a change, as did the trial. Richelieu actually lied about the Cinq-Mars judgments. In a letter to the king, he writes that the judges had been unanimous: but they had not been! What is often not mentioned is the effect of the executions on client networks. If a Montmorency himself could not protest (here, a technical term), how could he protect his clients? And it was the Parlement of Toulouse that condemned the noble duke!
While splendid in its synthetic power, Jouanna's chapter on "Résistances nobiliaires" sidesteps the issue of royal leadership in noble rebellions (she notes Montrésor and Fontrailles as examples) years before Richelieu's ministry. Marie de Médicis would do almost anything to cling to power, not unlike Catherine de Médicis. One of Richelieu's greatest achievements was to bring Henri II de Condé into the royal council and share power with him, especially on material strategy. Does Breen's book on Burgundy (and Swann's) confirm the Beik thesis? The foundations for stability in the 1660s (see J.H. Plumb and T.K. Rabb) may well be European, not just French.
Hélène Duccini (Faire voir, faire croire..., Paris, 2003) finds that by censorship and flooding readers with pro-government "information," Richelieu and his stable of writers had just about dried up dialogue, protests and replies to pro-government pamphlets (de Morgues is the exception). Paul Scott's excellent edition of Jacques Favereau's versions of 1636, the Gouvernement présent... (the Miliade), London, 2010, makes available this scathing satire worthy of being placed beside the more vitriolic Mazarinades of 1649!
Finally, with Richelieu and Louis gone, the French "political class" gave the regent a few years to change course. Again, a foreigner, and an Italian at that. There were still enough French around who remembered the execution of Concini as an ecstatic, royalist moment. Paul Sonnino finds that Mazarin could have had peace circa 1645. By continuing the fight, he could perhaps win the whole Spanish Netherlands, an illusion if ever there was one.
After helping the regent, the Parlement would soon feel snubbed and would begin a predictable effort to recover lost power and prestige. Mazarin said everything to everybody. he did not keep his word. Parlementaires and nobles agreed that keeping one's word was crucial to governance in France.
Jouanna has read the Descimon-Ranum edition of Jean Le Boindre, a parlementaire who kept notes on the deliberations, thereby permitting readers interested in political discourse to be very precise about what was said and ordered in the Grand'chambre. Fiscal demands and the creation of new offices for the Parlement on the part of a government, always makes it tempting to call that action inept. The trouble with such terms, including epithets about Mazarin, do not advance understanding what happened.
Guillaume Tronson's Mémoire provides a window into the militia's revival and its relations to the parlementaires, suggesting proto-republican participation in some instances (when not drunk!). It is correct to stress clashes over the rights to remonstrance; but the central political drive, power play, became whether Mazarin could be disgraced. The price on his head constituted a drastic action, and it was an issue on which just about all the French could agree. Expelled, he would nevertheless return. Often, in analyzing political thought, the power to inherit, appoint or grab an office is not mentioned as part of civic consciousness. Historians endow political with an importance that is sometimes less influential than a simple angry demand for a disgrace.
Condé jumbled all the stakes. A round of influenza in the royal nursery could make him more powerful than Gaston, the lieutenant general and heir to the throne who had no male heirs. The Condés were absolute absolutists in their politics; they acted as if their interests and the interests of France were one. The sixteenth-century Condé did not have a lot of money, but all that had changed under Louis XIII. A skilled general and an inspiration to his troops and his clients, Condé's power grew almost as fast in the seventeenth century as the power of the king.
The parlementaires and the Parisian Frondeurs lost to Condé, as he blockaded the city. Nearly destroyed, he and his clients entered the capital and intimidated the city fathers, set the doors of the Hôtel de Ville on fire, and tried to establish a government based on a vague plan to pack the royal council with Condéists.
We need not go farther into Condéist tervergisations. Suffice it to note that the Parisian governing elite (Condé clients excepted) began their own intimidation of Monsieur le Prince and his by now small, hungry army. There would be splendid militia parades and festive entrées for Louis, as Condé slinked off to join the Spanish. And the constitution survived, that is, the power to appoint councilors or disgrace them. Mazarin survived too! Jouanna is right not to characterize the Parlement as defeated. Some of the judges were exiled, of course, including Pithou and Le Boindre; but they would be pardoned and return to the fold.
Jouanna's final paragraphs about the Frondes are eloquent in the sheer vitality of the Parlement and the fact that the "dogme absolutiste" had been really shaken at a moment of "spectaculaire libération de la parole" in numerous spaces, as expressed in the Mazarinades.
The general craving for order that had swept over the realm upon the defeat of the League, and the consolidation of royal power under Henry IV, had also expressed itself in absolutist, divine-right, even the-king-is-a-god terms. The craving for order was again very strong in the 1650s, but perhaps a bit less so than in the late 1590s. However, instead of a new outburst of absolutist thought, this time the public mind would turn on a classicistic idealization of an all-powerful new Alexander. The jurists were almost silent, while men of letters created heroic personages who, in effect, became the play that the new young king would act out in the 1660s. Uncertain of himself, Louis started out in conventional ways (e.g., he announced that he would rule himself), but he soon found very strong support for almost anything he did! Fêtes, conquests and show trials of financiers not only consolidated an image of a sovereign with absolute powers, but poets, artists and general also applied their most creative moments to expand an outsize, enormous concetto that very few dared question. There were those pesky Jansenists who claimed absolute fidelity to the Crown but who (like the Dutch!) would not join the party.
Jouanna finds that there was a secularization of the art of governing (p. 221). Less Christianity, perhaps. But instead of governing from the accounts and prose that had scarcely evolved from notarial practices, the spread sheet that was squared off into boxes, calligraphed letters and the empowered numbers of Colbertism were not without a religious dimension. And the articulation of a new Alexander, with his new royal body, had non-Christian and pagan dimensions but was still religious, not unlike the divine princeps of Imperial Rome. The Roman concetto was not secular, just non-Christian. Jouanna finds Bossuet's thought to be, in effect, an elegant restatement of the essential commonplaces of absolute thought, and with the usual caveats eloquently stated. And there is something divine in kingly actions. Bossuet had the courage to preach about the king's adultery, but he paid little attention to such issues as respect for the fundamental laws and, indeed, of law in general. Obviously, we cannot expect a brilliant theologian to argue like a jurist! Domat would return the emphasis to the law, instead of ethics; but in the meantime the state had become manifest in an administration that reached everyone through new taxes and an officialdom devoted to eliminating social disorder and conflict throughout the realm. Was the intensified and elaborated image of the king a prerequisite for the greatly enhanced functional presence across the realm? Throughout the better part of the seventeenth century, many state servants would continue to be like the d'Argensons, that is, devout. And the word dévot would change its meaning for all aspects of life in the cité, under an administration that censored books, rounded up prostitutes and beggars, and investigated the slightest out-of-bounds speech act. Poor Vauban! His house was ransacked by royal agents who received orders to confiscate every copy of the Dîme royale.
Yes, even M. le Prince had calmed down; he now bowed to his royal cousin in obeissance. As Condé lay on his deathbed, he wrote the king, pleading that the command of the royal army be given to his son. The king refused. Dompter was the word used about La Rochelle after the end of the siege. It could also be said about the grands and their clients.
And even if we take the devaluation of coinage into account, the French were, roughly speaking, paying at least 75% more in taxes, with the new dixième bringing in twenty-five million livres a year -- about half the revenue on which Richelieu had been able to rely. All the techniques for raising revenues (e.g., venality), which everyone recognized as odious, were refined and extended. Despite the rise of the information state, there really never was an attempt to establish realm-wide laws and administration for fiscal revenues. Tax relief for "his" peasants continued -- if a nobleman had the ear of the comptrolleur général. But Jouanna is not concerned about these continuities. Her care in elucidating the closing-down of spaces for debate, and the near absence of criticism about it by jurists and publicists (except during the Fronde), suggests that the French got what they asked for in the absolutist state!
In all his works, my late friend, Ralph Giesey, explored the shift from institutional monarchy to personal monarchy. Did this shift help us understand what had happened in Germany in the 1930s? To be sure, Louis XIV was not Hitler; but how cold the powers of institutions and social classes be evacuated? There was nothing like the Nazi party in the France of Louis XIV. And in monarchy, what I have referred to as "regnal rhythms" created opportunities for parlements, local estates, and city councils to receive, during regencies, some of these lost powers. The tutors around Louis XV believed firmly that it was better for a king to be loved than feared. They made that shift away from the highly coercive Monarchy of the seventeenth century, and it led to catastrophe.
In conclusion: Jouanna returns to the question of individuality and the dire consequences for it in a state founded on divine-right absolutism. Richelieu traced the conditions for the règne de Dieu, the religious Cité. The Parlement of Paris remained obsessed with the privileges and income of its members, even during the Fronde. The Grands, including Gaston d'Orléans, printed manifestos called for the soulagement du peuple; but where they had powers as governors, they merely exhorted the provincial estates to grant the monies that the king demanded. The vitality of the First Estate, with its improved education of bishops and priests, does not interest Jouanna. Despite the battles with Jansenism, in 1682 the Church had a powerful voice in the realm that remained quite open to individual expression.
In her conclusion, Jouanna switches to the thought of major authors, perhaps in the hope that they would express not only the case for individual identity, but also a proto-civic consciousness. Jouanna becomes disoriented in the desert of non-significant political thought so characteristic of the century and a half that separated La Boëtie, Hotman and the theorists of resistance, from the decade of the Persian Letters. Locke brought back arguments that had not been made in France since the sixteenth century. Rousseau's ideas about a republic were simply inconceivable to the generation of Silhon and Naudé, but they had almost been "thought" in the 1560s and 1570s.
There were also dark mirrors that reflected negative images, e.g., Le Sage's Turcaret and Montesquieu's Persian Letters, which made financial corruption and despotism part of the French mental furniture.
Dale Van Kley's Religious Origins of the French Revolution (New Haven, 1996) comes to mind, because of the Individualism and the collective individual powers to vote the exclusion of the Jesuits from France. Depicting Louis XV on a shield (A.M. Le Carpentier), in the manner of Abraracourcix, the chief in Asterix, only clarified the disjuncture between myths that could be restated and have force, and myths that could not and did not. Guglielmo Ferrero's point about the "génies invisibles de la cité" recalls Jacques-Auguste de Thou's Numen, the inspiring divinity that is France. (See the preface to his Historiarium.)
My aim has been to inspire readers to take up Jouanna's thoughtful, eloquent and learned book. Reading and rereading have given me not only pleasure but also satisfaction. I love to write about books that carry me ever deeper into seventeenth-century France.