20 JANUARY 1855, Page 14



Tins disquisition originated in one of those well-planned and mu- nificent publications of original documents by the French Govern- ment which contrast so favourably with the jobs of our Record Commissions. Under the auspices of Guizot, when Minister of Public Instruction, the historian of the Norman Conquest was instructed to prepare an edition of inedited documents that might illustrate the history of the Tiers Etat. The principles of classifi- cation which Augustin Thierry laid down for his proceedings, their subsequent modification, the delays caused by his own state of health, and the appearance of the Remelt des Monumens nedits du Tiers Etat, are topics that may be passed over. Suffice it to say that the present work was the result of the editor's labours in this field of historical research. It contains the pith of his con, elusions, and formed an introduction to the collection itself.

The subject as understood by M. Thierry is more extensive than the title might suggest to an English reader. By Tiers Etat the author does not merely mean the body known by that name as forming the lowest estate in the assemblage of the States General. His definition of the Tiers Etat is somewhat like that of the Abbe Sieyes—the nation minus the nobles and clergy. The survey is by no means confined to the meetings of the States General, or an account of the circumstances which originally induced the sum- moning of the Tiers Etat. M. Thierry begins his inquiry with the downfall of the Roman power, and the irruption or conquest of the Franks. Disregarding what history has already recorded—the acts of kings and nobles and the great events of the periods, he endeavours to trace the amalgamation of the Franks and Ro- manized Gauls into one people ; the manner in which Roman civi- lization and Franco-Germanic barbarous independence acted and reacted upon each other ; the operation of Christianity and. the Church, especially in the gradual extinction of slavery ; the noble and episcopal usurpation of the municipal rights as they had sur- vived the ruin of the Empire ; their restoration with a difference under the protection of the French Kings, and the establishment of communes ; in short, the formation of France of the middle ages. The summoning of the bourgeoisie to the national council was, a gradual and slow process. At first only citizens of royal cities or " bonnes -rifles" were called together, and those perhaps selected men, without any definite function, consulted for special purposes and possibly as confidential personal dependents. In 1302 Phi; lippe le Bel was threatened in his sovereign rights by Boniface,. The Pope had summoned a General Council ; the King met it with all the national power he could by summoning a States General, that is "a general assembly of deputies of the three States—the clergy, nobility, and bourgeoisie of the cities." "Those of the North sent their echevins, those of the South their-Oonsulee and the voice of the commons was listened to as of the same right as that of the barons and dignitaries of the church. From you,' said the represents.- tives of the bourgeoisie, in their address to the King, 'from you, Sire, our most honoured Prince, Philip, by the grace of God King of France, the people of your kingdom beg and request, so far as belongs to them, that pro- vision be made to enable you to preserve the sovereign independence of your kingdom, which is such that you could not recognize in your temporal cha- racter any sovereign on earth except God.'" Henceforth the Tiers Etat formed a regular and recognized part of the States General when they were summoned. This, however, was at distant and uncertain intervals. When they did assemble they had no legislative or parliamentary power in our sense of the term- They were in fact a suggestive or consultative body, whom the King called together in difficulties, or when national disaster or distress compelled him to yield to the pressure of public opinion. They might advise recommend, or petition ; but their requests de- pended for validity upon King's fiat, and when he had promised or even granted anyth. he could rescind it. "L'etat 'oest moi" was arrogant and disdainful in expression, but it expressed. the truth. When the King of France chose resolutely to exert him- self there were no constitutional means of peaceably resisting his will. How it came to pass that two bodies bearing such a general resemblance to each other as the States General and the English Par- liament, summoned under similar circumstances of the Executive's necessity, and starting into complete existence within about half a century of each other, should exhibit such different results, is a subject of curious investigation. Something must be ascribed to geographical circumstances and national origin. The blood—the character of the Saxons and Danes was less impulsive and less easily moved from a purpose than that of the Franks. The predo- minance of the Celtic element is greater in. France than in Eng- land. The insular situation of this country enabled the civic and all the civil elements to advance more undisturbedly. The energy of the Conqueror, and the necessity which the ill-will of the Saxons at first imposed upon the nobility of looking up to the Crown, rendered them less like little sovereigns than the great feudatories of the French monarchy ; atkthe same time this more dependent position induced them to resist as much as they could the power of the Crown and to unite with other classes in so doing. There was also what Hume admits—which is admitting much—that however irregular practice might be, the will of the King was never absolute in England. The most obvious point in Thierry's exposition is the national contrast which still exists- ,. The Formation and Progress of the Tiers Etat or Third Estate in France. Hy Augustin Thierry, Author of'" History of the Norman Conquest," Su. Ike. Trans- lated from the French by the Reverend Francis B. Wells, Rector of Woodchurc4, Kent. Published by Bosworth.

de difference between practical objects and brilliant generaliza- tion. In our great confftational document*, from Magna Charts to the Act of Settlement, and also in our leading acts of Parlia- ment, there is no theory—hardly an abstraction. The principles may sometimes be very large, but they are comprehended in a remedy for some actual grievance or a claim to some inherited right. The petitions or cahiers of the States General often seem to have been nearly as much political treatises as practical do- otunents. M. Thierry traces in them, as a thing to be proud of, the ideas that subsequently turned up in full maturity during the great revolution of 1789. The propositions were sometimes reck- oned by hundreds ; from all which nothing was gained but pro- mises, and not always an answer. In England, a few things at a time were pressed for till they were obtained.

From 1302, when the first States General was assembled under Philippe the Fair, until 1614, which, under Louis the Thirteenth, witnessed the laat.meeting before 1780, M. Thierry gives con- tinuous notices of their transactions. As the documents them- selves probably follow in the body of the original work, he aims rather at indicating their spirit than narrating particulars. He also continues to take a general view of the progress of the people as well as of their political aspirations and opinions as indicated in the assembled Tiers Etat. Health and circumstances have as yet prevented the completion of the work to the last great meeting in 1789. M. Thierry, however, reviews the governments of Riche- lieu and Mazarin, and the reign and character of Louis the Fourteenth, in reference to their effect upon the people less the no- bility and clergy ; his review terminating with the death of Louis.

The purpose of the work, perhaps necessarily, renders it rather disquisitional than narrative dealing more frequently with de- ductions than facts. This makes the book of necessity dryer than where a striking narrative introduces pictures of the people, their Nunn:fere and opinions. Sometimes the conclusion affirmed in the text is illustrated in a note by the living circumstances on which it is founded. At times the author displays a very remarkable power of generalization • a single sentence condenses a principle, or presents by a touch ihe characteristics of the age. There are occasions when narrative supersedes exposition. But upon the whole the book has a deductional air.

H. Thierry appears to have a theory not derived from a perusal of the documents he has edited, but entertained before he began his task. In words it may be a grand and glorious idea ; in reality it is a notion favourable to arbitrary power, and always capable of being perverted to its purposes. In some form the notion has long existed. The ancient republics had it in the absolute power they conceived the state to possess. Hobbes produced it in an offensive way. In Turkey and other Mahometan countries it is found in practical vigour ; in France it new appears in fall de- velopment. M. Thierry's idea, as we understand him, is this. In society there is only the people and the ruler, who is in fact a sort of focus of the people. Nobles and any other orders with power and privileges are at best an obstruction, and will most probably become a corrupt evil. National unity, liberty, and equality in the people, power (and to be effective it must be absolute power) in the ruler, seem to be his beau ideal of a nation. He admires the vigour of Louis, the Fourteenth, and complains not of his ar- bitrary rule, but of his mischievous wars and intolerance. He admires the results of 1789; which must point to the Empire. He thinks France has now advanced to a still more favourable point ; but the now would rather seem to refer to Louis Philippe than to Louis Napoleon. The object of Augustin Thierry is to trace "the formation and progress of the Tiers Etat" till it swallowed up everything else except its masters, from the earliest period of his- tory until his survey closes, and to impress upon the mind of the reader that this is the mission or destiny of France. In some conjunctures of affairs despotism may certainly be a necessity. Well-administered it may be an advantage to some peoples, until they happen to cross it. In the management of diplomacy and war it mostly has a superiority. A nation where all are free, equal, and happy, and where government is reduced to the utmost directness, is a fine abstraction. We live, however, in a world where there is nothing in nature ideal and abstract—not even, ac- cording to Cousin, a mathematical figure.

The most interesting account of the States General is the meet- ing of 1614. The materials are probably fuller than for the earlier assemblages. The period comes home to modern ideas ; for the same movement that was agitating France, was moving in Eng- land to finally produce the Great Rebellion. There is life in the speeches, vigour in the contest; for the Tiers Etat began to assert -rights and powers more directly than formerly. If France was " destined " to 1789, there is an end of the matter; but it does seem that if the nobility had abated its pretences and its arrogance, joined with the clergy to advance practical measures and reforms, and all three estates had combined to obtain some power of check, there was a good prospect of constitutional government for France. But the contempt of noblesse for retailers, to be revenged so dreadfully nearly two centuries afterwards, came into play, and destroyed the chance. To a financial measure introduced under Henry the Fourth M. Thierry ascribes greater social effects than it would seem to possess; but it is necessary ta understand it, as it was a ground of contention.

"Among the fiscal measures which were suggested to the Government of Henry IV. by an imperious necessity, is one which, both at the time and sub- sequently, produced serious consequences—I mean the annual payment im- posed on all the offices of the judicature and exchequer, and commonly called the paulette. By mean& of the tax, the magistrates of the supreme courts, and the royal officers of every rank, enjoyed the possession of their places asliereffilary property. The Est result of fEs innovation was to raise the saleable value of the offices to an amount unknown till then; the second was to invest the civil functionaries with a new degree of consideration, that which is attached to advantages of an hereditary nature. Within less than ten years the passions and interests of classes were awakened and brought into collision by the effects of this simple financial expedient. The nobles— many of whom were poor, and many trammelled with entails—were deprived of all chance of these offices by their high price • and this took place at the very moment when, becoming more enlightened they understood the error which their ancestors had committed in excluding themselves from these offices through their aversion to study, and in abandoning them to the Tiers Etat. Thence new causes of jealousy and rivalry arose between these two orders : the one was irritated at seeing the other aggrandized in an unex- pected manner by the appointments which it now felt regret at having for- merly despised ' • the other, from the hereditary right which raised profes- sional families to the level of military, began to imbibi ae spirit of inde- pendence and pride, and the high opinion of self', which fere before the at- tribute of those of noble birth."

This paulette the nobles desired to suspend. The Tiers Etat con- sented, but proposed at the same time to discontinue the pensions (of the nobility) and to reduce the taxes generally. They mixed the three questions together, and refused to separate them. One of their speakers, Jean Savaron Lieutenant-General of the Send- chaussee of Auvergne expressed himself freely in the assembly of his own order, and afterwards as its prolocutor before the nobility.

"Before the nobles, Savaron expressed himself in a loud and proud tone, and his arguments were marked with irony and menace. He said that it was not the annual payment which closed the approach to office to those of noble birth, but their want of aptitude for them, and the venality of the ap- pointments; that, moreover, the suspension of the paulette, the taxes, and the suppression of pensions could not be separated ; that the abuse of pensions was become such that the King no longer found servants except by making pen- sioners of them—a state of things which was tending to ruin the treasury, to oppress and crush the people ; and he added, in concluaion,Resume, gentlemen, the virtues of your predecessors, and the ways to honours and appointments will be open to you. History informs us that the Romans imposed such burdens upon the French, that they at last shook off their obedience, and by so doing laid the first foundations of the monarchy. The people are now so burdened with taxes, that it is to be feared theta similar event may take place. God grant that I may be a false prophet!'

"The nobles only replied with murmurs and invectives to the prolocutor of the Tiers Etat."

In a subsequent address to the King, Savaron gave still greater offence to the nobility, and they determined to address the Crown.

"They begged the clergy to join them in this proceeding : but that body, assuming the character of a mediator, sent one of its members to the as- sembly of the Tiers Etat to lay before it the grievances of the nobles, and to invite it to give some satisfaction for the sake of peace. When the deputy had spoken, Savaron rose and said proudly, that neither in deed, intention, nor word had he given offence to the nobles ; that as for the rest, before he served the King as an officer of justice, he had borne arms ; so that he was able to give an answer to any one in the one character or the other. In order to avoid a rupture, which would have rendered all business in the States impossible, the Tiers Etat accepted the mediation which was offered them, and consented to send a conciliatory message to the nobles ; and in order that all cause of dissatisfaction and distrust should be removed, they chose a new speaker, the Lieutenant Civil, De Mesmes. De Mesmes was commissioned to declare that neither the Tiers Etat in general nor any of its members in particular had any design of giving offence to the order of the nobles. He made WM of language at once honest and peaceable ; but the ground was so hot, that, instead of appeasing the quarrel, his speech embittered it. Be said that the three orders were three brothers, children of their common mother, France ; that the clergy represented the eldest, the nobles the second, and the Tiers Etat the youngest ; that the Tiers Etat had always recognized the nobles as raised in some-degree above it, but that the nobles ought also to recognize the Tiers Etat as their brother' and not to despise it, as if it were of no account ; that it was often found in domestic life that the eldest sons ruined the family, and that the youngest restored it. It was not only these last words, but the comparison of the three orders to three brothers, and the notion of such a relationship between the Tiers Etat and the nobles, that excited a storm of dissatisfaction among the latter. Their assembly, in confusion, directed their reproaches against the eccle- siastical representatives who were present at the sitting, complaining that the messenger of the Tiers Etat, introduced at their instance, instead of making reparation, had offered fresh injuries more serious than the first. After some lengthy discussion upon what ought to be done, it was resolved that they should proceed forthwith with a complaint to the King.

"The audience which was demanded was not obtained till two days after; the nobles attended in a body. Their prolocutor, the Baron de Senecey, concluded a verbose exordium with this description of the Tiers Etat—' An order composed of people from the cities and the country ; the last almost all bound to do homage, and under the jurisdiction of the two first orders ; those of the cities, burgesses, tradesmen, artisans, and some placemen ; and,' he continued, these are the persons, who, forgetting their position, without the sanction of those whom they represent, wisk to compare them- seine to us. I am ashamed, Sire, to repeat to you the terms which have given us fresh offence. They compare your state to a family composed,of three brothers ; they say that the ecclesiastical order is the eldest,. ours the second, and theirs the youngest ; and that it often happens that houses ruined by the eldest are raised up again by the youngest. Into what a

pitiable condition are we fallen if this be true' And not content with calling us brothers, they attribute the restoration of the state to them- selves, in which, as France knows sufficiently, they have no share whatever; so everybody perceives that they could not be in any. way compared with us, and a presumption on such poor grounds would be intolerable. Pronounce judgment, Sire, upon it, and, by a just decision, make them return to their duty.' As they retired, the assembly of the nobles who accompanied their speaker eapressed their unanimous assent by gestures and such words as these : We do not choose that the sons of shoemakers and cobblers shall call us brothers ; there is as much difference between us and them as between the master and the valet.'

"The Tiers Etat received the news of this audience and of these remarks with great composure : they decided that their orator should not only be er proved, but thanked ; that no recrimination against the nobles should be made before the King; and that they should proceed to the business of the cahiers without pausing to notice such squabblings."

The history is embraced in the first volume. A second volume contains a variety of appended matter. There is a learned and interesting description of ancient municipal France, with an equally learned account of the communal constitution of Amens; both throwing light upon the principal disquisition. There are also some original documents of an. illustrative kind.