Abbildungen der Seite

The establishment of the franc-archers had increased the jealousy of the Barons towards the Third Estate, whose strong support of the King in the meeting at Orleans had overpowered their opposition. Charles now found it expedient to court them by an improvement of the army, which proved acceptable

to them while it furthered his own plans. 1455.

10. The feudal part of the force, that which the Barons furnished, was placed upon a more regular footing, but one which made the providing and maintaining it easier for them. This, too, was done by the King's own authority, and without any assembling of the States.

All these considerable changes in the Government, chiefly in its practice, but in some measure also affecting its principles, may justly be viewed as connected with the English invasion more or less directly. They were changes in two opposite directions; they tended on the one hand to increase the power of the Crown, but on the other hand they involved material admissions of the subject's rights. The necessity of appeal to the States in any emergency of affairs was proved by numerous examples. The course of consulting those assemblies on other matters, as well as on supply, was more frequently resorted to. Even the changes most beneficial to the prerogative, the perpetual tax and the standing army, were made with the assent of the States, and principally of the Commons; and the importance of that body was recognised by the aristocracy as well as by the Sovereign. It is certain that the invasion and the state of anarchy into which the war threw the country, enabled the Sovereign to accomplish whatever he undertook with respect to the administration of affairs; but it is not true that this state of things now for the first time existed in France. The evils so severely felt had attained a great height a century before, in Edward's time, and from similar causes. They were now become more intolerable, and they led to more permanent results.

Whoever marks the changes to which we have been adverting, must perceive whence the power was derived that enabled the King to effect them. It was from the feelings engendered by a worse oppression than any which the abuse of his authority could inflict, and from the well-grounded dread of the anarchy becoming yet more general and unbearable. We have noted other resemblances between the older and the more recent passages in the history of France; and this adds one, not the least remarkable, to their number. The contrast in character and conduct of the Parisians with the rest of the French people; the influence over the multitude possessed by the most despicable and the most detestable leaders; the unprincipled, often unreflecting, sacrifice of the national honour, now to factious rage, now to selfish impatience of exertion; the unmanly attacks on unoffending weakness—women of exalted rank, venerable priests, aged nobles; the violation of the Monarch's person

1 Note LXVII.


by forcing him to crouch before the mob, and wear the emblems of its triumph ;' the massacres in the streets patiently witnessed, and the horrid murders perpetrated by wholesale in the prisons—these revolting scenes do not more accurately present the anticipation of enormities that disfigure the pages of recent annals, than the habitual acquiescence under any tyranny from the dread of worse mischief, affords a parallel to the patience of the same nation under the Directorial reign, alike harsh, corrupt, and contemptible—the Consular usurpation—the Imperial despotism—the Restoration, with its abuses and its disappointments—the Republic, with its real servitude and nominal freedom-a patience entirely produced by the apprehension that resistance might bring on the heaviest calamity of all, restoring the rabble to supreme power, and making its will the law. Nor can it be doubted that if the hordes of bloodthirsty plunderers who spread universal dismay in the fifteenth century surpassed in numbers the miscreants of whom the eighteenth stood in awe, the catastrophe which threatened the earlier, the more rude and more unfeeling age, was less terrible than would be the general establishment of lawless violence, under what name soever—whether of popular supremacy, or pure democracy, or all governed by all, or Utopia, or Communism-on the ruins of a social system at once artificial and refined.?

Note LXXI.

2 Note LXXIII.


« ZurückWeiter »