:"This article is for the Ancien Régime institution. For the post-Revolutionary and present-day institution, see
French Parliament."The political institutions of the Parlement (pronounced " evolved during the sixteenth century from a constitutional forum to a royal weapon, used to force registration of edicts. [Mack P. Holt, "The King in Parlement: The Problem of the Lit de Justice in Sixteenth-Century France" "The Historical Journal" 31.3 (September 1988:507-523).]
Originally, there was only the Parlement of Paris, born out of the king's council in
1307, and sitting inside the medieval royal palace on the Île de la Cité, still the site of the Paris Hall of Justice. The jurisdiction of the Parlement of Paris covered the entire kingdom as it was in the fourteenth century, but did not automatically advance in step with the enlarging personal dominions of the kings. In 1443, following the turmoil of the Hundred Years' War, King Charles VII of Francegranted Languedocits own "parlement" by establishing the "Parlement" of Toulouse, the first "parlement" outside of Paris; its jurisdiction extended over the most part of southern France. From 1443until the French Revolutionseveral other "parlements" were created in some provinces of France, until at the end of the ancien régime provincial parlements were sitting (clockwise from the north) in Arras, Metz, Nancy, Colmar, Dijon, Besançon, Grenoble, Aix, Perpignan, Toulouse, Pau, Bordeaux, Rennesand Rouen. All of them were administrative capitals of regions with strong historical traditions of independence before they were incorporated into France. Assembled in the parlements, the largely hereditary members, the provincial " noblesse de robe", were the strongest decentralising force in a France that was more multifarious in its legal systems, taxation, and custom than it might have seemed under the apparent unifying rule of its kings. Nevertheless, the "Parlement" of Paris had the largest jurisdiction of all the "parlements", covering the major part of northern and central France, and was simply known as "the "Parlement".
In some regions provincial Estates also continued to meet and legislate with a measure of self-governance and control over taxation within their jurisdiction.
All the "parlements" could issue regulatory decrees for the application of royal edicts or of customary practices; they could also refuse to register laws that they judged contrary to fundamental law, the local "coûtumes", of which there were some three hundred jurisdictions in France or simply as being untimely. Membership in those courts was generally bought from the royal authority; and such positions could be made hereditary by payment of the tax to the King ("la
In theory, "parlements" were not legislative bodies, but courts of appeal. They had the duty, however, to record all royal
edicts and laws. Some, especially the "Parlement de Paris", gradually acquired the habit of refusing to register legislation with which they disagreed until the king held a " lit de justice" or sent a " lettre de cachet" to force them to act. Furthermore, the "parlements" could pass "arrêts de réglement", which were laws that applied within their jurisdiction.
In the years immediately before the
French Revolution, their extreme concern to preserve "ancien régime" institutions of bourgeoisand noble privilege prevented France from carrying out miscellaneous reforms, especially in the area of taxation, even when those reforms had the support of theoretically absolute monarchs.
The beginning of the proposed changes in France began with the Protests of the Parlement of Paris addressed to Louis XVI in March 1776, in which the
Second Estate, the nobility of France, resisted the beginning of certain reforms that would remove privileges from the Second Estate, notably their exemption from taxes. The objections made to the Parlement of Pariswere in reaction to the essay, "Réflexions sur la formation et la distribution des richesses" ("Reflections on the Formation and Distribution of Wealth") by Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot. The Second Estate reacted to the essay with anger and with desperation to convince the king that the nobility still served a very important role in France and still deserved the same privileges of tax exemption as well as for the preservation of the guilds and corporations put in place to restrict trade, both of which were eliminated in the reforms proposed by Turgot.
The core concerns of this parliamentary meeting were to address some of the suggested reforms proposed by Turgot, which included taxing the Second Estate depending on the amount of land that they owned; all taxes had been a duty of the Third Estate, or the common people of France.
"The personal service of the clergy is to fulfill all the functions relating to education and religious observances and tocontribute to the relief of the unfortunate through its alms. The noble dedicates his blood to the defense of the state and assists to sovereign with his counsel. The last class of the nation, which cannot render such distinguished service to the state, fulfills its obligation through taxes, industry, and physical labor.".
The Second Estate of France consisted of about 1% of the population, but was exempt from all taxes, including the Corvée Royale, which was a recent mandatory service in which the roads would be repaired and built by those subject to the
corvée. The Second Estate was also exempt from the Gabelle, which was the unpopular tax on salt, and also the Taille, the oldest form of taxation in France, which was based upon how much land a person owned. The Second Estate was going to have to pay the Taille, and all those who had to pay the Taille, by law, had to perform the Corvée. The nobles saw this task as especially humiliating and below them to perform, as the nobles took great pride in their titles and their linage, many of whom had died in defense of France. They saw this elimination of tax privilege as the gateway for more attacks on their rights, and urged the Louis XVI throughout the Protests of the Parliament of Paris not to give into the proposed reforms.
These exemptions, as well as the right to wear a sword and their coat of arms, encouraged the idea of a natural superiority over the commoners that was common through the Second Estate, and as long as the nobles had commoners under their jurisdiction, they could demand a tax on the Third Estate called Feudal Dues, which would allegedly be for the Third Estate’s protection. Overall, the Second Estate had vast privileges over the Third Estate and took advantage of the Third Estate using the nobles’ position of power in the current class system. The reforms proposed by Turgot and argued against in the Protests of the Parliament of Paris conflicted with the Second Estates’ interests to keep their privileged positions, starting the ideas of change and revolution to seep into the political arena.
This behavior of the Second Estate is one of the reasons why, since the
French Revolution, French courts have been forbidden by Article 5 of the French civil code to create law and act as legislative bodies, their only mandate being to interpret the law. France, through the Napoleonic Code, was at the origin of the modern system of civil law in which precedents are not as powerful as in countries of common law. Since then, Courts have gradually regained some power, but it is still controversial whether unelected magistrates should gain too much power.
In civil trials, judges had to be paid "épices" (literally "spices" – fees) by the parties. Civil justice was out of reach of most of the population, except the wealthiest and best connected.
Regarding criminal justice, the proceedings were markedly archaic. Judges could order suspects to be
tortured in order to extract confessions, or induce them to reveal the names of their accomplices: there existed the "question ordinaire" ("ordinary questioning"), the ordinary form of torture, and the "question extraordinaire" ("extraordinary questioning"), with increased brutality. There was little presumption of innocence, if the suspect was a mere poor commoner. The death sentence could be pronounced for a variety of crimes, including mere theft; depending on the crime and the social class of the victim, death could be by decapitationwith a sword(for nobles), hanging(for most crimes by commoners), the breaking wheel(for some heinous crimes by commoners), and even burning at the stake(for heresy, or advocacy of atheism). Some crimes, such as regicide, exacted even more horrific punishment.
Judicial torture and cruel methods of executions were abolished in 1788 by King
Louis XVI. [ [http://history.rutgers.edu/graduate/ab93silv.htm Abstract of dissertation "'Pour savoir la verité de sa bouche': The Practice and Abolition of Judicial Torture in the Parlement of Toulouse, 1600-1788"] by Lisa Silverman.]
Parlement of Toulouse
Modeled on the Parlement of Paris, the Parlement of
Toulouse[The section on the Parlement of Toulouse is based on a translation of the article Parlement de Toulouse in the French Wikipedia, retrieved on 19 March 2007.] was first created in 1420, but definitely established by edicts in 1437and 1443by Charles VII as an appellate court of justice on civil, criminal and ecclesiastic affairs for the Languedocregion, including Quercy, the County of Foixand Armagnac. It was the first parlement in the south of France, and it gained in prestige both by its distance from Paris and from the differences between southern France's legal system (based on Roman law) and northern France's.
After the Parlement of Paris, the Parlement of Toulouse had the largest jurisdiction in France. Its purview extended from the Rhône to the
Atlantic Oceanand from the Pyrénéesto the Massif Central, but the creation of the Parlement of Bordeauxin 1462 removed from its jurisdiction Guyenne, Gascony, Landes, Agenais, Béarnand Périgord.
4 June 1444, the new parlement of Toulouse moved into a chamber of Toulouse's château narbonnais; its official opening occurred on 11 November of that year.
In 1590, during the
French Wars of Religion, Henri IV created the rival parlement of Carcassonne, attended by parlementarians faithful to the king.
The most famous trial of the parlement of Toulouse was the
Calas affair. On 9 March 1762, Jean Calaswas condemned to death by the parlement.
French Revolution, the parlement of Toulouse, as too the municipal Capitoul of Toulouse, was suppressed.
French languageusage, parlement means parliament.
Parliament of France
Belgian Federal Parliament
Parliament of Canada
Parliament of Haiti
References and Notes
* Bluche, François. "L'Ancien régime: Institutions et société". Collection: Livre de poche. Paris: Fallois, 1993. ISBN 2-253-06423-8
* Jouanna, Arlette and Jacqueline Boucher, Dominique Biloghi, Guy Thiec. "Histoire et dictionnaire des Guerres de religion". Collection: Bouquins. Paris: Laffont, 1998. ISBN 2-221-07425-4
* Pillorget, René and Suzanne Pillorget. "France Baroque, France Classique 1589-1715". Collection: Bouquins. Paris: Laffont, 1995. ISBN 2-221-08110-2
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