Louis XVI’s Reply to the Parlement of Paris (1788)

The fiscal and administrative reforms issued as royal decrees in the autumn of 1787 were opposed vociferously by the Parlements. To force their registration, the King held a "royal session" on 19 November 1787. Ordinarily at such a session, the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris would be allowed to vote on a royal decree. In this case, however, Louis broke with protocol by ordering the registration of his decrees without allowing the magistrates to vote. In this short speech given at Versailles the following spring, Louis XVI justified his move by restating the basic principle of absolutism—that royal decrees must be accepted as law when the King makes it clear that they are his will.


I read your remonstrances and wanted to reply to them with such sincerity that you could not doubt my intentions nor permit yourselves to deviate from them.

It was useless for you to tell me about the rules concerning registration and voting privileges. When I come to personally hold my Parlement it is because I wish to hear a discussion of the law that I have brought with me and to learn more about it before I decide on its registration. This is what I did on 19 November last.

I heard everyone's opinion.

You only need summarize these opinions when I am not present at your deliberations, in which case I am aware of the result of your debates by knowing how the majority voted.

When I am present, I will decide this for myself.

If, in my courts, my will was subject to the majority vote, the monarchy would be nothing more than an aristocracy of magistrates, as adverse to the rights and interests of the nation as to those of the sovereign.

Indeed, it would be a strange constitution that diminishes the will of the King to the point that it is worth no more than the opinion of one of his officers, and requires that legislators have as many opinions as there are different decisions arising from the various courts of law in the kingdom.

Source: M. J. Mavidal and M. E. Laurent, eds., Archives parlementaires de 1787 à 1860, première série (1787 à 1799), 2d ed., 82 vols. (Paris: Dupont, 1879–1913), 1:284.