"La Chalotais" Affair

In the spring of 1765, the regional conflict between the Breton Parlement and the King spilled over to a higher level when the Parlement of Paris took up the case of Breton parlementary ally La Chalotais and began issuing its own remonstrances defending the regional Parlement’s power (issued 3 March 1766), under the doctrine of the "union of classes"—which held that all the Parlements were allied in speaking for the "nation." Supporters of the crown strongly opposed this idea, which they saw as contrary to the principle that the King alone could speak for the kingdom. The animosities generated by this "affair" continued to cut across French politics in the 1770s, since the Duke d’Aguillon retained his hostility to the Parlementary magistrates when in 1771, Louis XV made him foreign minister in the Maupeou government. This excerpt from the Paris Parlement from 1766 raises fears and attacks monarchical government in an inflammatory way, though still avoiding direct blasts against the King.


2 February 1766

Sire,

The good of Your Majesty’s service, the interests of your justice and your authority, and the salvation of the State, all make it imperative for your parlement to convey to Your Majesty the just protest of the magistracy crushed by continuous illegal acts, the last of which clearly reveals the use of absolute power, the subversion of the law’s authority, and the open infraction of the most sacred rights of the State. . . . New orders have formed a body of commissioners at Saint-Malo responsible for continuing the prosecution of this same case against the members of the parlement sitting at Rennes.

If the criminal impulses of the enemies of the magistracy, secret enemies of the State and of Your Majesty, can prevail to such a point that magistrates can be tried before commissioners, then all rights of station and dignity are henceforth trampled underfoot, and are, from then on, extinguished in the kingdom. . . .

Sire, if this law can be broken, all hierarchy by birth and distinction, all bodies, all ranks, all dignities must henceforth fear the imperious force of absolute power. They then must watch with terror each movement of a small number of persons who, at a word, are transported to the farthest extremities of the kingdom, transformed into a tribunal, placed into action, suspended and made to disappear, but who, in a new disguise, are placed immediately in possession of the sole power to which all the legitimately established powers in the state would be subordinated.

Sire, your parlement has already shown Your Majesty the contradiction that the establishment of these commissions have with the laws of the state, the injuries they cause to the security of the citizens, the impressions of fear and terror which they arouse in the citizens' minds, and the slow but inevitable deterioration they would cause to even the authority of the sovereign, whose principal strength is closely bound to the love of his subjects and their confidence in his justice. . . .

Source: Jules Flammermont, Remonstrances du Parlement de Paris au XVIIIe siècle, vol. 2 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1888–98), 534–38.