Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

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Jacob–Nicolas Moreau wrote this excerpt as part of his Lessons of Morality, Politics and Law (1773) at the request of the aging Louis XV for the instruction of the Dauphin. Throughout the 200–page book, Moreau defends the power of the King to…

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Jacques–Benigne Bossuet (1627—1704), bishop of Meaux, was a well–known seventeenth–century peacher who believed that although France had a sizable minority of Protestants, France should have a single religion, Catholicism. At the same time,…

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These two articles from the official newspaper of the day describe the coronation of Louis XVI at Reims, the city to which French kings had traveled to be anointed and crowned for a thousand years. Note the seriousness with which all the King's…

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The twelve highest royal courts, known as parlements, not only heard civil and criminal suits; they also had the responsibility of discussing and registering royal edicts before their enactment. Consequently, the parlementary magistrates could, when…

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On 19 November 1787, the King convoked the Parlement of Paris to enforce registration of an edict allowing the indebted royal treasury to borrow an additional 420 million livres. When the King appeared before the magistrates, his Keeper of the Seals,…

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The news of Robert–François Damiens’s attack on the King and his subsequent trial spread rapidly and generated great interest across France and all of Europe. This pamphlet, published in London, describes for English readers the goings–on in…

This pamphlet was one of the many published in France in response to the news of Damiens’s attack on the King. It is written from the standpoint of the so–called patriot party, which opposed the concentration of power in the hands of the King,…

During the course of his trial, Damiens was interrogated over fifty times by the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris and by the King’s prosecutors. The interrogators were concerned above all to determine if Damiens had accomplices and if so, what…

After a three–month trial, the magistrates found Damiens guilty of parricide against the person of the King on 26 March 1757. In a final interrogation, Damiens is once again asked about accomplices. He then denies having them.

Having found Damiens guilty, the judges ordered him punished in a gruesome public spectacle, with the intention of repressing symbolically, through his body, the threat to order that the judges perceived in his attack on the King. Such punishment,…
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