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parlement

Attempts to Abolish the Parlements

Through his chancellor, René de Maupeou, Louis XV attempted to centralize political control by abolishing the parlements (1771) and substituting law courts that had no influence over policy. The new judicial system eliminated the sale of magistracies, judges becoming appointive salaried officials. After Louis XV's death (1774), however, Louis XVI pacified the privileged classes by restoring the old parlements.

Thereafter clashes over taxation between the crown and the parlements gained momentum. In 1787 and 1788 the Parlement of Paris and the provincial parlements successfully opposed the fiscal reforms proposed by Archbishop Loménie de Brienne to save France from bankruptcy; they claimed that only the three estates of the kingdom gathered in the States-General possessed the authority to pass on new taxes. In May, 1789, Louis XVI finally summoned the States-General, a move that started the French Revolution. As bastions of reaction and privilege, the parlements were among the first institutions to be abolished in the early days of the Revolution.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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