« AnteriorContinuar »
The memoir is preceded by some notices of the funeral orations, and the eloges, which have been so much in fashion in France, and a succinct view of the revolutions of the jurisprudence of Europe before the time of the Chancellor de l'Hôpital.' This succinct view' compresses a great deal of information in a small space. He remarks that the formation of a perfectly distinct class of men for the practice of the law, may be regarded as an institution of modern Europe; he states the nature and extent of the legal profession in ancient Rome; notices the origination of various semi-barbarous but progressively improving codes of law from the institution of feudalism; and describes the consequences of the discovery, at Amalfi, about the year 1137, of a copy of the Pandects of Justinian, the zealous and extensive study of which work, resulted at length in a regular succession of civil lawyers.' Cujas, one of the greatest improvers of the science, if it may be so denominated, was persecuted in Italy, and found ' under the patronage of l'Hôpital, an honourable reception in 'France.'
This illustrious statesman was the son of a, physician, and was born in 1505, at Aigneperse, in Auvergne. After having studied the law in several universities, he held, during a short period, an office at Rome; but soon returned to France, and 'married the daughter of John Morin, the lieutenant criminal, in consequence of which he obtained, in 1537, a charge of 'counsellor in the Parliament of Paris.'
There is a rather interesting digression on the parliaments of France, as distinguished from that of England. The origin of each was the same, and in their earlier periods both had a legislative as well as judicial operation. But in their progress they diverged into very different characters, and the difference was much in favour of England.
In the course of time, the Parliament of England became divided into its two houses, the Lords and Commons, and, together with the King, constituted the Legislature of the nation: but its judicial power generally fell into disuse, except in cases which are brought before the House of Lords by appeal. The reverse happened in almost every country on the continent; in them the parliament gradually lost its legislative authority, and subsided into a High Court of Justice for the last resort, and a court of royal revenue. It generally consisted of a fixed number of ecclesiastical peers, a fixed number of lay peers, and a fixed number of counsellors. All were equally judges, and had an equal right of giving their opinions, and an equal voice in the decree. Such was the constitution of the French Parliament when l'Hôpital was received into it. But, at that time, it had somewhat degenerated from its ancient splendour.' p. 13.
A very curious description follows, from the Abbé Gédoyn, of the personal and judicial habits and manners of the great law officers of that previous better age. Equity, severe industry, strict morals, plainness in the economy of life, and elegant literature, form its prominent features. All the virtues, the dignity, and the accomplishments, however, of that better period, descended in full measure to l'Hôpital.
One of the offices which he filled in succession in his progress up to the chancellorship, was that of superintendent of the finances; on which our Author observes,
This is a remarkable era in the history of France, as it was during l'Hôpital's administration of the finances that the French monarch first attempted to check that spirit of resistance to the royal will, which the Parliament of Paris had for some time shewed, and which at different times afterwards it exerted with so much effect, as frequently to paralyse the government, and ultimately to precipitate it into the revolution.'
The most unqualified encomiums are pronounced, and doubtless with the greatest justice, on his conduct in all his public employments thus far. But there is generally some weakness in the greatest personages that history has vaunted, to help our endeavours to be content at least, if not to make us actually vain, in thinking of the leading performers of our own times. This man, of capacities so ample, of activity so indefatigable, had not art enough, not sense enough, in twenty years of important public employment, during six of which he had the management of the finances, to make a fortune for himself! Though the reverse of every thing sumptuous in his habits of life, he had not at the end of that period money enough to be able to afford a tolerable portion with his daughter, his only child. What noble improvements in statesmanship were reserved for later times!
However imperfectly l'Hôpital had deserved it, his next ascent was to the highest honour, the chancellorship, to which he was appointed just at the time that the religious troubles in
France had begun.' The doctrines of Calvin had made proselytes in the south of France; the ministers of Francis I. and Henry II. combated the heresy by persecution; the usual consequences,' says Mr. B. of persecution followed; the favourers of the new opinions rapidly increased: the spirit of 'fanaticism became general, and the whole kingdom was divided into the odious distinctions of Papist and Huguenot.'
All the remainder of this great statesman's official life was employed in the most earnest exertions to restrain the fury of popish bigotry, which rankled and raged in the royal house,
in the powerful family and party of the Guises, as an adjunct to their political ambition, in the general body of the ecclesiastics, and in a very large proportion of the nation. On several critical occasions his great talents and authoritative virtues had the effect of suspending or moderating the cruel measures which have rendered that portion of the French history, and of the history of the Romish Church, so infamous. But at length he found his opposition unavailing, and resigned his office. He lived to see, three or four years afterwards, the supreme triumph of the cause he had opposed, in the massacre of St. Bartholomew, which imbittered all his hours during the few subsequent months of his life. He died at Vignay, on the 13th of March, 1573, having in his highest as well as all his other public employments, so much forgotten the concern of personal emolument, that, says our Author, the small provision which he should leave behind him for his grand-children, afflicted his 'last moments;'-which we think, if there is a Providence, was the least founded of all the sorrows of such a man.
Considering to what Church our very learned and intelligent Author adheres, we think that much applause is due to the manner in which he has related the odious history of that period, and the emphatical condemnation he has pronounced on the Inquisition, and some other of the appointments and proceedings which consigned such multitudes of the best citizens of France to the grave. He even pronounces the censure of intolerance on a law which l'Hôpital himself was compelled in some sort to sanction, as the only way of preventing the establishment of the Inquisition in France, namely, the confirmation to the bishops of the cognizance of heretics in their dioceses. This,' says Mr. B., was too great a sacrifice to intolerance; but it gave the bishops no new power, and com'pletely eluded the project of the Inquisition,' after the Guises had obtained a resolution of the royal council in its favour.
We cannot much wonder that our Author should let fall some expressions tending to extenuate the atrocity of the persecution of the Huguenots, by insinuating that it was not solely and purely by their religion that they made themselves obnoxious to the hostility of the popish government. It is not at all necessary for a protestant to maintain that none of their active leaders were, at any time, incited by any feelings or schemes of political ambition. It is too evident that some aspiring men, more intent on objects of personal and secular aggrandizement than on the vindication of religious liberty, did endeavour, and sometimes with a degree of success, to implicate the protestant cause with their schemes. It was, unfortunately, impossible for the Huguenots to have leaders of high rank and great weight in the state, without con
stant danger of being betrayed into more than they wished of the character of political partisans. But it is still inore glaringly evident that the Huguenots had a grand cause and object simply as Protestants ; and that to this the great body of them were infinitely more devoted at all times than they ever were, at any moment, to any merely political object. In fact, the great body of them were devoted to this alone, insomuch, that if they did at any time support the personal designs of any distinguished leader, it was from being led to believe that this was the most direct way to their great object. Religious liberty, or so much of liberty as is comprehended in full toleration, was uniformly that ohject. It was for this that they were driven by relentless and aggravated oppressions to take up arms. It was because they were placed by a popish government, in the alternative of returning to a Church which they solemnly believed they had convicted of the grossest errors, impositions, and iniquities; and which courted them with anathemas, inquisitors, and denunciations of fire and sword ;--the alternative of returning to such a Church, or of being exterminated. They thought it their duty to expose themselves to the not greater perils of the field of battle, in the solemn experiment, whether Providence would not enable them to deliver themselves from this condition, and to vindicate for themselves, and secure for their posterity, the freedom of religious opinions and worship. And brave as they were, quite to the romantic pitch, they gladly threw down their arms the
very first moment the concessions of their enemies allowed them to believe that object attained. But the hatred of the popish party, burned without intermission; and it was not long before the inefficacy of the enactments in their favour, unredressed outrages, and a universal, urgent sense of insecurity, compelled the Huguenots again to the last resort. Again they were readily disarmed by concessions and promises; too readily, we have always thought, in contemplating the history of those times; and again it was not long before the non-fulfilment of the most formal stipulations, numerous assassinations, for which no one was punished, and unequivocal signs of the most deadly intentions, would bring them once more into the field, to be yet again too readily disarmed by the treacherous professions and engagements of those whose power had failed to disarm them. That, with the great body of them, the sole object of all their zeal and exertions, was that religious liberty which they had avowed as their end, and that, this being granted them, they would have been zealously loyal to a popish government, is attested by l'Hôpital and Mr. Butler, who celebrate the unreserved fidelity and gallantry they displayed in its service, in one of the intervals in which the required toleration appeared to be granted.
Through this long period, down to the massacre of St. Bartholomew, whatever uncertain proportion of more liberal and humane adherents to the Church of Rome there might be in France, the Protestants experienced from the predominant portion, from that which effectively constituted the state, a conduct systematically bigoted, treacherous, and sanguinary. And that infernal tragedy itself-did it excite in the Catholic part of the nation any loud and extensive manifestations of abhorrence? Were not the executioners in the provinces as prompt and numerous as in the metropolis ? Was there any indignant commotion through the grand mass of the ecclesiastics of France, bursting out into solemn anathemas on all the designers and actors ? Was there ever one of the miscreants, from the King, that fired from bis windows, and cried out-Kill them, kill them,-down to the butcher, who boasted how effectually he had executed this mandate, touched by the Holy Office, which had tortured so many victims for a few words of scepticism or disrespect to the Church? And the grand metropolis of that Church, which had sent forth so many vindictive fulminations, did Rome issue any of its tremendous denunciations ? Was there in any portion of the Catholic world, any grand public manifesto to consign, in the name of the Church and its religion, all persons concerned in the transaction to infamy? Was there even any prohibition or repression of public rejoicings on the occasion ? Was there, in short, any thing in the transaction itself so perfectly in opposition to the spirit which the Church of Rome bad displayed, in innumerable instances, in the preceding times ? On what ground could that Church be required to look, from its proud eminence, over the world, with a different visage from that which had been bebeld by the Waldenses and Albigenses ?
It is not without some degree of compassion, mingling with harsher feelings, that we view the lot of such men as Mr. Butler and Mr. Eustace. It is rather a melancholy destiny, we think, to be fascinated to a Church, which rises to view, on the great field of history, like a mountain beset almost all over with gibbets, fires, racks, black orifices of dungeons, savages for inAicting torments and death, and graves of martyrs. And it is melancholy to see such men labouring to soothe and coax the revolting, struggling repugnance of their better feelings, striving to qualify the characteristic facts with which their Church glares upon them, and seeking for any occasional or collateral causes to charge such facts upon, rather than the genuine inherent spirit of that Church. When driven to condemn, unequivocally and emphatically, some of the enormities which resulted from the intrinsic quality of the Church, they contrive, with admirable dexterity, to obey the precept of hating the sin and yet loving