Arthur Young on public views about the parlements (1792)


Writing in his 1792 book Travels in France, the Englishman Arthur Young describes the opinions of ordinary French citizens about the parlements:

“I have, in conversation with many very sensible men in different parts of the kingdom, met with something of [an attitude of] content with their government, in all respects [other than] conduct of the parlements, which was profligate and atrocious. Upon almost every cause that come before them, interest was openly made [in favour of] the judges; and woe betide the man who, with a cause to support, had no means of conciliating favour [with the judges], either by the beauty of a handsome wife or by other methods…

There was also a circumstance in the constitution of these parlements, little known in England and which, under such a government as that of France, must be considered as very singular [peculiar]. They had the power and were in constant practice of issuing decrees, without the consent of the Crown, and which had the force of laws through the whole of their jurisdiction; and of all other laws, these were sure to be the best obeyed; for all infringements [of these laws] were brought before sovereign courts, composed of the same persons who had enacted these laws… a horrible system of tyranny [where] they were certain of being punished with the last severity.”