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The Parliament Of Paris
by [?]

In the streets of Paris all was tumult and fiery indignation. Never had there been a more sudden or violent outbreak. The whole city seemed to have turned into the streets. Not until the era of the Revolution, a century and a half later, was the capital of France again to see such an uprising of the people against the court. Broussel had been arrested, Councillor Broussel, a favorite of the populace, who sustained him in his opposition to the court party, and at once the city was ablaze; for the first time in the history of France had the people risen in support of their representatives.

It was by no means the first time that royalty had ended its disputes with the Parliament in this summary manner. Four years previously, Anne of Austria, the queen-regent, had done the same thing, and scarce a voice had been raised in protest. But in the ensuing four years public opinion had changed. The king, Louis XIV., was but ten years old; his mother, aided by her favorite minister, Cardinal Mazarin, ruled the kingdom,–misruled it, as the people thought; the country was crushed under its weight of taxes; the finances were in utter disorder; France was successful abroad, but her successes had been dearly bought, and the people groaned under the burden of their victories. Parliament made itself the mouth-piece of the public discontent. It no longer felt upon it the iron hand of Richelieu. Mazarin was able, but he was not a master, and the Parliament began once more to claim that authority in affairs of state from which it had been deposed by the great cardinal. A conflict arose between the members and the court which soon led to acts of open hostility.

An edict laying a tax upon all provisions which entered Paris irritated the citizens, and the Parliament refused to register it. Other steps towards independence were taken by the members. Gradually they resumed their old rights, and the court party was forced to yield. But courage returned to the queen-regent with the news that the army of France had gained a great victory. No sooner had the tidings reached Paris than the city was electrified by hearing that President Brancmesnil and Councillor Broussel had been arrested.

It was the arrest of Broussel that stirred the popular heart. Mazarin and the queen had made the dangerous mistake of not taking into account the state of the public mind. “There was a blaze at once, a sensation, a rush, an outcry, and a shutting up of shops.” The excitement of the people was intense. Moment by moment the tumult grew greater. “Broussel! Broussel!” they shouted. That perilous populace had arisen which was afterwards to show what frightful deeds it could do under the impulse of oppression and misgovernment.

Paul de Gondi, afterwards known as Cardinal de Retz, then coadjutor of the Archbishop of Paris, and the leading spirit with the populace, hurried to the palace, accompanied by Marshal de la Meilleraie.

“The city is in a frightful state,” they told the queen. “The people are furious and may soon grow unmanageable. The air is full of revolt.”

Anne of Austria listened to them with set lips and angry eyes.

“There is revolt in imagining there can be revolt,” she sternly replied. “These are the ridiculous stories of those who favor trouble; the king’s authority will soon restore order.”

M. de Guitant, an old courtier, who entered as she was speaking, declared that the coadjutor had barely represented the facts, and said that he did not see how anybody could sleep with things in such a state.

“Well, M. de Guitant, and what is your advice?” asked De Retz.

“My advice is to give up that old rascal of a Broussel, dead or alive.”

“To give him up dead,” said the coadjutor, “would not accord with either the piety or the prudence of the queen; to yield him alive might quiet the people.”