chapter  13
MANAGING THE PARLEMENT
1733–43 and beyond
Pages 21

The preceding chapters on the crisis of 1730-2 have explored the nature of confrontation between the ministry and the parlement of Paris, and have enabled us to come to some new conclusions on the nature of crown-parlement conflict. In the case of that crisis at least, parlementaire militancy appears to be more accurately described as the defence of jurisdiction than the result of ‘constitutional’ claims by the magistrates. Opposition was the product of the pressure of parti and faction skilfully combining to manipulate the mass of counsellors with an appeal to the traditional defence of their jurisdiction and corporate honour-even if the consequences might not be so traditional. The form that disputes took was ‘coded’, and obeyed certain unspoken rules; it was easy for disputes to develop but harder to put an end to them once they had broken out. But a complete royal victory was not desirable. As Doyle has pointed out, a measure of opposition from the parlement was not only normal but also desirable.1 It proved that the monarchy was not a despotism. In the absence of any representative institution, at least in the pays d’élection, the parlement could and sometimes did speak for the people. Although royal power could not safely countenance outright and prolonged disobedience to its will, neither could it allow itself to trample over a traditional and legitimate institution-which also it needed in so many administrative ways. So the problematic dialogue between the ministry and the courts was above all a relationship, a reciprocal process that could be influenced in many ways, provided that dialogue was allowed to continue. The rules of the game suggested that conflicts would quickly escalate to a point at which each side would seek a negotiated compromise behind the scenes, unless honour became so involved that compromise was made either extremely difficult or impossible (as in 1770-1).