Chapter 41

Flux and Reflux of the ecclesiastic and temporal Jurisdiction

March 7, 2020

THE civil power was in the hands of an infinite number of lords. This made it easy for the ecclesiastic jurisdiction to gain daily a greater extent.

The ecclesiastic courts weakened the courts of the lords and strengthened the royal jurisdiction which then gradually checked the clergy’s jurisdiction.

The parliament, which in its form of proceedings had adopted whatever was good and useful in the spiritual courts, soon perceived nothing else but the abuses which had crept into those tribunals.

As the royal jurisdiction gained ground every day, it grew every day more capable of correcting those abuses, as explained by=

  • Beaumanoir
  • Boutillier
  • the ordinances of our kings

They were introduced in the times of the darkest ignorance. They vanished on the breaking out of the first gleam of light.

From the silence of the clergy it may be presumed, that they forwarded this reformation= which, considering the nature of the human mind, deserves commendation.

Every man that died without bequeathing a part of his estate to the church, which was called dying without confession, was deprived of the sacrament, and of christian burial.

If he died intestate, his relations were obliged to prevail upon the bishop, that he would, jointly with them, name proper arbiters, to determine what sum the deceased ought to have given, in case he had made a will.

People could not lie together the first night of their nuptials, or even the two following nights, without having previously purchased leave=

These were the best three nights to chuse; for as to the others, they were not worth much. All this was redressed by the Parlement= we find in the glossary of the French Law, by Ragau, the decree which it published against the bishop of Amiens.

Whenever we observe in any age or government, the different bodies of the state endeavouring to increase their authority, and to take particular advantages of each other, we should be often mistaken were we to consider their encroachments as an evident mark of their corruption.

Through a fatality inseparable from human nature, moderation in great men is very rare= and as it is always much easier to push on force in the direction in which it moves, than to stop its moment, so in the superior class of the people, it is less difficult, perhaps, to find men extremely virtuous, than extremely prudent.

The human mind feels such an exquisite pleasure in the exercise of power; even those who are lovers of virtue are so excessively fond of themselves, that there is no man so happy, as not to have still reason to mistrust his honest intentions; and, our actions depend on so many things, that it is infinitely more easy to do good, than to do it well.


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