French and English goverment

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Both the French and the English government were very complex during the 17th century.

The French government ‘had considerable power, which increased’ (course guide pg18) over

time. France was a country that was combined by numerous cultures. The relationship

between the crown and it’s ‘more powerful institutional subjects’ (Blk pg7) was a pattern of

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overstated demands that were made by the royals.

In some of the French provinces the Governments were known as ‘Pays d’ etat’ these had

control over the taxation in their province and were mainly concerned with local interest.

People saw their privileges as an obstacle that could affect the central government.

‘Marillac’ wanted to introduce the system of elections which existed in the rest of France

in to the provinces but the only way this could be done was if the province raised enough

money to compensate the crown. There were some regions were no estates existed,

known as ‘Pay d’ election’ the taxes were levied by ‘elus’ which were officials that was

selected by the central government. They were among some of the richest men in their

area; one of the reasons may have been due to no tax that they paid. They were able to

give exemptions to tenants of their friends but this placed a huge burden on the

community that was unable to pay. This system broke the province but it did increase

the wealth of a few individuals.

One system that was effective was the ‘Paulitte’ it was an effective way of stability that

produced local ‘elites’ that had a vested interest in securing a central government. Once

this system was in place the crown exploited it, by increasing the financial burden on the

existing officers so it could raise more profits.

During the 17th century each region in France was ruled by a Governor and Lieutenant

Governor these were normally taken from nobility. As time went on their powers soon

became less and were taken over by the ‘Intendants’ their role was extended by

‘Richelieu.’ Office was an important step up the ladder of promotion within the

Sovereign courts of justice. Most intendants came from well established families. Based

on their duties that had to be carried out, would very much depend on the level of status

that was received. ‘They acted as the eyes and ears of Paris.’ (Blk pg) Their role was to fix

the level of the ‘tallie’ instead of leaving it to the local officials. The intendants also had

a high degree of supervision over the activities of the local officials. Was this so more

money could be claimed for the intendants? Intendants were normally outsiders to the

generalite, they had no interest in the locality, and this was so the risk of becoming too

involved in the life of the ‘Generalite’ was reduced. If they did become to close they

would have been moved to another post after a few years. The intendants were only there

to satisfy the needs of the crown.

Upholding of the law and order in the provinces rested with the sovereign courts,

especially the Parliaments. They all saw themselves as sovereign courts based in their

own region. Parliament had jurisdiction over everything to do with ‘Fiefs, finance, police

matters, defence of cities.’ (Blk Pg74). The Paris parliament had very little influence on

events that went on in the provinces even though all the Parliaments from other regions

based themselves on the most important ‘Parliament of Paris.’ (Course guide pg1) There were

great variations between the French communities due to the geographical regions. In

Northern France the communities where Sergneunal control was at it greatest,

communities of the south were at their weakest. In Southern France assembles were

know as ‘Consulats’ These communities has a strong self-government and community

institutions were highly developed. Local communities were governed by assemblies and

in England by part time un- professional officers who were appointed from the local

gentry. As for the rural parts of Ireland the organization depended on Dublin and how

much area it wished to control.

Areas such as the mountain region and the northern borders of France were strongly

defended. Northern Assemblies were known as ‘Echevinages.’ The elected Leaders

were know as ‘echeviens’ or ‘mayors’ these were dependent on the local ‘Seigneur’ The

Assembly and offices did not count for much when there was a powerful ‘seigneur’

The most powerful assemblies were the ones in the mountains where the authority of

‘seigneurs and the crown were weak. There was a high rate of participation, as the

jurisdiction covered a large area as this was essential to survive. There were variations

between the relationships of the Parish officers and assemblies. In France the assembly

was more essential than its officers who were seen as just agents. This assembly formed

the connection between the community and the higher levels of government. In England

it was the other way around. The officers were the tie between the community and the

high levels of Government, ecclesiastical and secular, not the vestry.

The urban boroughs were governed by corporations.

In England the most of the ordinary people were very remote from the king’s

government. Generally people of normal background were likely to serve in a less

important local government especially in parishes and towns. There was ‘much tension

between the local community and the central government’ (The Stuart age pg 6) as they wanted

to interfere with local dealings. ‘The country was ruled by a network of officials, most of

whom were unpaid.’ (Course guide pg16) but this did gain them social status, local control and

some may of gained financial control from there situation.

In the early part of the 17th century, lord lieutenants, deputy lieutenants and Justices of

the Peace were the main officials of the English Local Government unlike the Governor

and lieutenants in France whose power had declined. This meant that the power and

status of the ‘Sheriffs’ would decline by the early part of the century the only

responsibility the sheriff had was to preside over the county court. There main

responsibility was for ‘more than one county’ (The Stuart age pg 7) and these were usually

assisted by Deputies. He was chiefly responsibly for maintaining the militia, that

freeholders provided arms and to defend the realm.

The ‘Justices of the Peace’ took most of the weight from the local government. Some

even carried out their ‘duties without pay’, (The Stuart age pg 7) as this was an honour to be a

‘JP.’ Gentlemen were taught from birth that it was a perfect gentleman to serve the

community; it would hold high social status and local power if this was gained. JP’s were

added as magistrates in the county courts, they were able to sit in judgement on criminal

cases, protect forest wild life which belonged to the king, all this with out pay. The

Crown had the formal right to appoint a JP, even though is was of limited power, it was

no good placing a loyal man of low social status on the bench in order to secure a

unpopular royal policy, that went against the wishes of a wealthy landowner. The

important responsibility that was held by the Lord Lieutenants, Deputy Lieutenants and

JP’s was to act as a direct contact between the Crown and the localities. They too acted as

our eyes and ears which were very similar to the duties that was required of the

‘Indendants’ in France.

They were able to channel decisions that had been made by the Crown to the locals and

the Privy Council; this also worked the other way to as they were able to tell the Royal

Government the opinion of the country from the locals.

Not only did the Government have the eyes and ears of the Lord Lieutenants, Deputy

Lieutenants and the JP’s but there was other ways of maintaining contact, gathering and

providing information from the locals. The Council of the North was staffed by

Professionals. Lawyers and local men who were directly responsible to the Privy Council

helped maintain their contact. In Britain the relationship between the community and the

parish was different from France. The Vestry and assembly were very much of one but

the ‘General de la paroisse carried out the functions of both bodies, this gave them

considerable control over the church. In the British Isle the ecclesiastical parish was a

main unit of administration but in France the parish church was used as a place for

showing community harmony and appreciation. Symbols of power were also put on

display. Depending on where a church was placed was an important factor it also gave

the community life. ‘Not only did the church control public opinion, but it also moulded

it.’ (blk pg8)

The church played an important role in swaying the authority of the crown. It was

believed that religious uniformity was undividable from political order

The crown was able to rely on the votes from the Archbishops and the Bishops in the

House of Lords. But as for the local parish this may not have been the case as the JP’s

‘gave instructions to the church wardens and overseers of the poor for each parish to levy

the poor rate from all householders’ (Princes and Peoples pg0)

In England and France the governments they had held many important political talents in

the planning of support from all there allies. ‘Patronage was the oil which kept the wheels

of government turning’ (Blk pg70).

France was mainly driven by tax assessments and the collection of money from where

they could. But in England the officials had more of a law and order role and were also

unpaid for there duties that were took on. Social status also is one of the major ties, and

this causes conflict between relations. In both countries there aim was to endeavour

standardization of practice and agree to this. Again it all comes down to three main areas,

powerful people, taxes and religion.

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