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[21] that rests on an assured respect for law. Former
chap. II.} 1763.
kings had in their poverty made a permanent sale of the power of civil and criminal justice; so that the magistrates were triply independent, being themselves wealthy, holding their office of judges as a property, and being irremovable. The high courts of justice, or parliaments as they were called, were also connected with the power of legislation; for as they enforced only those laws which they themselves had registered, so they assumed the right of refusing to register laws; and if the king came in person to command their registry, they would still remonstrate, even while they obeyed.

But the great impairment of royal power was the decay of the faith on which it had rested. France was no more the France of the Middle Age. The caste of the nobility, numbering, of both sexes and all ages, not much more than one hundred thousand souls, was overtopt in importance by the many millions of an industrious people; and its young men, trained by the study of antiquity, sometimes imbibed republican principles from the patriot writings of Greece and Rome. Authority, in its feeble conflict with free opinion, did but provoke licentiousness, and was braved with the invincible weapons of ridicule. Freedom was the vogue, and it had more credit than the king. Skepticism found its refuge in the social circles of the capital; and infusing itself into every department of literature and science, blended with the living intelligence of the nation. Almost every considerable house in Paris had pretensions as a school of philosophy. Derision of the established church was the fashion of the world; many waged warfare against every form of religion, and against religion itself

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