Chapter

Ambiguities of Abolition: The Revolution and Venality

William Doyle

in Venality

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780198205364
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191676598 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205364.003.0009
Ambiguities of Abolition: The Revolution and Venality

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The members of the National Assembly who abolished the sale of public office in August 1789 were no strangers to venality. Of the 1,315 deputies who sat between 1789 and 1791, 483 either held, or had some direct experience of, venal office. Venality had introduced a ‘mercantile spirit’ into the judiciary, and made magistrates more interested in profit and privilege than in their duties. Prices had soared to exorbitant levels. Fearing the worst from the new order, their leaders largely spurned the elections, and the parlements kept quiet throughout the first half of 1789; but some venal companies, undeterred by the tone of the cahiers, went into print to argue for their own regeneration rather than abolition. Just as venality had been integral to the institutional paralysis which had eventually brought down the old order, so the efforts required for its liquidation were inseparable from the French Revolution's loss of direction.

Keywords: National Assembly; elections; public office; deputies; venality; judiciary; liquidation; abolition; French Revolution; cahiers

Chapter.  18752 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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