The parlement of Paris became more and more the focus of opposition to the royal will, eventually bringing the country to a state of virtual ungovernability in the reign of Louis XVI. Meanwhile, the diversity of mutually irreconcilable interests sheltering behind that parliamentary umbrella came more and more to the fore, bringing the country to a climax of tension which would only be resolved in the turmoil of Revolution.
The next king, Louis XV, was two when his great-grandfather died. During the Regency, the traditional aristocracy and the parlements, who for different reasons hated Louis XIV's advisers, scrambled successfully to recover a lot of their lost power and prestige. An experiment with government by aristocratic councils failed, and attempts to absorb the immense national debt by selling shares in an overseas trading company ended in a huge collapse. When the prudent and reasonable Cardinal Fleury came to prominence upon the regent's death in 1726, the nation's Lot began to improve. The Atlantic seaboard towns grew rich on trade with the American and Caribbean colonies, though industrial production did not improve much and the disparity in wealth between the countryside and the growing towns continued to increase.
In mid-century there followed more disastrous military ventures, including the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, both of which were in effect contests with England for control of the colonial territories in America and India contests that France lost. The need to finance the wars led to the introduction of a new tax, the Twentieth, which was to be levied on everyone. The parlement, which had successfully opposed earlier taxation and fought the Crown over its religious policies, dug its heels in again. This led to renewed conflict over Louis' pro-Jesuit religious policy. The Parisparlement staged a strike, was exiled from Paris, then inevitably reinstated. Disputes about its role continued until the parlement of Paris was actually abolished in 1771, to the outrage of the privileged groups in society, which considered it the defender of their special interests.
The division between the parlements and the king and his ministers continued to sharpen during the reign of Louis XVI, which began in 1774. Attempts by the enlightened finance minister Turgot to co-operate with the parlements and introduce reforms to alleviate the tax burden on the poor produced only short-term results. The national debt trebled between 1774 and 1787. Ironically, the one radical attempt to introduce an effective and equitable tax system led directly to the Revolution. Calonne, finance minister in 1786, tried to get his proposed tax approved by an Assembly of Notables, a device that had not been employed for more than a hundred years. His purpose was to bypass the parlement, which could be relied on to oppose any radical proposal. The attempt backfired. He lost his position, and the parlement ended up demanding a meeting of the Estates-General, representing the nobles, the clergy and the bourgeoisie, as being the only body competent to discuss such matters. the town responded by exiling and then recalling the parlement of Paris several times. As law and order began to break down, it gave in and agreed to summon the Estates-General on May 17, 1789.
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