Moreau, "On the Origins of the French Monarchy"


Moreau, "On the Origins of the French Monarchy"


Jacob–Nicolas Moreau wrote this excerpt as part of his Lessons of Morality, Politics and Law (1773) at the request of the aging Louis XV for the instruction of the Dauphin. Throughout the 200–page book, Moreau defends the power of the King to rule France without opposition. In this passage, he lays out the French monarchy’s own view of its history, which provides justification for royal perogative. Elsewhere he would continue, emphasizing that since former kings had created such bodies as the Parlements and regional Estates, current kings should listen to—but not be bound by—the views of these bodies.


Jacob-Nicolas Moreau, Leçons de Morale, de politique et de droit public (Versailles: De l'imprimerie du Département des affaires étrangeres, 1773), 30–33.







At the time of the first Dynasty, My Lord, the French Nation left the Germania swamps and forests, and took possession of the rich lands of Gaul. The dying authority of the Roman Emperors was not able to defend these lands against the invasions of a vast number of other Barbarians. No other show could have interested you more than this one! In Gaul, at the beginning of the fifth century, Laws and Religion were almost on their own to govern an abandoned country because of the weakness of its legitimate Monarchs; to outlive their authority; to triumph over a conquering People; to ease its morals; to give the People the principles of a well-ordered administration; and in this way to be used as safeguards to the defeated ones against the fury and arrogance of the conquerors. At this point, My Lord, you should know about the Public Law that was established by the Romans in the provinces; because you will soon find out that, even if our Ancestors brought with them some Barbarian customs, we got reason, humanity, and good Laws from the wise institutions of the Romans who had governed half of the known Universe for such a long time. What did the new Conqueror of Gaul have best to do? He had conquered; he wanted to reign: he had the military power, but was missing all the Governing tools, and he borrowed them from the defeated people. He found a wonderful mechanism already set up. The Caesars had abandoned the management: Clovis seized it and saw himself as the successor. Bishops, Peoples got the same idea from him. He was the King; he was the master: everything would have been set if only he had been fair.



“Moreau, "On the Origins of the French Monarchy",” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed July 20, 2024,