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La révolution face aux « victimes du pouvoir arbitraire » : l'abolition des lettres de cachet et ses conséquences

Abstract : Lettres de cachet, from 1789 onwards a hateful symbol of the Old Regime, suffered a slow death characterized by hesitations and perplexity. Even though this incar­­na­­tion of absolute monarchy and symbol of royal arbitrariness aroused virtually unanimous oppo­­si­­tion, the deputies of the Natio­­nal Consti­­tuent Assembly waited until March 1790 to abolish the lettres de cachet. Indeed, the fear of the consequences of such a decision caused some hesitancy among the deputies, who created in November 1789 a special Comité des lettres de cachet. This Comité labored to prepare appropriate legislation and to investigate a varied and unknown collection of material about the prisonners of the King as well as others still detained in pri­­sons because of the lettres de cachet. The debats and the final text of this decret reflect the cautiousness of deputies torn between the desire to expose the plight of the victims of oppres­­sion and at the same time the fear of disorder that could result from this decision.
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Jeanne-Marie Jandeaux. La révolution face aux « victimes du pouvoir arbitraire » : l'abolition des lettres de cachet et ses conséquences. Annales historiques de la Révolution française, Armand Colin, 2012, pp.33-60. ⟨10.4000/ahrf.12293⟩. ⟨hal-01074948⟩

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