tax on the clergy in 1749. On that occasion, royal tergiverzation had, for once, worked to the advantage of the clergy.

The expulsion of the Jesuits in 1764 was undeniably a blow to the church, yet it put a term to the First Estate's disputes with the parlementaires and restored a degree of stability to church-state relations, a stability further confirmed by the accession of the pious Louis XVI in 1774. However, the new king was no more inclined to view public affairs from the hierarchy's perspective than his grandfather Louis XV had been. At each General Assembly of the Clergy, the king was abjured to issue an authoritative decree against the flood of impious philosophe or philosophe-inspired literature that was said to be corrupting the morals of France. Louis expressed his sympathy but remained inactive. In 1787, to the vexation of the clergy, his government granted very restricted civic rights to Calvinists in France. The edict was disingenuously presented as the working-out of the 1685 Edict of Fontainbleu rather than what it really was, the state sanctioning of a measure of toleration with kingdom-wide validity. With some justification, the clergy as a whole saw it as signalling the start of the dismantling of the French confessional state. They were particularly aghast that it was made law during the ministry of one of their own number: Lomenie de Brienne, Archbishop of Toulouse, who had led 'the opposition' in the first Assembly of Notables (February-June 1787). But if the summons of Brienne to office suggested the continuing importance of the First Estate in affairs of state, the edict of 1787 indicated that a relegation in status of the clergy might not be far off.

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