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Confiscation and administration of Jesuit porperty under the jurisdiction of the Parlement of Paris, 1762-1798 Thompson, Dorothy Gillian

Abstract

The Parlement of Paris undertook the confiscation of the Jesuit property in its territory in 1762. On the order of the Parlement, local officials seized the Jesuits' colleges, noviciates, professed house, missions, and attached property, including ecclesiastical benefices. Adopting the principle that Jesuit property should fulfil Jesuit obligations, the court then decided to repay the creditors of the Jesuits and to pay pensions to former Jesuits with the revenues raised by the sale or leasing of Jesuit property. In practice, however, it subordinated these intentions to another: to maintain the Jesuits' colleges and attached property, under its own auspices. Commissioners of the Parlement decided on a new form of administration for most former Jesuit colleges and persuaded the crown to authorize it in the Edict of February 1763. According to this statute, local bureaux of administration would oversee the affairs of the colleges and appoint secular teachers. But this policy was not followed. By 1771, the Parlement and the new bureaux had begun to neglect the colleges; by 1789, many were again in the hands of religious congregations and in financial trouble. In the meantime, the Parlement had fashioned a centralized administration to hold or to sell all the other Jesuit property under its jurisdiction. In April 1762, it created provincial ecoriomes sequestres under the direction of the Econome Sequestre of Paris. Together, they administered all Jesuit property until it was taken over by college bureaux or other officials. The work of most economes sequestres was finished in the initial five years of the confiscation, although the first Econome Sequestre of Paris held property until 1781. He did the bulk of his work before 1774, and at the time of his death and bankruptcy in 1781, his holdings and debts were small. Similarly, in May 1762, the Parlement authorized the creditors of the French Jesuits to form a union to advance their claims. The syndics of the Union of Creditors were supposed to sell the Jesuit property assigned to the Union and to repay the members' capital and interest. By 1790, they had repaid most of the capital but not the interest, and their administrative expenses had been great. Nevertheless, the syndics had dealt conscientiously with all recognized creditors, according to traditional legal practices. On the recommendation of the Parlement, the crown created a third part of the administration in February 1763. It authorized the Econome General du Clerge, who already held vacant benefices in the king's nomination, to administer Jesuit benefices, and, with their revenue, to pay Jesuit pensions. In practice, the crown departed slightly from the principle that Jesuit property should pay for Jesuit needs. It sometimes used the revenue from the benefices for its own purposes. In return, it offered the Econome General du Clerge grants from the Royal Treasury for pensions. Hence, although an Econome General declared his bankruptcy in 1787, the payment of Jesuit pensions was assured until the Revolution. The Revolutionaries put an end to the entire administration. They nationalized all Jesuit property which had not passed into private hands before 1789, including former Jesuit colleges. And they severed the connection between the Jesuits' property and their obligations. The state assumed responsibility for paying the surviving Jesuits' pensions and the outstanding claims of the creditors of the Jesuits, from the Public Treasury. By 1798, the affairs of the administration created by the Parlement and crown had been taken over by the bureaucracy of the new French state and of the new municipality and department of Paris. The new state put an official end to the unfinished business arising from the confiscation of Jesuit property in 1762.

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