Some Tips on the French Legal System

While Benvenuvto Cellini was in France, King Francis gave him this big block of apartments to use for his workshops, but Benvenuto had to kick out the nobles who were already living there, some of whom were pretty well conected. He went to the king and said he might have to use a little force, and the king said, “Go ahead, and if a little force doesn’t work, use a lot.”

I guess that was how things were back then. Anyway one of the guys he kicks out sues him. “They have a habit in France,” he reports, “of making very great capital out of any law-suit that they commence with a foreigner, or with any other person whom they see may be careless litigation.”

People bring these lawsuits, Benvenuto explains, and then turn around and sell them to someone else who knows how to collect on them.

“They have another ugly custom,” he adds, “that the men of Normandy, almost the larger number of them, have for their profession the giving of false evidence: to such purpose that those persons who buy the causes [suits], immediately instruct four of these witnesses, or six, according to their need, and by means of these the man who is not warned to produce as many on the opposite side — one who does not know the custom — immediately has the case given against him.”

Benvenuto found that the solution to this problem was the same one he had used for almost every other problem he had ever encountered in his life: that is, the judicious use of edged weapons:

“When I saw them pass certain judgments upon me through the medium of these lawyers, not seeing any means of being able to help myself, I had recourse for my assistance to a great dagger that I had, for I always delighted in possessing fine weapons.

“And the first man that I began my attack upon was that principal who had set in motion against me the unjust suit; and one evening I inflicted upon him so many wounds, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him of the use of both legs.

“Then I sought out that other person who had purchased the suit and wounded him also in such a way that he abandoned that suit.”