LETTRES DE CACHET, de kit's1):1! (Fr_ letters of seal). The name given to the warrants of imprisonment issued by the kings of Franco before the Revolution. They were written on ordinary paper, signed by the King and countersigned by one of the secretaries of State and sealed with the King's little seal (cachet ). They differed from the lettres patentes or formal letters of authorization, which were open. signed by the King. countersigned by a :Minister, and bore the great seal of State. Letters patentes required to be registered by the Parlements: hut letters de cachet, as the expres sion of the King's will in matters presumably private. were exempt from the jurisdietion of the Parlements. By the lettres de cachet the royal pleasure was made known to individuals or to corporations, and the administration of justice was often interfered with. The use of letters de cachet began in the fourteenth cen tury, hut became especially frequent after the accession of Louis XIV. It was very common for persons to be arrested upon such warrants and confined in the Bastille (q.v.), or some other State prison, where many of them remained for a very long time, and some for life, either because it was so intended. or in other eases because they were forgotten. The lieutenant•general of
police kept forms of 101res dr cachet ready, in which it was only necessary to insert the name of the individual to be arrested. Sometimes an arrest by Hires de cachet was resorted to in order to shield criminals from justice. Lettres de cachet were issued in great numbers after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1(i53) for the purpose of breaking up Protestant households. Their use declined under the Regency, but dur ing the early part of the reign of Louis X1V. they were employed by the .Tesuits as a powerful weapon of persuasion-80.000 letters de cachet being issued, it is stated, during the Ministry of Cardinal Fleury. In the course of time the abuse of the lettres dc cachet became notorious. A regular traffic in them was carried on by the King's mistresses, and for the sum of twenty-five Louis d'or any man might rid himself of his enemy with secrecy and expedition. The Parlement frequently protested against the crim inal misuse of the lett•cs de cachet, and their suppression was universally demanded on the eve of the Revolution. They were abolished by the National Assembly January 15, 1790.