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BRITISH AND FOREIGN
HIST TOR Y;
For the Year 1789.
Retrenchments and Reforms.
Affairs of France. New Miniftry. Perfecution of Mr. de Calonne. Apa pointment of the Archbishop of Touloufe. Diffolution of the Notables.
HE perfons, appointed by the king of France to fucceed to the vacant offices of adminiftration at the period of the difmiffion of Mr. de Calonne, were Mr. Bouvard de Fourqueux to the place of controller-general, and Mr. de Lamoignon to that of keeper of the feals. The nomination of the former feems to have been regarded only as a matter of temporary accommodation; but from the efforts of Mr. de Lamoignon fomething confiderable was ex-, pected. He bore the character of a man, who had ftudied the principles of government upon a comprehenfive fcale, and who was more difpofed to conform himself to the unalterable dictates of juftice and truth, than to yield to the precarious current of party and intrigue. We fhall prefently fee how he fupported this reputation. Meanwhile the difmiffion of Mr. de Calonne by no means affumed the appearance of a difgrace. The king informed him,
that the conjuncture of affairs des manded this facrifice; but added, that it was not lefs the intention of government to profecute his plans, and requested him to remain at Versailles, that he might affift with his counfels his fucceffor in office.
It was within three days after this minifterial revolution, that Mr. Necker published his answer to the fpeech of Mr. de Calonne, delivered at the opening of the affembly of notables. The purpose of the author was to prove the validity of the affertions of the Compte Rendu au Roi en 1781, or in other words that France had at that time poffeffed a clear furplus of ordinary revenue to the amount of 425,000l. This ftatement, though of an older date than the adminiftration of Mr. de Calonne, was fraught with inferences that certainly bore hard upon that ftatefman, who in the year 1787 acknowledged a deficit to the amount of 4,796,000!.
It is impoffible for us to enter minutely into the queftion between these celebrated combatants. Thofe, to whom the difcuffion may appear in teresting, will find ample materials in their respective publications. To thofe, who fhall be defirous of that fort of prefumptive evidence, which arifes, whether from the character and difpofition of the parties, or from the hiftorical probability of their opinions, it is hoped, that our narrative, both of the preceding tranfactions, and of those which are to follow, will afford fome fatisfaction. Meanwhile popular predilection produced its full effect in the prefent judgment that was formed of the controverfy. Mr. Necker triumphed. His Compte Rendu, and his Defence, were confulted as the depofitaries of all that was moft authentic in the finances of France. The character of the late minifter was loaded with every fpecies of obloquy. He had formerly been ftigmatifed as the rash and imprudent invader of the immunities of the opulent, as the inconfiftent flave of temporary enthuliafm, as the benevolent flatefman, who knew not how to refuse a request, and the diffipated character, who was unable to deny himself any inordinate gratification. He was now regarded in a new light. He was the public defaulter of unaccounted millions. He had exceeded every former example of prodigality and profligacy. Neither honour, nor the love of his country, nor the fear of detection, had been able to reftrain him; and in a fhort adminiftration of three years and a half he had reduced France, from a ftate of enviable and incredible profperity, to the brink of a ruin, from which the effort of almost no abilities would be fufficient to recover her.
The confequences of this perfuafion were foon vifible. The notables refumed their fittings on the fifteenth of April 1787. The king, influenced, it is probable, by certain fymptoms of the temper of the affembly, caufed it to be fignified to the bureaux, that it was his pleasure that they should reftrict their attention to the fubjects. he had fubmitted to their confideration, without fuffering themfelves to be diverted to any foreign obfervations. But this meffage, though it produced its effect upon the majority of the affembly, did not altogether fupprefs the effects of the prevalent difpofition. The marquis de la Fayette, a young nobleman, who had appeared as a volunteer in the caufe of civil liberty upon the plains of America, was eager to exhibit himself as a patriotic citizen of his native country. Led away, it may be, by the current of popular opinion, he deemed Mr. de Calonne a criminal against the welfare and character of France, and imagined he could not be more ufefully or honourably employed, than in denouncing fuch a minifter as a proper victim to the majefty of public juftice. He accordingly prefented a memorial to this purpofe to the confideration of his brethren of the notables.
The memorial of the marquis de la Fayette was in part formed upon the model of the memorial for the establishment of a council of finances, which had been afcribed to the archbishop of Toulouse. Its chief topic was the exchange of the county of Sancerre, which had been purchafed on the part of the king, partly by the ceffion of certain lands, and partly in money, from the baron d'Efpagnac, elder brother of the
bé d'Efpagnac the celebrated
ftock-jobber. This exchange had been a subject of negociation in the year 1777; and fubfequently to that period a fum of 41,0col. had been advanced to the baron. The tranfaction however remained in fufpenfe; and, foon after the appointment of Mr. de Calonne in 1783, the count de Vergennes fuggefted to that minifter the propriety of its being completed, the fum advanced remaining at prefent as a fort of deficit upon the department of foreign affairs. By Mr. de Calonne fome change was made in the demefne lands to be ceded to the baron d'Efpagnac, and a number of fmaller portions were fubftituted in the room of the foreft of Ruffi, which the comptroller-general thought proper to retain in the hands of government. The royal affent was given to the terms of exchange in March 1784; and foon after that period a fecond fum of 41,000l. was paid to the baron d'Efpagnac, which, together with the specified lands, was flated to be a juft equivalent for the county of Sancerre. The exchange was made with a referve, as had been the ufual practice, of a reference to the chamber of accounts, who were authorised to correct and alter the terms, fo as to render them moft conformable to their ideas of juftice. In the mean time Mr. de Calonne had openly purchafed of the baron d'Efpagnae the district of Hattonchatel, a part of the baron's new acquifitions, in the neighbourhood of his paternal eftate of Hanonville in Lorraine, upon provifo that the exchange fhould be confirmed by the proper court. The chamber of accounts is the highest jurifdiction in France, next after the parliament of Paris, and conftituted in a manner confiderably fimilar; and it is to be fuppofed, that their decifion would be founded in
principles of general juftice. Such however is the tedioufnefs of forms, that the point was ftill undecided at the refignation of Mr. de Calonne, in April 1787, the baron d'Efpagnac claiming a ftill further compenfation, and the court not having yet determined whether he had not received more than an equivalent.
The prosecution recommended by the marquis de la Fayette was not adopted by the affembly of notables; but the principles of the memorial from which he had derived his materials feemed at this time to be completely imbibed by that illuftrious body. In conformity to the royal recommendation, they attempted no proceeding that had not the appearance of immediately rifing out of the fubjects fubmitted to their examination; but they contrived to render thofe fubjects themfelves the vehicle and occafion of publishing their fentiments on the politics of the day. In a word, they hefitated not to involve themselves in a perfonal controverfy with the ex-minifter, and to reduce the public and pofterity to the direct alternative of either believing Mr. de Calonne a profligate and unprincipled ftatefman, or of confeffing that the notables countenanced imputations of a criminal nature upon trivial grounds, and stooped to become the dupes of individuals that were actuated folely by inordinate ambition.
The topics that now employed the difcuffion of the affembly, were thofe that conftituted the third head of the project of Mr. de Calonne, and related to the alienation and improvement of the royal domains. In the obfervations that they digefted upon this fubject, they remarked with feverity upon a principle advanced by the minifter, that the feudal fuperiority, by which all landed pro
perty was obliged o contribute to the defence and maintenance of the whole, was perpetual, univerfal, and infeparable from the monarchy." They afferted the great domains of the crown, as matters now ftood, to be inalienable, and declared that fuch modifications as fhould infpire confidence into the purchasers of them, could only be introduced by the nation itself, in an affembly convened for that purpose. As there were great abufes in certain conceffions that had been made under this head, the notables intreated the fovereign to cause an account to be laid before him of thofe which had taken place fince his acceffion to the throne, in order to break off fuch difadvantageous engagements as were not yet completed, and to abolifh those in which it fhould appear that the actual lofs to the crown exceeded the intrinfic value of the property acquired. They pretended, that abufes of a very alarming defcription would be found in certain tranfactions of this fort that were of a recent date. They fubjoined an allufion to certain claims in favour of the royal domains that had been advanced during the adminiftration of Mr. de Calonne; and intreated the king to foften the rigour of the principles upon which government acted in its controverfies with individuals.
It was at this time that the king, whether from a wifh to conciliate the favour of the notables, or because the fame influence, which fo vifibly appeared in the proceedings of that affembly, now began to extend itfelf to the councils of the fovereign, thought proper to change his mode of conduct towards Mr. de Calonne. His original difmiffion from office was foftened by every appearance of kindness and efleem; but he was deftined ultimately to experience a de;
gree of difcountenance greater than ufually falls to the lot of difgraced minifters. On the nineteenth of April he was banifhed to his eftate of Hanonville in the province of Lorraine; and we fhall prefently fee him feeking refuge in foreign countries, from the extraordinary clamour and odium that were excited against him. Mr. Necker had in the preceding week been alfo exiled to a distance of twenty leagues from Paris, it being thought neceffary that some mark of royal difpleasure should be awarded against the man, who, without the approbation of government, had publifhed remarks and information upon the fubject of the finances.
It is the peculiarity of the history of Mr. de Calonne, that while his character was feverely ftigmatifed, and his measures vehemently oppofed, thofe meafures were univerfally confeffed to be founded in genuine and comprehenfive maxims of policy. His fucceffors in office were unable to difcover any thing that could fpecioufly be fubftituted in the room of what he had fuggefted; and, however little his propofals might accord with the prejudices of men long inured to a fyftem of practical error, they feemed to confefs, that the greatnefs of the emergency would admit of no less violent a remedy. It might be thought, that at first minifters were taken by furprise, and that, as it frequently happens, the eagernefs of intrigue to effect the downfall of a rival, had outrun the patriotifm which fhould have meditated the welfare of their country. But it was in vain that the rapidity of the vortex in which they were hurried along gradually fubfided. Neither the lapfe of time, nor the partial variations that affected the perfons of minifters, introduced any variation of policy; and, if they did
not exactly model themselves upon the ideas of their predeceffor, this plainly appears to have been rather owing to the mediocrity of their talents, than to the dictates of their judgment.
The third part of the project prepared for the notables having now been fufficiently difcuffed, it became time to introduce the remaining divilion. That this might be done with the greater folemnity, which feems now to have been regarded as coincident with dignity and demonftration, it was brought forward by the king in perfon, who for that purpose went down to the affembly of notableson the twenty-third of April. The fpeech of the fovereign upon this occafion began with a retrospect to the fubjects of the former divifions. He declared his intention, in conformity with their reprefentations, to preferve to the two firft orders of the ftate that precedency in the provincial affemblies, which they had been accustomed to enjoy in all fimilar cafes. He expreffed himself fatiffed with the readinefs which the bishops and archbishops had preffed to contribute their share to defray the public expences; and confented to liften to their reprefentations refpecting the form of doing it, and the means to be adopted for the liquidation of their corporate debt. He would examine the fuggeftions of the affembly refpecting the gabelle, and should efteem himfelf happy when he should be able to abolish the very name of so disastrous an impoft.
With regard to the measures to be farther propofed, the king obferved, that he had not attempted to conceal the alarming difference between the receipt of government and its expenditure, and that the papers he had directed to be laid before the
affembly would fufficiently demonftrate its reality. He was firmly refolved to adopt the moft efficacious measures to annihilate the existing deficit, and to prevent its renewal at any future period. He knew, that one of the most desirable measures for that purpose was the practice of economy; and he had meditated certain reforms in the expenditure, which were calculated to produce an immediate faving of 1,250,000l. He alfo propofed to adopt a new tax in the mode of a ftamp duty, and to introduce a fyftem proper to encounter the difficulties of the redemptions of capital at fixed periods, which had been made the condition of certain loans. But the effect of these united measures would be inadequate to the emergency. The king would therefore be obliged to have recourfe to a measure more painful to him than all the reft, that of augmenting the amount of the impoft upon land; but of the quantity of this augmentation he was unable to judge, till the fum of the deficit remaining after the application of the other remedies had been ascertained. He concluded with an earnest recommendation of celerity. To them was committed the glory of France, and they were called upon to display the advantage he poffeffed in governing a nation, whose refources, like their love for their kings, were inexhaustible.
The fpeech of the king was followed by that of the keeper of the feals. He obferved, that, when the fovereign had called them together to confult them refpecting the means of repreffing financial abuses, of remedying the confequent evils, and relieving the people, they were not and could not have been informed of the true ftate of affairs. They had done therefore what they ought to have done; propofed doubts,