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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Only the government of King Louis XV


style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER LIV.----LOUIS XV.--THE SEVEN YEARS' WAR.--MINISTRY OF THE DUKE OF CHOISEUL. 1748-1774.

It was not only in the colonies and on the seas that the peace of Aix-la- Chapelle had seemed merely a truce destined to be soon broken; hostilities had never ceased in India or Canada; English vessels scoured the world, capturing, in spite of treaties, French merchant-ships; in Europe and on the continent, all the sovereigns were silently preparing for new efforts; only the government of King Louis XV., intrenched behind its disinterestedness in the negotiations, and ignoring the fatal influences of weakness and vanity, believed itself henceforth beyond the reach of a fresh war. The nation, as oblivious as the government, but less careless than it, because they had borne the burden of the fault committed, were applying for the purpose of their material recovery that power of revival which, through a course of so many errors and reverses, has always saved France; in spite of the disorder in the finances and the crushing weight of the imposts, she was working and growing rich; intellectual development was following the rise in material resources; the court was corrupt and inert, like the king, but a new life, dangerously free and bold, was beginning to course through men's minds the wise, reforming instincts, the grave reflections of the dying Montesquieu no longer sufficed for them; Voltaire, who had but lately been still

moderate and almost respectful, was about to commence with his friends of the _L'Encyclopedie_ that campaign against the Christian faith which was to pave the way for the materialism of our own days. "Never was Europe more happy than during the years which rolled by between 1750 and 1758," he has said in his _Tableau du Siecle de Louis XV._ The evil, however, was hatching beneath the embers, and the last supports of the old French society were cracking up noiselessly. The Parliaments were about to disappear, the Catholic church was becoming separated more and more widely every day from the people of whom it claimed to be the sole instructress and directress. The natural heads of the nation, the priests and the great lords, thought no longer and lived no longer as it. The public voice was raised simultaneously against the authority or insensate prodigality of Madame de Pompadour, and against the refusal, ordered by the Archbishop of Paris, of the sacraments. "The public, the public!" wrote M. d'Argenson; "its animosity, its encouragements, its pasquinades, its insolence--that is what I fear above everything." The state of the royal treasury and the measures to which recourse was had to enable the state to make both ends meet, aggravated the dissension and disseminated discontent amongst all classes of society. Comptrollers- general came one after another, all armed with new expedients; MM. de Machault, Moreau de Sechelles, de Moras, excited, successively, the wrath and the hatred of the people crushed by imposts in peace as well as war; the clergy refused to pay the twentieth, still claiming their right of giving only a free gift; the states-districts, Languedoc and Brittany at the head, resisted, in the name of their ancient privileges, the collection of taxes to which they had not consented; riots went on multiplying; they even extended to Paris, where the government was accused of kidnapping children for transportation to the colonies. The people rose, several police-agents were massacred; the king avoided passing through the capital on his way from Versailles to the camp at Compiegne; the path he took in the Bois de Boulogne received the name of Revolt Road. "I have seen in my days," says D'Argenson, "a decrease in the respect and love of the people for the kingship."


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