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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The king and Madame Dubarry by their shameful lives


ferment subsided without having reached the mass of the nation; the majority of the princes made it up with the court, the dispossessed magistrates returned one after another to Paris, astonished and mortified to see justice administered without them and advocates pleading before the Maupeou Parliament. The chancellor had triumphed, and remained master; all the old jurisdictions were broken up, public opinion was already forgetting them; it was occupied with a question more important still than the administration of justice. The ever-increasing disorder in the finances was no longer checked by the enregistering of edicts; the comptroller-general, Abbe Terray, had recourse shamelessly to every expedient of a bold imagination to fill the royal treasury; it was necessary to satisfy the ruinous demands of Madame Dubarry and of the depraved courtiers who thronged about her. Successive bad harvests and the high price of bread still further aggravated the position. It was known that the king had a taste for private speculation; he was accused of trading in grain and of buying up the stores required for feeding the people. The odious rumor of this famine pact, as the bitter saying was, soon spread amongst the mob. Before its fall, the Parliament of Rouen had audaciously given expression to these dark accusations; it had ordered proceedings to be taken against the monopolists. A royal injunction put a veto upon the prosecutions. "This prohibition from the crown changes our doubts
to certainty," wrote the Parliament to the king himself; "when we said that the monopoly existed and was protected, God forbid, sir, that we should have had your Majesty in our eye, but possibly we had some of those to whom you distribute your authority." Silence was imposed upon the Parliaments, but without producing any serious effect upon public opinion, which attributed to the king the principal interest in a great private concern bound to keep up a certain parity in the price of grain. Contempt grew more and more profound; the king and Madame Dubarry by their shameful lives, Maupeou and Abbe Terray by destroying the last bulwarks of the public liberties, were digging with their own hands the abyss in which the old French monarchy was about to be soon ingulfed.

For a long while pious souls had formed great hopes of the dauphin; honest, scrupulous, sincerely virtuous, without the austerity and extensive views of the Duke of Burgundy, he had managed to live aloof, without intrigue and without open opposition, preserving towards the king an attitude of often sorrowful respect, and all the while remaining the support of the clergy and their partisans in their attempts and their aspirations. The Queen, Mary Leczinska, a timid and proudly modest woman, resigned to her painful situation, lived in the closest intimacy with her son, and still more with her daughterin-law, Mary Josepha of Saxony, though the daughter of that elector who had but lately been elevated to the throne of Poland, and had vanquished King Stanislaus. The sweetness, the tact, the rare faculties of the dauphiness had triumphed over all obstacles. She had three sons. Much reliance was placed upon the influence she had managed to preserve with the king, and on the dominion she exercised over her husband's mind. In vain had the dauphin, distracted at the woes of France, over and over again solicited from the king the honor of serving him at the head of the army; the jealous anxiety of Madame de Pompadour was at one with the cold indifference of Louis XV. as to leaving the heir to the throne in the shade. The prince felt it deeply, in spite of his pious resignation. "A dauphin," he would say, "must needs appear a useless body, and a king strive to be everybody" (_un homme universel_).

Whilst trying to beguile his tedium at the camp of Compiegne,

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