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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

At the same time as Abbe Terray


Turgot devoted friends. He

was already leaning towards philosophy, and he announced to his fellow-pupils his intention of giving up his ecclesiastical status; he was a prior of Sorbonne; the majority disapproved of it. "Thou'rt but a younger son of a Norman family," they said, "and, consequently, poor. Thou'rt certain to get excellent abbotries and to be a bishop early. Then thou'lt be able to realize thy fine dreams of administration and to become a statesman at thy leisure, whilst doing all manner of good in thy diocese. It depends on thyself alone to make thyself useful to thy country, to acquire a high reputation, perhaps to carve thy way to the ministry; if thou enter the magistracy, as thou desirest, thou breakest the plank which is under thy feet, thou'lt be confined to hearing causes, and thou'lt waste thy genius, which is fitted for the most important public affairs." "I am very fond of you," my dear friends," replied M. Turgot, "but I don't quite understand what you are made of. As for me, it would be impossible for me to devote myself to wearing a mask all my life." He became councillor-substitute to the attorney-general, and before long councillor in the Parliament, on the 30th of December, 1752. Master of requests in 1753, he consented to sit in the King's Chamber, when the Parliament suspended the administration of justice. "The Court," he said, "is exceeding its powers." A sense of equity thus enlisted him in the service of absolute government. He dreaded, moreover, the corporate
spirit, which he considered narrow and intolerant. "When you say, We," he would often repeat, "do not be surprised that the public should answer, You."

Intimately connected with the most esteemed magistrates and economists, such as MM. Trudaine, Quesnay, and Gournay, at the same time that he was writing in the _Encyclopaedia,_ and constantly occupied in useful work, Turgot was not yet five and thirty when he was appointed superintendent of the district of Limoges. There, the rare faculties of his mind and his sincere love of good found their natural field; the country was poor, crushed under imposts, badly intersected by roads badly kept, inhabited by an ignorant populace, violently hostile to the recruitment of the militia. He encouraged agriculture, distributed the talliages more equitably, amended the old roads and constructed new ones, abolished forced labor (_corvees_), provided for the wants of the poor and wretched during the dearth of 1770 and 1771, and declined, successively, the superintendentship of Rouen, of Lyons, and of Bordeaux, in order that he might be able to complete the useful tasks he had begun at Limoges. It was in that district, which had become dear to him, that he was sought out by the kindly remembrance of Abbe de Wry, his boyhood's friend, who was intimate with Madame de Maurepas. Scarcely had he been installed in the department of marine and begun to conceive vast plans, when the late ministers of Louis XV. succumbed at last beneath the popular hatred; in the place of Abbe Terray, M. Turgot became comptroller-general.

The old parliamentarians were triumphant; at the same time as Abbe Terray, Chancellor Maupeou was disgraced, and the judicial system he had founded fell with him. Unpopular from the first, the Maupeou Parliament had remained in the nation's eyes the image of absolute power corrupted and corrupting. The suit between Beaumarchais and Councillor Goezman had contributed to decry


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