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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Abbe Terray had been less proud


it, thanks to the uproar the

able pamphleteer had managed to cause; the families of the former magistrates were powerful, numerous, esteemed, and they put pressure upon public opinion; M. de Maurepas determined to retract the last absolutist attempt of Louis XV.'s reign; his first care was to send and demand of Chancellor Maupeou the surrender of the seals. "I know what you have come to tell me," said the latter to the Duke of La Vrilliere, who was usually charged with this painful mission, "but I am and shall continue to be chancellor of France," and he kept his seat whilst addressing the minister, in accordance with his official privilege. He handed to the duke the casket of seals, which the latter was to take straight to M. de Miromesnil. "I had gained the king a great cause," said Maupeou; "he is pleased to reopen a question which was decided; as to that he is master." Imperturbable and haughty as ever, he retired to his estate at Thuit, near the Andelys, where he drew up a justificatory memorandum of his ministry, which he had put into the king's hands, without ever attempting to enter the court or Paris again; he died in the country, at the outset of the revolutionary storms, on the 29th of July, 1792, just as he had made the State a patriotic present of 800,000 livres. At the moment when the populace were burning him in effigy in the streets of Paris together with Abbe Terray, when he saw the recall of the parliamentarians, and the work of his whole life destroyed, he repeated with his usual coolness:
"If the king is pleased to lose his kingdom--well, he is master."

Abbe Terray had been less proud, and was more harshly treated. It was in vain that he sought to dazzle the young king with ably prepared memorials. "I can do no more," he said, "to add to the receipts, which I have increased by sixty millions; I can do no more to keep down the. debts, which I have reduced by twenty millions. . . . It is for you, Sir, to relieve your people by reducing the expenses. This work, which is worthy of your kind heart, was reserved for you." Abbe Terray had to refund nearly 900,000 livres to the public treasury. Being recognized by the mob as he was passing over the Seine in a ferry-boat, he had some difficulty in escaping from the hands of those who would have hurled him into the river.

The contrast was great between the crafty and unscrupulous ability of the disgraced comptroller-general and the complete disinterestedness, large views, and noble desire of good which animated his successor. After his first interview with the king, at Compiegne, M. Turgot wrote to Louis XVI.:--"Your Majesty has been graciously pleased to permit me to place before your eyes the engagement you took upon yourself, to support me in the execution of plans of economy which are at all times, and now more than ever, indispensable. I confine myself for the moment, Sir, to reminding you of these three expressions: 1. No bankruptcies; 2. No augmentation of imposts; 3. No loans. No bankruptcy, either avowed or masked by forced reductions. No augmentation of imposts the reason for that lies in the condition of your people, and still more in your Majesty's own heart. No loans; because every loan always diminishes the disposable revenue: it necessitates, at the end of a certain time, either bankruptcy or augmentation of imposts. . . . Your Majesty will not forget that, when I accepted the office of comptroller-general, I perceived all the preciousness of the confidence with which you honor me; . . . but, at the same time I perceived all the danger to which I was exposing myself. I foresaw that I should have to fight single-handed against abuses of every sort, against the efforts of such as gain by those abuses, against the host of the prejudiced who oppose every reform, and who, in the hands of interested persons, are so powerful a means of perpetuating disorder. I shall be feared, shall be even hated by the greater part of the court, by all that solicit favors. . . . This people to whom I shall have sacrificed myself is so easy to deceive, that I shall perhaps incur its hatred through the very measures I shall take to defend it against harassment. I shall be calumniated, and perhaps with sufficient plausibility to rob me of your Majesty's confidence. . . . You will remember that it is on the strength of your promises that I undertake a burden perhaps beyond my strength; that it is to you personally, to the honest man, to the just and good man, rather than to the king, that I commit myself."


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