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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Admiring the military arrangements of Marshal Biron


M.

Turgot had been confined to his bed for some months by an attack of gout; the Paris bakers' shops had already been pillaged; the rioters had entered simultaneously by several gates, badly guarded; only one bakery, the owner of which had taken the precaution of putting over the door a notice with shop to let on it, had escaped the madmen. The comptroller-general had himself put into his carriage and driven to Versailles: at his advice the king withdrew his rash concession; the current price of bread was maintained. "No firing upon them," Louis XVI. insisted. The lieutenant of police, Lenoir, had shown weakness and inefficiency; Marshal Biron was intrusted with the repression of the riot. He occupied all the main thoroughfares and cross-roads; sentries were placed at the bakers' doors; those who had hidden themselves were compelled to bake. The _octroi_ dues on grain were at the same time suspended at all the markets; wheat was already going down; when the Parisians went out of doors to see the riot, they couldn't find any. "Well done, general in command of the flour (_general des farina_)," said the tremblers, admiring the military arrangements of Marshal Biron.

The Parliament had caused to be placarded a decree against street assemblies, at the same time requesting the king to lower the price of bread. The result was deplorable; the severe resolution, of the council was placarded beside the proclamation of the Parliament; the magistrates

were summoned to Versailles. The prosecution of offenders was forbidden them; it was intrusted to the provost's department. "The proceedings of the brigands appear to be combined," said the keeper of the seals; "their approach is announced; public rumors indicate the day, the hour, the places at which they are to commit their outrages. It would seem as if there were a plan formed to lay waste the country-places, intercept navigation, prevent the carriage of wheat on the high-roads, in order to starve out the large towns, and especially the city of Paris." The king at the same time forbade any "remonstrance." I rely," said he on dismissing the court, "upon your placing no obstacle or hinderance in the way of the measures I have taken, in order that no similar event may occur during the period of my reign."

The troubles were everywhere subsiding, the merchants were recovering their spirits. M. Turgot had at once sent fifty thousand francs to a trader whom the rioters had robbed of a boat full of wheat which they had flung into the river; two of the insurgents were at the same time hanged at Paris on a gallows forty feet high; and a notice was sent to the parish priests, which they were to read from the pulpit in order to enlighten the people as to the folly of such outbreaks and as to the conditions of the trade in grain. "My people, when they know the authors of the trouble, will regard them with horror," said the royal circular. The authors of the trouble have remained unknown; to his last day M. Turgot believed in the existence of a plot concocted by the Prince of Conti, with the design of overthrowing him.

Severities were hateful to the king; he had misjudged his own character, when, at the outset of his reign, he had desired the appellation of Louis le Severe. "Have we nothing to reproach ourselves with in these measures?" he was incessantly asking M. Turgot, who was as conscientious but more resolute than his master. An amnesty preceded the coronation, which was to take place at Rheims on the 11th of June, 1775.


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