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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Necker had boldly defied the malevolence of his enemies


M.

Necker had boldly defied the malevolence of his enemies. "I have never," said he, "offered sacrifice to influence or power. I have disdained to indulge vanity. I have renounced the sweetest of private pleasures, that of serving my friends or winning the gratitude of those who are about me. If anybody owes to my mere favor a place, a post, let us have the name." He enumerated all the services he had rendered to the king, to the state, to the nation, with that somewhat pompous satisfaction which was afterwards discernible in his Memoires. There it was that he wrote: "Perhaps he who contributed, by his energies, to keep off new imposts during five such expensive years; he who was able to devote to all useful works the funds which had been employed upon them in the most tranquil times; he who gratified the king's heart by providing him with the means of distributing among his provinces the same aids as during the war, and even greater; he who, at the same time, proffered to the monarch's amiable impatience the resources necessary in order to commence, in the midst of war, the improvement of the prisons and the hospitals; he who indulged his generous inclinations by inspiring him with the desire of extinguishing the remnants of serfage; he who, rendering homage to the monarch's character, seconded his disposition towards order and economy; he who pleaded for the establishment of paternal administrations in which the simplest dwellers in the country-places might have some share;
he who, by manifold cares, by manifold details, caused the prince's name to be blest even in the hovels of the poor,--perhaps such a servant has some right to dare, without blushing, to point out, as one of the first rules of administration, love and care for the people."

"On the whole," says M. Droz, with much justice, in his excellent _Histoire du regne de Louis XVI.,_ "the Report was a very ingenious work, which appeared to prove a great deal and proved nothing." M. Necker, however, had made no mistake about the effect which might be produced by this confidence, apparently so bold, as to the condition of affairs in a single year, 1781, the loans amounted to two hundred and thirty-six millions, thus exceeding in a few months the figures reached in the four previous years. A chorus of praises arose even in England, reflected from the minister on to his sovereign. "It is in economy," said Mr. Burke, "that Louis XVI. has found resources sufficient to keep up the war. In the first two years of this war, he imposed no burden on his people. The third year has arrived, there has as yet been no question of any impost, indeed I believe that those which are a matter of course in time of war have not yet been put on. I apprehend that in the long run it will no doubt be necessary for France to have recourse to imposts, but these three years saved will scatter their beneficent influence over a whole century. The French people feel the blessing of having a master and minister devoted to economy; economy has induced this monarch to trench upon his own splendor rather than upon his people's subsistence. He has found in the suppression of a great number of places a resource for continuing the war without increasing his expenses. He has stripped himself of the magnificence and pomp of royalty, but he has manned a navy; he has reduced the number of persons in his private service, but he has increased that of his vessels. Louis XVI., like a patriotic king, has shown sufficient firmness to protect M. Necker, a foreigner, without support or connection at court, who owes his elevation to nothing but his own merit and the discernment of the sovereign who had sagacity enough to discover him, and to his wisdom which can appreciate him. It is a noble example to follow: if we would conquer France, it is on this ground and with her own weapons that we must fight her: economy and reforms."


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