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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The minister of finance has become the sole hope


The

instinct of absolute power and the traditions of the kingship struggled in the narrow mind and honest heart of Louis XVI. against the sincere desire to ameliorate the position of his people and against a vague impression of new requirements. It was to the former of these motives that M. de Vergennes appealed in his Note to the king on the effect of the Report. "Your Majesty," he said, "is enjoying the tranquillity which you owe to the long experience of your ancestors, and to the painful labors of the great ministers who succeeded in establishing subordination and general respect in France. There is no longer in France clergy, or noblesse, or third estate; the distinction is factitious, merely representative and without real meaning; the monarch speaks, all else are people, and all else obey.

"M. Necker does not appear content with this happy state of things. Our inevitable evils and the abuses flowing from such a position are in his eyes monstrosities; a foreigner, a republican, and a Protestant, instead of being struck with the majestic totality of this harmony, he sees only the discordants, and he makes out of them a totality which he desires to have the pleasure and the distinction of reforming in order to obtain for himself the fame of a Solon or a Lycurgus.

"Your Majesty, Sir, told me to open my heart to you: a contest has begun between the regimen of France and the regimen of M. Necker. If his ideas

should triumph over those which have been consecrated by long experience, after the precedent of Law, of Mazarin, and of the Lorraine princes, M. Necker, with his Genevese and Protestant plans, is quite prepared to set up in France a system in the finance, or a league in the state, or a 'Fronde' against the established administration. He has conducted the king's affairs in a manner so contrary to that of his predecessors that he is at this moment suspected by the clergy, hateful to the grandees of the state, hounded to the death by the heads of finance (_la haute finance_), dishonored amongst the magistracy. His Report, on the whole, is a mere appeal to the people, the pernicious consequences whereof to this monarchy cannot as yet be felt or foreseen. M. Necker, it is true, has won golden opinions from the philosophy and the innovators of these days, but your Majesty has long ago appraised the character of such support. In his Report M. Necker lays it down that advantage has been taken of the veil drawn over the state of the finances in order to obtain, amidst the general confusion, a credit which the state would not otherwise be entitled to. It is a new position, and a remarkable one in our history is that of M. Necker teaching the party he calls public opinion that under a good king, under a monarch beloved of the people, the minister of finance has become the sole hope, the sole security, by his moral qualities, of the lenders and experts who watch the government. It will be long before your Majesty will close up the wound inflicted upon the dignity of the throne by the hand of the very person in the official position to preserve it and make it respected by the people."

The adroit malevolence of M. de Vergennes had managed to involve in one and the same condemnation the bold innovations of M. Necker and the faults he had committed from a self-conceit which was sensitive and frequently hurt. He, had not mentioned M. de Maurepas in his long exposition of public administration,


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