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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

De Maurepas had no longer the pretext of religion


many useful and beneficent measures, in harmony with the king's honest and generous desires, but opposed to the prejudices still potent in many minds and against the interests of many people, kept up about M. Necker, for all the esteem and confidence of the general public, powerful hatreds, ably served: his admission to the council was decidedly refused. "You may be admitted," said M. de Maurepas with his, usual malice, "if you please to abjure the errors of Calvin." M. Necker did not deign to reply. "You who, being quite certain that I would not consent, proposed to me a change of religion in order to smooth away the obstacles you put in my path," says M. Necker in his Memoires, "what would you not have thought me worthy of after such baseness? It was rather in respect of the vast finance-administration that this scruple should have been raised. Up to the moment when it was intrusted to me, it was uncertain whether I was worth an exception to the general rules. What new obligation could be imposed upon him who held the post before promising?"

"If I was passionately attached to the place I occupied," says M: Necker again, "it is on grounds for which I have no reason to blush. I considered that the administrator of finance, who is responsible on his honor for ways and means, ought, for the welfare of the state and for his own reputation, to be invited, especially after several years' ministry, to the deliberations touching peace and war,

and I looked upon it as very important that he should be able to join his reflections to those of the king's other servants: A place in the council may, as a general rule, be a matter in which self-love is interested; but I am going to say a proud thing: when one has cherished another passion, when one has sought praise and glory, when one has followed after those triumphs which belong to one's self alone, one regards rather coolly such functions as are shared with others."

"Your Majesty saw that M. Necker, in his dangerous proposal, was sticking to his place with a tenacity which lacks neither reason nor method," said M. de Vergennes in a secret Note addressed to the king; "he aspires to new favors, calculated from their nature to scare and rouse that long array of enemies by whom his religion, his birth, his wife, the epochs and improvements of their fortune, are, at every moment of his administration, exposed to the laughter or the scrutiny of the public. Your Majesty finds yourself once more in the position in which you were with respect to M. Turgot, when you thought proper to accelerate his retirement; the same dangers and the same inconveniences arise from the nature of their analogous systems."

It was paying M. Necker a great compliment to set his financial talents on a par with the grand views, noble schemes, and absolute disinterestedness of M. Turgot. Nevertheless, when the latter fell, public opinion had become, if not hostile, at any rate indifferent to him; it still remained faithful to M. Necker. Withdrawing his pretensions to admission into the council, the director-general of finance was very urgent to obtain other marks of the royal confidence, necessary, he said, to keep up the authority of his administration. M. de Maurepas had no longer the pretext of religion, but he hit upon others which wounded M. Necker deeply; the latter wrote to the king on a small sheet of common paper, without heading or separate line, and as if he were suddenly resuming all the forms of republicanism: "The conversation I have had with M. de Maurepas permits me to no longer defer placing my resignation in the king's hands. I feel my heart quite lacerated by it, and I dare to hope that his Majesty will deign to. preserve some remembrance of five years' successful but painful toil, and especially of the boundless zeal with which I devoted myself to his service." [May 19, 1783.]

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