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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Cardinal Rohan was exiled to his abbey of Chaise Dieu


in the king's eyes, a dupe according to the judgment of history, Cardinal Rohan was exiled to his abbey of Chaise-Dieu, less to be pitied than the unhappy queen abruptly wrenched from the sweet dreams of a romantic friendship and confidence, as well as from the nascent joys of maternal happiness, to find herself henceforth confronting a deluded people and an ever increasing hostility which was destined to unjustly persecute her even to the block.

M. de Calonne had taken little part in the excitement which the trial of Cardinal Rohan caused in court and city he was absorbed by the incessantly recurring difficulties presented by the condition of the treasury; speculation had extended to all classes of society; loans succeeded loans, everywhere there were formed financial companies, without any resources to speak of, speculating on credit. Parliament began to be alarmed, and enregistered no more credits save with repugnance. Just as he was setting out on a trip to Normandy, which afforded him one of the last happy days of his life and as it were a dying flicker of his past popularity, the king scratched out on the registers of the Parliament the restrictions introduced by the court into the new loan of eighty millions presented by M. de Calonne. "I wish it to be known that I am satisfied with my comptroller-general," said Louis XVI. with that easy confidence which he did not always place wisely. When he returned from Cherbourg, at the end of

June, 1786, M. de Calonne had at last arrived at the extremity of his financial expedients. He set his views and his ideas higher. Speculation was succeeded by policy.

"Sir," said the note handed to the king by the comptroller-general, "I will not go back to the fearful position in which the finances were when your Majesty deigned to intrust them to me. It is impossible to recall without a shudder that there was at that time neither money nor credit, that the pressing debts were immense, the revenues exhausted in anticipation, the resources annihilated, the public securities valueless, the coinage impoverished and without circulation, the discount-fund bankrupt, the general tax-exchequer (_ferme general_) on the point of failing to meet its bills, and the royal treasury reduced to two bags of 1200 livres. I am far from claiming credit for the success of the operations which, owing to the continuous support given by your Majesty, promptly established abundance of coin, punctuality in the payments, public confidence proved by the rise in all securities and by the highest degree of credit, abroad as well as at home: what I must forcibly call your Majesty's attention to is the importance of the present moment, the terrible embarrassment concealed beneath the appearance of the happiest tranquillity, the necessity of soon taking some measure for deciding the lot of the state. It must be confessed, Sir, that France at this moment is only kept up by a species of artifice; if the illusion which stands for reality were destroyed, if the confidence at present inseparable from the working staff were to fail, what would become of us with a deficit of a hundred millions every year? Without a doubt no time must be lost in filling up a void so enormous; and that can be done only by great measures. The plan I have formed appears to me the one that can solve so difficult a problem. Solely occupied with this great object, which demands enormous labor, and for the accomplishment of which I would willingly sacrifice my existence, I only beg your Majesty to accord to me, until I have carried it out, so much support and appearance of favor as I need to give me strength to attain it. It will perhaps be an affair of six months or a year at most. After that your Majesty may do as you please with me; I shall have followed the promptings of the heartiest zeal for your service, I shall be able to say,--

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