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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Was however sent to the notables


midst of the Assembly intended

to keep it out, that great question of the convocation of the States-general which had been so long uppermost in all minds. "It is the States-general you demand!" said the Count of Artois to M. de La Fayette. "Yes, my lord," replied the latter, "and something better still if possible!" The comptroller-general continued to elude inquiry into the state of the treasury. M. Necker, offended by the statements of his successor, who questioned the truthfulness of the Report, addressed explanatory notes to the several committees of the Assembly. He had already, in 1784, published an important work in explanation and support of his financial system; the success of the book had been immense; in spite of the prohibition issued, at first, against the sale, but soon tacitly withdrawn, the three volumes had sold, it was said, to the extent of eighty thousand copies. In 1787, the late director-general asked leave to appear before the Assembly of notables to refute the statements of M. de Calonne; permission was refused. "I am satisfied with your services," the king sent word to him, "and I command you to keep silence." A pamphlet, without any title, was however sent to the notables. "I served the king for five years," said M. Necker, "with a zeal which knew no limits the duties I had taken upon myself were the only object of my solicitude. The interests of the state had become my passion and occupied all my faculties of heart and mind. Forced to retire through a combination of singular
circumstances, I devoted my powers to the composition of a laborious work, the utility of which appears, to me to have been recognized. I heard it said that a portion of those ideas about administration which had been so dear to me formed the basis of the projects which were to be submitted to the Assembly of notables. I rendered homage to the beneficent views of his Majesty. Content with the contributions I had offered to the common weal, I was living happily and in peace, when all at once I found myself attacked or rather assailed in the most unjust and the strangest manner. M. de Calonne, finding it advisable to trace to a very remote period the causes of the present condition of the finances, was not afraid, in pursuance of this end, to have recourse to means with which he will, probably, sooner or later reproach himself; he declared in a speech, now circulated throughout Europe, that the Report to his Majesty, in 1781, was so extraordinarily erroneous, that, instead of the surplus published in that Report, there was, at that very time, an enormous deficit."

At the moment when M. Necker was publishing, as regarded the statements of M. de Calonne, an able rectification which did not go to the bottom of things any more than the Report had previously gone, the comptroller-general was succumbing beneath his enemies' attacks and his own errors. Justly irritated at the perfidious manoeuvres practised against him by the keeper of the seals in secretly heading at the Assembly of notables the opposition of the magistracy, Calonne had demanded and obtained from the king the recall of M. Miromesnil. He was immediately superseded by M. de Lamoignon, president of the parliament of Paris and a relative of M. de Malesherbes. The comptroller-general had the imprudence to push his demands further; he required the dismissal of M. de Breteuil. "I consent," said Louis XVI. after some hesitation; "but leave me time to forewarn the queen, she is much attached to M. de Breteuil." When the king quitted Marie Antoinette, the situation had changed face; the disgrace of M. de Calonne was resolved upon.


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