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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

De Montmorin in his notes left to Marmontel


queen had represented the dissatisfaction and opposition of the notables, which "proceeded solely," she said, "from the mistrust inspired by the comptroller-general;" she had dwelt upon the merits and resources of the Archbishop of Toulouse. "I don't like priests who haven't the virtues of their cloth," Louis XVI. had answered dryly. He called to the ministry M. Fourqueux, councillor of state, an old man, highly esteemed, but incapable of sustaining the crushing weight of affairs. The king himself presented M. de Calonne's last projects to the Assembly of notables; the rumor ran that the comptroller-general was about to re-enter the cabinet. Louis XVI. was informed of the illicit manoeuvres which M. de Calonne had authorized in operations on 'Change: he exiled him to his estate in Berry, and a few days afterwards to Lorraine. M. Necker had just published without permission his reply to the attacks of M. de Calonne the king was put out at it. "The eye of the public annoys those who manage affairs with carelessness," M. Necker had but lately said in his work on financial administration, "but those who are animated by a different spirit would be glad to multiply lights from every quarter." "I do not want to turn my kingdom into a republic screeching over state affairs as the city of Geneva is, and as happened during the administration of M. Necker," said Louis XVI. He, banished his late minister to a distance of twenty leagues from Paris. Madame Necker was ill, and the execution
of the king's order was delayed for a few days.

Meanwhile the notables were in possession of the financial accounts, but the satisfaction caused them by the disgrace of M. de Calonne was of short duration; they were awaiting a new comptroller-general, calculated to enlighten them as to the position of affairs. M. de Montmorin and M. de Lamoignon were urgent for the recall of M. Necker. The king's ill feeling against his late minister still continued. "As long as M. Necker exists," said M. de Montmorin, "it is impossible that there should be any other minister of finance, because the public will always be annoyed to see that post occupied by any but by him." "I did not know M. Necker personally," adds M. de Montmorin in his notes left to Marmontel; "I had nothing but doubts to oppose to what the king told me about his character, his haughtiness, and his domineering spirit." Louis XVI. yielded, however. "Well!" he said, snappishly, "if it must be, recall him." M. de Breteuil was present. "Your Majesty," said he, "has but just banished M. Necker he has scarcely arrived at Montargis; to recall him now would have a deplorable effect." He once more mentioned the name of Leonie de Brienne, and the king again yielded. Ambitious, intriguing, debauched, unbelieving, the new minister, like his predecessor, was agreeable, brilliant, capable even, and accustomed in his diocese to important affairs. He was received without disfavor by public opinion. The notables and the chief of the council of finance undertook in concert the disentanglement of the accounts submitted to them.

In this labyrinth of contradictory figures and statements, the deficit alone came out clearly. M. de Brienne promised important economies, the Assembly voted a loan: they were not willing to accept the responsibility of the important reforms demanded by the king. The speeches were long and vague, the objections endless. All the schemes of imposts were censured one after the other. "We leave it to the king's wisdom," said the notables at last; "he shall himself decide what taxes will offer the least inconveniences, if the requirements of the state make it necessary to impose new sacrifices upon the people." "The notables have seen with dismay the depth of the evil caused by an administration whereof your parliament had more than once foreseen the consequence," said the premier president of the parliament of Paris. "The different plans proposed to your Majesty deserve careful deliberation. The most respectful silence is at this moment our only course."

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