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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The public fortune would naturally be decupled


had not the same repugnance

for novelties of foreign origin; so soon as he was in power, he authorized the Scot to found a circulating and discount bank (_banque de circulation et d'escompte_), which at once had very great success, and did real service. Encouraged by this first step, Law reiterated to the Regent that the credit of bankers and merchants decupled their capital; if the state became the universal banker, and centralized all the values in circulation, the public fortune would naturally be decupled. A radically false system, fated to plunge the state, and consequently the whole nation, into the risks of speculation and trading, without the guarantee of that activity, zeal, and prompt resolution which able men of business can import into their private enterprises. The system was not as yet applied; the discreet routine of the French financiers was scared at such risky chances, the pride of the great lords sitting in the council was shocked at the idea of seeing the state turning banker, perhaps even trader. St. Simon maintained that what was well enough for a free state, could not take place under an absolute government. Law went on, however; to his bank he had just added a great company. The king ceded to him Louisiana, which was said to be rich in gold and silver mines, superior to those of Mexico and Peru. People vaunted the fertility of the soil, the facility offered for trade by the extensive and rapid stream of the Mississippi; it was by the name of that river that the new company was
called at first, though it soon took the title of _Compagnie d' Occident,_ when it had obtained the privilege of trading in Senegal and in Guinea; it became the _Compagnie des Indes,_ on forming a fusion with the old enterprises which worked the trade of the East. For the generality, and in the current phraseology, it remained the Mississippi; and that is the name it has left in history. New Orleans was beginning to arise at the mouth of that river. Law had bought Belle-Isle-en-Mer and was constructing the port of Lorient.

The Regent's councillors were scared and disquieted; the chancellor proclaimed himself loudly against the deception or illusion which made of Louisiana a land of promise; he called to mind that Crozat had been ruined in searching for mines of the precious metals there. "The worst of him was his virtue," said Duclos. The Regent made a last effort to convert him, as well as the Duke of Noailles, to the projects of Law. It was at a small house in the faubourg St. Antoine, called La Roquette, belonging to the last named, that the four interlocutors discussed the new system thoroughly. "With the use of very sensible language Law had the gift of explaining himself so clearly and intelligibly that he left nothing to desire as concerned making himself comprehended. The Duke of Orleans liked him and relished him. He regarded him and all he did as work of his own creation. He liked, moreover, extraordinary and out-of-the-way methods, and he embraced them the more readily in that he saw the resources which had become so necessary for the state and all the ordinary operations of finance vanishing away. This liking of the Regent's wounded Noailles, as being adopted at his expense. He wanted to be sole master in the matter of finance, and all the eloquence of Law could not succeed in convincing him." The chancellor stood firm; the Parliament, which ever remained identified in his mind with his country, was in the same way opposed to Law. The latter declared that the obstacles which arrested him at every step through the ill will of the Council and of the magistrates, were ruining all the fruits of his system. The representations addressed by the Parliament to the king, on the 20th of January, touching a re-coinage of all moneys, which had been suggested by Law, dealt the last blow at the chancellor's already tottering favor. On the morning of the 23d M. de La Vrilliere went to him on behalf of the Regent and demanded the return of the seals. D'Aguesseau was a little affected and surprised. "Monseigneur," he wrote to the Duke of Orleans, "you gave me the seals without any merit on my part, you take them away without any demerit." He had received orders to withdraw to his estate at Fresnes; the Regent found his mere presence irksome. D'Aguesseau set out at once. "He had taken his elevation like a sage," says St. Simon, "and it was as a sage too that he fell." "The important point," wrote the disgraced magistrate to his son, "is to be well with one's self."


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