The Revolutionary Spirit Preceding the French Revolution

By Félix Rocquain; J. D. Hunting | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV.
Government of Louis XV. (1743-1751.)

ON the 22nd of January, 1743, Cardinal Fleury breathed his last. Dearth and war were his sole legacies to his country, for he left her without a King and devoid of funds, generals, and ministers.

All hopes were centred in Louis XV. For three years the Parliament had held its peace, waiting for the new régime. The Nation flattered itself that its Sovereign, delivered from the tutelage in which he had been kept so long, would repair the disorders he had been unable to prevent. "The Cardinal is dead! Long live the King!" was the cry in Paris on the day that Fleury died.

It seemed indeed as if Louis XV. were going to respond to his country's hopes. "Gentlemen," he said, to the Secretaries of State, who brought him the news of Fleury's death, "behold in me the Prime Minister!"

Cardinal de Fleury had made some attempts to effect a peace, but his efforts had been unavailing, Louis XV. had Austria, England, Holland, and Savoy arrayed against him. In face of this coalition, he was constrained to augment his forces, and France soon had 300,000 men under arms. An ordinance of the King commanded the raising in Paris alone of 30,000 troops. This ruthless sacrifice of human lives, together with the news of a reverse, experienced by the French at Dettingen, gave rise to general expressions of discontent. Complaints were publicly made of the incapacity of the generals, the negligence of the ministers, and the heartlessness of the King. In view of the perils that menaced the State from without and within, Madame

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