The Revolutionary Spirit Preceding the French Revolution

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

CHAPTER IX.
Reign of Louis XVI. The Turgot Ministry. (1774-1776.)

ON the 10th of May, 1774, Louis XVI. ascended the throne, the cynosure of the high hopes of the Nation. Following on to an oppressive reign which had terminated in shame and disorder, the advent of a Prince -- who, in spite of his youth, had already won the esteem of the public by his virtues -- was welcomed as a pledge of the many reforms for which the Nation sighed. Not that the country had formulated any special wishes, the immediate realisation of which it imposed upon the successor of Louis XV. For that matter, the minds of men had been so greatly agitated during a long period of years, and public opinion so much misled by conflicting theories, that there had come to be more diversity than unanimity of thought in regard to the changes necessary to be introduced into the political system. But the general public, at least, had in mind some definite ideas of reform. The dismissal of ministers whom they detested, the recall of the ancient Parliament, prompt reconstruction of the finances, and a speedy termination of the famine, were the first satisfactions that they demanded of the young King. Louis XVI. was, at heart, fully disposed to walk in the way of reform. But, though he was a good and honest man, he possessed a limited intelligence and an undecided will. The first Edict of his reign revealed his true sentiments. It remitted all "accession dues," which amounted to 24,000,000 livres, and cost the tax-payers some 40,000,000 livres. In it, he invoked the support of the "Most High" to sustain him in his youth and inexperience, announced that his reign would be founded on principles of justice, promised to maintain

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