The Revolutionary Spirit Preceding the French Revolution

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

CHAPTER X.
Reign of Louis XVI. -- The Necker Ministry. (1776-1781.)

AT Versailles the news of the disgrace of Turgot gave rise to an outburst of joy. But the people at large, though they disapproved of Turgot's systematic ideas, regretted him on account of his honesty. Only a few of the more enlightened citizens showed signs of real dismay. This disgrace, which affected the minister more than the man, was followed, as might have been expected, by the sweeping away of the reforms he had instituted. The Edict that had abolished jurandes was revoked and corvées were re-established. Other measures were also abandoned. Nothing remained -- or at least scarcely anything -- of all that Turgot had done for the relief of the Nation and the re-organisation of the finances. The Economist party fell into disfavour. Louis XVI. destroyed the work of Turgot, just as he had destroyed that of Louis XV., without stopping to consider that such sudden variations brought discredit upon the Royal Authority. The Decree that re-established the jurandes was accompanied by conditions that gave it the character of a money-edict, and called forth such violent antagonism, that the Court was made quite uneasy by the agitation, and became more so when the renewal of the corvées all but excited a revolt.

The changes in the Ministry increased the expressions of discontent. In the place of Turgot, Clugny, a man of no moral character, had been appointed to the Comptroller-Generalship by the King's mentor, the old Comte Maurepas. When yet barely installed, the new minister took advantage of his situation to live freely and establish sinecures for the benefit of his mistresses and other parasites. In order to do away at once with the State debt, Clugny proposed to go into bankruptcy. This proposition,

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