The Revolutionary Spirit Preceding the French Revolution

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

CHAPTER XII.
The Assembly of Notables and the Convocation of the States-General. (1787-1789.)

THE idea of convoking the Notables had been suggested to Calonne by the desperate state of the Finances. The dishonest minister was at his wit's end. He had exhausted all resources and made use of every imaginable expedient. The same temerity that had prompted him to conduct France to her ruin now led him to fancy he could extricate her from it. After having promoted every kind of disorder and protected all sorts of abuses, he was obliged, in the end, to revert to the project of reform conceived by Necker and Turgot.

He proposed to institute throughout the entire kingdom Provincial Assemblies, which should not only make a more equal assessment of the taxes, but should prevent the numerous illegalities practised in collecting them. Among other methods of effecting the first of these reforms, he created a land-tax, to which the clergy were to be subjected in common with other landlords, and made some alterations, notably in introducing a stamp-tax, in the duties imposed on commerce. He proposed also to alienate some of the Crown domains and to reduce by 20,000,000 livres the annual expenses of the King's household. Louis XVI., according to his custom, adhered to the propositions of his minister. The plan adopted, means for carrying it out had to be devised. It was at this point that Calonne borrowed from the past the undreamt-of expedient of assembling the Notables. He thought, not without reason, that if he obtained the approbation of this body, he could overrule the objections of the clergy, Court, and Parliament. The Assembly, which was to be composed of 140 persons, and included

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