Martin's History of France: The Age of Louis XIV - Vol. 2

By Henri Martin; Mary L. Booth | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV.
LOUIS XIV. (CONTINUED.)

SOCIAL, ECONOMY. DIPLOMACY. Economical Situation of France. Administration; Finances; Commerce. Memorials of Intendants. Public Destitution. VAUBAN. Bois-Guillebert. Affairs of the Protestants. Foreign Affairs. Spanish Succession. Testament of Carlos II. The second of the Grandsons of Louis XIV. called to the Throne of Spain.


1697-1700.

THE history of ideas has shown us the France of Louis XIV. tending, so to say, to dissolution; an examination of the material state of the country gives the same result. The economical condition of the people was deplorable; the springs of government, excessively strained, brought out all the defects of the social order, and especially the defective organization of offices and public revenues. The evident exhaustion of the people had contributed, at least as much as the question of the Spanish succession, to decide Louis for. peace. The best intentioned among the King's counsellors had suggested to him the idea of a vast investigation concerning the condition of France. This was the only basis on which an attempt could be made to establish the reforms which the best minds were seeking. The investigation was begun immediately after the peace: memorials were demanded from all the intendants concerning the provinces which they administered. It should not have stopped there. A far more efficacious plan had been conceived in the midst of the little group of reformers, whom the disgrace of Fénelon had afflicted, but not discouraged. Beauvilliers, who had escaped the storm that had overtaken his friend, and who was maintained in his post of minister of state and chief of the council of finances, induced the King to make the intendants transient, and to cause them to circulate from province to province, after the manner of Charlemagne's missi dominici; the reports which they would have successively sent in concerning all parts of France would thus have been controlled by each other, and, in the course of a few years, a complete statistical account of the kingdom would have been collected,

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