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FrRevol_051-100.indd 8 3/16/12 1:02 PM CHAPTER V M. Necker's Plans ofFinance. The principles adopted by M. Necker in the management of the finances are so simple that their theory is within the reach ofevery person, although their application be very difficult. It is easy to say to statesmen "be just and firm," as to writers "be ingenious and profound": this advice is perfectly clear, but the qualities which enable us to follow it up are very rare. M. Necker was persuaded that economy, and publicity,1 the best guarantee of fidelity in our engagements, form the only foundations oforder and credit in a great empire. As in his opinion public morality ought not to differ from private, so he conceived that the affairs of the state might, in many respects, be conducted on the same principles as those of each private family. To equalize the receipt and expenditure; to arrive at that desired point rather by a reduction ofexpense than by an increase of taxation ; and, when war unfortunately became necessary, to meet its extra expense by loans, the interest of which should be provided for either by a new tax or by a new retrenchment-such were the great and leading principles from which M. Necker never deviated. No people can carry on a war without other aid than their ordinary revenue; it becomes therefore indispensable to borrow, that is, to throw on future generations a part of the pressure of a contest supposed to be r. Toward the end ofthe eighteenth century, public opinion gradually acquired the status of a universal tribunal before which citizens, magistrates, and governments were held accountable . During the Bourbon Restoration, French liberals regarded publicity as playing a key role in limiting and moderating political power and considered it a pillar of representative government along with elections and freedom of the press. Like Constant and Guizot, Madame de Stael viewed publicity and public debates as essential to creating a public sphere partly similar to the economic market based on free competition of interests and ideas. 58 FrRevol_051-100.indd 9 3/16/12 1:02 PM CHAPTER v. Necker'sPlansofFinance undertaken for their welfare. We might suppose the existence of an accumulated treasure, such as that which Frederick the Great possessed; but, besides that there was nothing ofthe kind in France, it is only a conqueror or those who aim at becoming conquerors that deprive their country of the advantages attached to the circulation of money and the maintenance of credit. Arbitrary governments, whether revolutionary or despotic, have recourse , for their military expenses, to forced loans, extraordinary contributions , or the circulation ofpaper; for no country either can or ought to make war with its ordinary revenue. Credit is then the true modern discovery which binds a government to its people; it obliges the executive power to treat public opinion with consideration: and, in the same way that trade has had the effect ofcivilizing nations, credit, which is the offspring of trade, has rendered the establishment ofconstitutional forms of some kind or another necessary to give publicity to financial transactions and guarantee contracts. How was it practicable to found credit on mistresses , favorites, or ministers, who are in a course of daily change at a royal court? What father of a family would place his fortune in such a lottery?2 Nonetheless, M. Necker was the first and only minister in France who succeeded in obtaining credit without the benefit of any new institution. His name inspired so much confidence that capitalists in various parts of Europe came forward, even to a degree ofimprudence, with their funds, reckoning on him as on a government, and forgetting that he could lose his place at any moment. It was customary in England, as in France, to quote him before the Revolution as the best financial head in Europe; and it was considered as a miracle, that war should have been carried on during five years without increasing the taxes, or using other means than providing for the interest ofthe loans by progressive retrenchments. Butwhen the time came that party spirit perverted everything, his plan of finance was charged with charlatanism-a singular charlatanism, truly; to carry the austerity of private life into the cabinet, and to forgo the pleasure of 2. Worth noting is the connection between commerce, credit, and the rule of law, a recurrent topic in Necker's political writings. FrRevol_051-100.indd 10 3/16/12 1:02...


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