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FrRevol_051-100.indd 15 3/16/12 1:02 PM CHAPTER VI M. Necker's Plans ofAdministration. A finance minister, before the Revolution, was not confined to the charge of the public treasury; his duties were not restricted to a mere adjustment of receipt and expenditure; the whole administration ofthe kingdom was in his department; and in this relation the welfare ofthe country in general stood in a manner under the jurisdiction of the General Controller [of Finances].1 Several branches of administration were strangely neglected. The principle of absolute power was seen in conjunction with obstacles incessantly arising from the application of that power. There were everywhere historical traditions which the provinces attempted to erect into rights, and which the royal authority admitted only as customs. The management of the revenue was little else than a continued juggle, in which the officers of the Crown attempted to extort as much as possible from the people to enrich the King, as if the King and his people could be considered as adversaries. The disbursements for the army and the Crown were regularly supplied ; but in other respects the penury of the treasury was such that the most urgent claims of humanity were postponed or neglected, from mere inadequacy of means. It is impossible to form an idea of the state in which M. and Madame Necker found the prisons and hospitals in Paris. I mention Madame Necker because she devoted all her time, during her husband's ministry, to the improvement of charitable establishments, and because the principal changes that took place in this respect were effected by her. r. In October 1776, Necker was appointed general director of the royal treasury. As a foreign citizen (he was both Swiss and Protestant), he could not be officially entrusted with the control of the kingdom's finances. The official title ofgeneral controller offinances was reserved for Taboureaux des Reaux. Not surprisingly, Taboureaux des Reaux resigned a few months later and Necker was officially appointed general director of finances. FrRevol_051-100.indd 16 3/16/12 1:02 PM PART I But M. Necker felt more than anyone how little the personal beneficence of a minister can effect in respect of so large and so ill-governed a country as France: this led him to desire the establishment of provincial assemblies, that is, ofcouncils composed of the principal landholders, for the purpose of discussing the fair repartition of taxes and other matters oflocal interest.2 M. Turgot had conceived this plan, but no ministerbefore M. Necker had had the courage to expose himself to the resistance to be expected to an institution ofthis kind, for it was clear that the parliaments and the courtiers, seldom in unison, would now unite to oppose it. Those provinces, such as Languedoc, Burgundy, Brittany, &c. which had been the latest united to the Crown ofFrance, were calledpays d'itats because they had stipulated a right to be governed by assembliescomposed of the three orders of the province. The King fixed the total sum which he required in the shape oftaxes, but he was obliged to leave its assessment to the provincial assembly. These assemblies persisted in their refusal of imposing certain duties, and asserted that they were exempt from them in virtue of treaties concluded with the Crown. Hence arose inequality in the plan of taxation; multiplied facilities for a contraband traffic between one province and another; and the establishment ofcustom-houses in the interior. Thepays d'itats enjoyed great advantages. They not only paid less, but the sum required was allotted by a board of proprietors acquainted with local interests, and active in promoting them. The roads and public establishments were much better kept up in these provinces, and the collection of taxes managed with less severity. The King had never admitted that these assemblies possessed the right of refusing his taxes, but they acted as ifin reality they had possessed it; not refusing the money required of them, but qualifying their contributions by calling them a free gift. In every respect, their plan ofadministration was better than that ofthe other provinces, which, however, were much more numerous and not less entitled to the attention of government. 2. Necker was instrumental in creating four such provincial assemblies from 1778 to 178o---in Dauphine, Haute-Guyenne, Bourbonnais, and Berry. 66 FrRevol_051-100.indd 17 3/16/12 1:02 PM CHAPTER VI. Necker's Plans ofAdministration Intendants were appointed by the King to govern the thirty-two...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781614878636
Related ISBN
9780865977327
MARC Record
OCLC
836874520
Pages
834
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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