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FrRevol_151-200.indd 15 3/16/12 1:04 PM CHAPTER XXIII Return ofM. Necker. M. Necker, on arriving at Brussels, remained two days to take rest before proceeding to Switzerland by way of Germany. His greatest subject of disquietude at this time was the scarcity that threatened Paris. In the preceding winter his indefatigable exertions had preserved the capital from the misfortune of famine; but the bad harvest rendered it more and more necessary to have recourse to foreign arrivals and to the credit ofthe great mercantile houses of Europe. He had consequently written in the beginning of July to Messrs. Hope, the celebrated Amsterdam merchants; and apprehensive that, in the existing posture ofaffairs, they might be averse to undertake the purchase of corn for France, unless he personally guaranteed the payment, he had offered them security to the extent ofa million livres on his private fortune. On arriving at Brussels, M. Necker recalled this guarantee to his mind. He had reason to fear that, in the crisis of a revolution, the duties ofgovernment might be neglected, or that the news of his departure might be prejudicial to the public credit. Messrs. Hope, in particular, might presume that, under such circumstances, M. Necker would withdraw his security; but he even wrote to them from Brussels that he was exiled from France, but that they were to consider the personal engagement he had taken as unaltered. The Baron de Breteuil, during the few days that he was minister, received the answer of Messrs. Hope toM. Necker's first letter, which contained an offer to guarantee their purchases by his private fortune. M. Dufresne de Saint-Leon,1 chief clerk in the finance department, a man of 1. Dufresne de Saint-Leon had collaborated with Necker on the publication of the Compte rendu in 1781. On July 17, 1789, he was charged with the mission ofbringing Necker back to Paris. They met in Basel six days later. z65 FrRevol_151-200.indd 16 3/16/12 1:04 PM PART I penetration and decision, gave this letter to the Baron de Breteuil, who treated the whole as folly: "What," said he, "can the private fortune ofa minister have to do with the public interest?" He might as well have added, "Why does this foreigner interfere at all with the affairs of France?" During the interval that M. Necker was traveling along the German frontier, the Revolution of the 14th of July took place at Paris. Madame de Polignac/ whom he had left at Versailles all powerful by the Queen's favor, sent for him to his great surprise in an inn at Basel and apprised him that she had fled in consequence of the events that had occurred. M. Necker could not conceive the possibility of proscriptions, and he was long in comprehending the motives that had led to the departure of Madame de Polignac. Letters brought by couriers, orders from the King, and invitations from the Assembly, all pressed him to resume his situation. "M. Necker," says Burke, in one of his writings, "was recalled, like Pompey , to his misfortune, and, like Marius, he sat down on ruins."3 M. and Madame Necker saw the matter in this light, and it will appear from the details that I have given in the private life ofmy father,4 how much it cost him to take the determination of returning. All the flattering circumstances attending his recall could not blind him in regard to the actual state of things. Murders had been committed by the people on the qth ofJuly, and M. Necker, at once religious and philosophic in his manner ofviewing things, abandoned all hope ofthe success ofa cause already marked by bloodshed. Nor could he flatter himselfwith possessing the confidence ofthe King, since Louis recalled him only from dread of the danger to which his absence exposed him. Had he been actuated merely by ambition, nothing was easier than to return in triumph, supporting himself on the strength of the National Assembly; but it was 2. Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchess of Polignac, was a close friend of the Queen. The duchess went into exile and died in Vienna in 1793· 3· Stael does not indicate the exact source. In Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke refers favorably to Necker and draws heavily upon Necker's De !'administration des finances de la France (I784). 4· The title of the original text edited by Madame de Stael was Manuscrits de...


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