1789 to 2014: Letter from First Comte de Intelligencer JEAN CHAIT to His Excellency’s Minister of Finances Necker

12 09 2014

From the Desk of the First Comte de Intelligencer JEAN CHAIT

26 August 1788

Dearest Friend Necker,

I received with some distress your note of 24 August, wherein you expressed concern that the People, faced with privation, an obtuse system of justice, and an obdurate policy of foreign adventurism, have nominated as their Spokespeople certain Parties and Individuals, who express the most radical and Unserious theories and speculations on Politics and Government, and who would, in your view, seek to depose His Majesty the King Louis XVI, father of the French people, protector of the Frankish and Norman realms, and fruit of Bourbon tree.

It is my pleasure therefore to set your concerns at ease. These Radicals are indeed Unserious; and lack a basic understanding of how the Bourbon system works. What does it mean to oppose in His Royal Body the King Louis XVI? The presumption that vociferous opposition to His Majesty, and his Court, would affect some meaningful change in the Government and Politic of France and the Bourbon lands betrays a childlike unseriousness in those critics who would crown themselves leaders of the masses.

Are they aware, these radicals, philosophes, and vagrants, of the nature of the French state? Composed as it is of dozens different administrative regions, more recently divided into generalities which have yet to develop administrative authority of their own? Do they imagine the interests of a Breton to be coterminous with the interests of an Angevin? Or Poitanne? Is the King merely to give speeches on vulgar hustings, would this set in harmony the disparate dukedoms, bishoprics, freeholds and cities, that daily and for centuries have struck different notes from church towers, fields, and castle walls?

How precisely do they expect His Majesty to impose a uniform system of so-called constitutionalism, where he can hardly exercise his will over the freeholders and minor dukes of Rodez or Armagnac? With over 47 provinces, and as many or generalities, responsible for taxation often in conflict with the local Duke or provincial dynasty–is His Majesty to wave his hand and bring “tax fairness” to all these places, as though these Men and their Kin do not exist? No man knows better than yourself, My Dear Necker, despite your Swiss heritage, that His Majesty, and his Bourbon Forebears including le roi soleil, have often to dragoon payments of tax, or wheedle gifts from the Church, merely to finance the Royal Household, much less to provide for any national administration of justice.

And of justice!

These wild-eyed radicals point to the Body of the King, and cry for equal justice–the King’s justice–betraying what can only be a naive understanding of how the Justice of the Realm in fact operates. Do they envision the King sits as seigneur judge from Normandy to Provence? Provence, where there is still in use by the low and middle courts code systems of law derived from the Roman Empire, the time of Casear? And Normandy, where the common law, through years of vassalage to the English Crown, administers yet the system of writs and common law to be found in that dismal island?

Are they so insular, these Heretics and Rabble-Rousers, that they fail to know the plight of the common subject who seeks justice, often spending years between seigneurial courts, ecclesiastical courts, and bailliages and sénéchaussées, before their cases can even be heard? And yet, they say, our complaint is with His Majesty, for not administering justice evenly.

These same charlatans sing their song of woe for the dignity of the urban artisans, decrying the immiserated condition of the ropemaker and brickmaker and ferrier. They decry his lack of power in bargaining with his masters and municipal and noble purchasers of the fruits of his labor.

Do these Poseurs, Charlatans, Criminals and Emos assume an impossible longevity in His Majesty, that it was he that authored the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts in 1539, which ancient document in its Article 185 states unambiguously,

Que suivant nos anciennes ordonnances et arrests de nos cours souveraines, seront abattues, interdites, et défendons toutes confrairies de gens de mestier et artisans par-tout notre royaume.

In other words, that all Associations and Confraternities of artisans and professionals are prohibited to combine or withhold, in concert, their labor? Is the King to treat the Ordinance as mere paper–the very contempt for Law about which these self-styled Philosophes at once mewl?

My Dear Friend, in other words, these Men are precisely those about whom His Majesty–and your Excellency–needn’t worry; precisely because they are Unserious, and lacking totally in the Savvy and Elan that marks those of us who have made careers as keen observers of a system which works within a slight percentage of perfection–a system which, organically emerged over centuries of careful compromise, is the Best of all Possible Governments, in the Best of all Possible Worlds.

Yours in Self-Awareness,

JEAN CHAIT


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