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Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de (1757-1834) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.03542 Author/Creator: Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de (1757-1834) Place Written: Paris, France Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 5 May 1787 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 22.7 x 18.6 cm.

Summary of Content: Letter provides a detailed update on French politics during the build-up to the French Revolution. Says he is busy in the Assembly of the Notables and has had little time to write. Says his recent letter to Alexander Hamilton will inform Knox of circumstances in the Assembly up until Easter. Wants Knox to inform Hamilton that he does not need to keep a motion he sent to him secret as the newspapers have published it in France. Says Michel Bouvard de Fourqueux, who succeeded Charles Alexandre de Calonne, could not last long (de Calonne had been ousted as minister of finance after suggesting that all privilege be dropped and all land taxed equally while Fourqueux left office after three weeks). Says the Cardinal Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne, the Archbishop of Toulouse, was made President of the Royal Council of Finances and will pick a new Controller General. Lafayette claims he is "a Man of Great Virtue, and the first abilities." Believes Brienne will select a new Controller General and then become a kind of prime minister. Since writing Hamilton says the Assembly has considered several proposals for new administration of the state. Says the king suggested cutting expenses by 15 million. The Assembly countered with 50 million and Lafayette believes 40 million will be accepted. Says that there is grumbling that the Americans do not pay their debt on time.

Background Information: The Assembly of Notables was an assembly consulting the King of France. It was similar to the Estates General, however its members were not elected, but chosen by the King. ...The last two of such Assemblies preceded the Estates-General of 1789. The first of them was convened on February 22, 1787 by Charles Alexandre de Calonne, the minister of finance of France to discuss financial state of France. The second was convened in 1788 to discuss various issues related to convocation of Estates General. The first stage of the French Revolution was the Nobles' revolt in which the privileged orders resisted the efforts of Jacques Necker and the court to reform the state's finances. A key event associated with this stage was the Assembly of Notables. It was a council of eminent men of Paris and the surrounding regions.
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Full Transcript: [draft]
Paris May the 5th 1787
My dear friend
This busy time of the Assembly allows me but a few minutes to write, and should we get into the good use ...of such meetings; I think we ought not hereafter take it so much in earnest as to employ our whole time from the [Rising] hour until we go to bed - My letter to Hamilton will acquaint you with the circumstances of the Assembly down to Easter days - You may, while you show him this, tell him that there is no secret to be kept about the Copy of a Motion of Mine which I sent him, Because [inserted: it] has been put into the papers
The old Contróleur who had succeeded M de Calonne could not last long - He has been near a fortnight in place, and now we have the Arch Bishop of toulouse a man of great virtue, and the first Abilities - He will be at the head of the department, and choose a Contróleur General to act under him - M de Villedeuil, a very clever man will be appointed - in fact the Arch Bishop will be a kind of Prime Minister, and is perfectly well fitted for [2] such an employment - those two gentlemen were in the assembly and in the same committee where I am
Since I wrote to M Hamilton we have examined some proposals respecting several parts of administration which we thought would not do - There was a Grand Assembly and a speech from the throne, thanking us for our frankness, and Announcing Oconomies to the amount of fifteen millions - but as we were allowed to give our ideas on that matter, we proposed for above fifty millions of Bonifilations and Oconomies - And I think the King is going to Announce Reductions, and improvements to the amount of forty millions in the preamble of a loan edict that is coming out - We now are going to propose the mean to prevent the Reproduction of the deficit - and to fix the principles of a Better Administration
My feelings have been much wounded to hear the interest of the American debts Considered in the Returns as an uncertain revenue and yet have been obliged to confess that it had been [strikeout] irregularly paid - I need not adding that I spoke the Best I could on this disagreeable subject.
M de Calonne's letter has met with some difficulties from the [farmers] - But now that we have got a [wise] administration of finances, it will [3] be set to Right
I Beg you will present my most affectionate regards to Mrs Knox and the family - this letter will, if you please, be common to you and M Wadsworth Show it also to Hamilton - My, Compliments to your Brother, to our brother officers and to all friends
Most Affectionately
M. de Corvecour who takes charge of this has some information to ask from you - I told him he might depend on your favorable disposition in every thing it was proper for you to do.

from the Marquis 'de
la Fayette
[struck: 25 J] 5 May 1787
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Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: FranceFrench RevolutionPoliticsGovernment and CivicsGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyJournalismFinanceReligionEconomicsDebt

Sub Era: Creating a New Government

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