Calonne, Charles Alexander De

, an eminent but unfortunate French minister, was born at Douay in 1734. His father was president of the parliament of Flanders, and descended from a noble family, originally of Tournay, and well known in the history of that city, which makes honourable mention of his ancestors in the remotest times. Having finished his studies at the university of Paris with extraordinary success, young Calonne was appointed, in histwenty-third year, advocate or solicitor- general of the superior council of Artois and before he had attained the age of twenty -five, was promoted to the office of procurator-general of the parliament of Flanders, the duties of which he performed with distinguished ability for six years. He was then called as rapporteur to the king’s council, to report to his majesty the most momentous affairs of administration, of which arduous and laborious task he acquitted himself in a manner that evinced his profound knowledge of the government, constitution, history, and jurisprudence of France, and established his reputation as a writer of no less perspicuity and judgment, than elegance and energy of diction.

In 1776, he was named intendant of the province of the Trois Eveches, and for four years fulfilled the duties of that important office with universal approbation, and greatly to the satisfaction of the inhabitants, by whom he was much beloved, and who expressed the utmost regret at his departure when he quitted that province in 1780, being appointed intendant-general of Flanders and Artois. The same affability and mild and equitable conduct in the administration of public affairs, which had procured him their esteem, conciliated no less the affections of his countrymen in Flanders, to whose commercial interests he shewed particular attention, in promoting the fisheries and every useful establishment, both during the three years of his residence at Dunkirk, and after being appointed in 1783, Comptroller-general of the finances, and minister of state. In this important office he continued until 1787, and during the period of his administration raised and maintained the public credit by a punctuality till then unknown in the payments of the royal treasury, although on his accession he found it drained to the lowest ebb, and had the mortification to perceive that the annual income had long been inadequate to the annual expenditure. To trace the cause of this deficiency, its origin and progress, was the secret | work of many an hour, supposed by the public to be devoted to pleasure or repose, as he conceived it of the utmost importance to conceal the deficiency until he had explored its source, and provided such an adequate remedy for it, as might restore the proper equipoise between the annual income and expenditure, and provide a surplus for emergencies without increasing the burthens of the people beyond their ability to support. For this purpose he prevailed on the king to revive the ancient usage of national assemblies, by calling together the Notables of the kingdom; and after laying before them a true state of the finances, he boldly proposed, as a chief remedy for the deficiency, that the pecuniary privileges and exemptions of the nobility, clergy, and magistracy, should be suppressed; and although aware that a measure which appeared to militate so much against the immediate interests of the three most powerful ranks of the community must meet with opposition, he determined to risk the sacrifice of his own situation, rather than longer to conceal or palliate the evil.

When this assembly met, Calonne accused his predecessor M. Necker, of having caused the deficiency by his system of loans, and of war without taxation; and Calonne’s enemies, on their side, threw the blame on his personal extravagance, and his readiness in yielding to the unlimited demands of the royal family. The comparative merits of those two ministers, equally im fortunate in the issue, may be probably ascertained by a perusal of the appeals they made to the public, M. Calonne in his “Speech to the Assembly of Notables,” in his “Requete au Roi,” and his “Reponse a PEcrit de M. Necker” and M. Necker in his “Answer to Calonne’s Speech, and Requete, &c.” The consequence, however, of the opposition Calonne met with, was, that the king withdrew his confidence from him, took from him the insignia of his order, and banished him to Lorraine. He and his brother presented themselves to the assemblies of the bailiwick of Bailleul in Flanders, but were disrespectfully received, and obliged to withdraw into the Low Countries. He returned to France for a very short time, and in 1790 left it again, and retired to England. In 1791 the brothers of Louis XVI. summoned him to join them. at Coblentz, where he for some time managed their finances, if not with oeconomy, at least with integrity, as appeared by his inability two years afterwards to maintain his son, who served as a foot soldier in the corps of nobility in the | army of Cond6. It was at that time that he proposed a plan of counter-revolution, which was not generally approved in the royalist party, to whom, it is certain that many of the sentiments he expressed in his political writings, published at London in 1793 and 1796, were not acceptable. In 1802, during the consular government, the reputation of his talents, which no party has questioned, procured him permission to return to France, where he gave in some memorials on finance, which, however, were not favourably received. He died in Paris October 29, 1802.

In the course of his administration and exile he published, 1. “Observations et Jugemens sur plusieurs matieres du droit civil et coutumier,1784, 4to. 2. “Correspondance cle Necker avec Calonne, 1 * 1787, 4to. 3.” Requete an Hoi,“1787, 8vo. 4.” Reponse de Calonne a PEcrit de Necker,“London, 1788, 2 vols. 8vo. 5.” Second Lettre au Roi,“ibid. 1789, 8vo.” Notes sur le Memoire remis par Necker au comite* des subsistances,“ibid. 1739, 12mo. 7.” De Petat de la France, present et a venir,“1790, 8vo. He is also the reputed author of, 1.” De Petat de la France, tel qu‘il peut et qu’il doit tre,“London, 1790, 8vo. 2.” Observations sur les Finances,“ibid. 179O, 4to. 3.” Lettres d‘un publiciste de France a un publiciste d’Allemagne,“1791, 8vo. 4.” Esquisse de Petat de la France,“1791, 8vo. 5.” Tableau de PEurope en Novembre 1795,“1796, 8vo. 6.” Des finances publiques de la France,“1797, 8vo. 7.” Lettre a Pauteur des Considerations sur Petat des affaires publiques,“1798, 8vo. The abbe” Calonne, his brother, who accompanied him to England, was for some time editor of the “Courier de Londres,” and died in 1799. 1


Dict. Hist.—Biographie Moderne, &c.