Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques
No bankruptcy, no increase in taxes, no borrowing, but economy—necessitated stringent reforms. He abolished some sinecures and monopolies, tried to improve the system of farming the taxes, drastically cut government expenses, and redeemed part of the public debt. His edict (1774) restoring free circulation of grain inside France antagonized the grain speculators and was unfortunately followed by a crop failure. Bread riots resulted and were suppressed. This, together with the threat to vested interests posed by his reforms, caused Turgot to lose much of his popularity. He aroused the clergy by favoring toleration of the Protestants and provoked a storm of protest by his six edicts of Jan., 1776. The first four edicts were not of major importance. The fifth abolished guilds, thus ending restrictions on work and occupation. The sixth, the most important, struck at the nobles by eliminating the corvée and proposing taxation of all landholders. Opposition to him now included all privileged groups as well as the queen, Marie Antoinette, whose enmity he had incurred when he refused favors to her protégés. Maurepas persuaded Louis XVI to ask Turgot's resignation (May, 1776). Refusing the offer of a pension, Turgot retired to a life of scientific, historical, and literary study. He was succeeded by Jacques Necker , and his edicts were repealed. Subsequent events vindicated Turgot's conviction—expressed as early as 1750—that the only alternative to radical reform was still more radical revolution. There is a five-volume edition of his works by Gustave Schelle (1913–23, in French).
See L. Say, Turgot (1888, tr. 1888); D. Dakin, Turgot and the Ancien Régime in France (1939, repr. 1965).
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