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the Bishop of Fréjus, who receives him with an air very uncommon to his countrymen,” viz. with an ease that seemed to result from real good nature, rather than artificial grace. Fleury had at this time just left his bishopric, which he was supposed to hate with a genuine hatred, signing himself in a letter to Cardinal Quirini, “ Fleuri, évêque de Fréjus par l'indignation divine.” “ The king does not like him much,” a fair politician is made to say ; " but he is a good man on the whole, though jesuitical." In Fleury's interview with Devereux, the good bishop takes especial pains to keep clear of French politics. He asks him, however, two or three questions about the state of parties in England-about finance and the national debt-about Ormond and Oxford, and appears to give the closest attention to the young Englishman's replies. The fair politician aforesaid, Madame de Balzac, breaks out, during this colloquy, into occasional sarcasms against the Jesuits, which have nothing to do with the subjects in question, and at which he smiles once or twice. " Ah, ma chère cousine," said he, “ you flatter me by showing that you like me not as the politician, but the private relation-not as the Bishop of Fréjus, but as André de Fleuri."* In a subsequent chapter, Devereux has ample time for conversation with the Bishop that was, Cardinal and Prime Minister that should be, and gives a deliberate estimate of his powers. To this effect: That he certainly had in him very little of the great man, and indeed presented a most striking instance of this truth,
that in that game of honours which is played at courts, we obtain success less by our talents than our tempers.” After some cursory conversation on works of fiction and on literature in general, and the various characters of the literati of the day, Fleury is described by his interlocutor as artfully gliding into a discussion on statistics and politics, which affords the latter a sudden, but thorough, insight into the depths of his policy. “I saw that, while he affected to be indifferent to the difficulties and puzzles of state, he lost no opportunity of gaining every particle of information respecting them; and that he made conversation, in which he was skilled, a vehicle for acquiring that knowledge which he had not the force of mind to create from his own intellect, or to work out from the written labours of others. If this made him a superficial statesman, it made him & prompt one; and there was never so lucky a minister with so little trouble to himself.”+
When he died, at the beginning of 1743, in the ninetieth year of his age, Fleury left the character of having governed France during a period of seventeen years with the most upright disinterestedness and unblemished integrity; though better calculated to superintend the regulations of peace than to direct the operations of war; for by his attention to the recovery of the finances, he had exposed himself to the censure of suffering the marine to fall into decay, and of repressing the military ardour of the nation. I
* Devereux, book iv. ch. iv. · † At his death appeared the following punning epigram:
" Floruit sine fructû;
Defloruit sine luctû." “He flowered without fruit, and faded without regret."--Ibid., ch. vi.
I Coxe, Hist, of House of Austria, vol. iii. ch. civ.
Fleury's administration has been spoken of as pretty nearly correspond. ing with that of Walpole in its duration and its policy; though there was difference enough in the character and motives of the two leaders. It commenced properly, as a sole ministry, on the summary dismissal of the Duke of Bourbon from power, when that grandee could not be induced to abide within the reasonable limits" marked out for him by Fleury. “ He would have all or none; and the latter portion accordingly became his share, and the former the share of the Cardinal.” The period of Fleury's death has been taken as a point at which to separate the reign of Lewis the Fifteenth into two great divisions.* And though, as a matter of convenience, there may be no objection to this arrangement, which divides the time equally—the first half, at a broad view, appearing peaceful, the second warlike,- yet were it a mistake to suppose that is the loss of this statesman turned the current of things,” or again, that the extension even of his long life, from the nonagenarian to the centenarian stage, would have averted much of what followed. For it is clear that the death of Fleury was no such signal for changes as the fall of Wolsey or the disgrace of Clarendon. « All the elements of political, and social, and religious disorganisation had developed themselves, and were at work during his lifetime. He saw his country plunged into wars ; he saw his king plunged into debauchery; he saw the people plunged into infidelity. Versailles in 1740 differed only in degree from Versailles in 1760. Madame de Pompadour was at least as respectable as Madame du Mailly. The Parisian coteries were in full operation. The worst of Voltaire's poems had appeared; and a more infamous writer even than he, the physician La Mettrie, was thriving and publishing in the heart of Paris.
“ The Cardinal saw all this, and could only suppose that when all reverence for heavenly things, and all respect for earthly things, were thus lost, the end of the world was drawing nigh.'+ The only troubles which had not yet arisen were those of finance. In Fleury's time the court had been but venially extravagant, and the wars had not yet been paid for. The good old ecclesiastic had removed all the most oppressive imposts; he left a rich revenue without a burthensome tax, one-sixth of which paid all state debts,--and died poor. A noble character for a Minister of France in the eighteenth century."!
M. Arsène Houssaye reckons it among the striking contrasts of the eighteenth century, that the first Minister after Cardinal Fleury was Madame de Pompadour. In the case of the Cardinal, he says, a blind religion protected the throne against the parliaments ; in that of the Marquise, philosophy was advancing from blade to ear and to full corn in the ear,-fated to be a trouble to clergy and parliament in turn. The Cardinal was close-fisted as an intendant; the Marquise showed herself prodigal as a mistress, saying that money ought to flow from the throne in full stream and high tide, like a generous river to permeate the State. The Cardinal had been hostile to Austria and well-disposed towards
* See English Review, III. 104, Art. “ The Court of Louis XV."
† See the Cardinal's own words, quoted from Rauchon's MS. by Schlosser, c. ii. & iii.
| Engl. Rev.: The Fall of the Jesuits.
Prussia ; the Marquise went to war with Frederick to please Maria Theresa.* One very great advantage of Fleury's administration is justly said to have been its stability : even had his talents been less, the nation would still have reaped the benefit of unity and uniformity in its government. “ His years of office were nearly twenty. Few of his successors ruled above a tenth part of the time. Between the years 1756 and 1763 -years requiring the utmost ability and management, there were no less than twenty-five ministers in the six departments.”+ Many a regret the nation may have felt for ce vieillard ambitieux et circonspect, as Voltaire calls him, I—though sneering elsewhere at His Eminence as one “ dont le caractère était de croire soutenir de grandes choses par de petits moyens,''S and therefore addicted to stingy ways in war, and economising when he should have been open-handed, counting the cost too literally after, as well as before, war had commenced.
Eminently and pre-eminently His Eminence was a Minister of Peace. As such he is panegyrised, nay in plain terms adored, in J. B. Rousseau's Ode to Peace :
D'un ministre adoré l'heureuse providence
C'est à votre repos qu'il immole le sien. || Villemain remarks of Saint-Pierre's La paix perpetuelle, that it is the only one of that strenuous Abbé's plans which is not forgotten now; and that it is easy to suppose this plan was not very shocking to Cardinal Fleury, that " ministre d'humeur fort pacifique," despite of the deplorable war into which, at eighty-nine years of age, he plunged his country. T This minister, says Barante, had cleverness enough to end his days tranquilly in the bosom of power, but not strength enough, nor clearsightedness enough, to secure duration to the effects of his government. He seemed to have but one anxiety, how to bring his long career to a close without disturbance or defeat. His habit of mind lacked far-seeing foresight,—a common defect in extreme old age. When he once refused a favour asked by the Abbé de Bernis, in these ungracious terms, “ You shall never have it so long as I am alive,”—“I can wait," was the young man's reply;** and not many years later that young man was in the Minister's place.
*M. Barrière describes the long government of “the sage and gentle pastor of the flock of Fréjus” as itself under the sway of two influences. Two men, we are told, shared with the Cardinal his authority over the realm of France,-Polet, his confessor, and Barjac, his valet de chambre. The spur of Polet's zeal is said to have pushed on the timid ambition of Fleury, his penitent, to power; sure, if Fleury were once minister, that he, the dexterous Jesuit and implacable persecutor, could constrain him to the service of his society's cause. As for the valet, the hidden ways
* Le Roi Voltaire, l. x. c. ii.
† Engl. Rev., ubi suprà, p. 111. Siècle de Louis XV., c. iii.
Ibid., ch. xl. J. B. Rousseau, Ode à la Paix. Villemain, Tableau du XVIII• Siècle. ** Barante, De la Littérature Française.
by which he had attained to favour were more obscure. « The Cardinal had had weaknesses in his youth; and Barjae was then his confidant. Since then he had grown great, like his master--and in respectful intimacy with his master. To him, nothing that was decided in the council touching war, finances, or the church, was a secret. He had his share of the Cardinal's hat and ministry. We are writing to Rome;' — “We are sending D’Antin on a mission ;_We received Villars ; '-he would say."* But this is only what the modern valet and latter-day Jeames are also in the habit of saying,—the We of familiar flunkeyism being as recognised a fact as the We of a fashionable doctor, or the We of an Able Editor. And perhaps the French love of effect, and a greed for biographical parallels and paradoxes, may have more than a little exaggerated the influence of Father Polet over the Cardinal-Minister, with a semi-conscious or sub-conscious view to strengthen his analogy to Richelieu, by providing him with an analogue to that Cardinal-Minister's Father Joseph.
M. de Tocqueville, who ascribes to Fleury "great powers of wit and fascination,” yet assigns to him a matter-of-fact and lucid mind, utterly devoid of warmth and elevation ; says that he was keen and subtle even to knavery ; that his economy degenerated to penuriousness; and that his resentments were implacable. And then adds, that his hand bore heavily on the Jansenists, whose opinions differed in some points from his own; while its touch was light for the men without faith, who were beginning to propagate incredulity.
Lord Brougham speaks of the “ habitual insincerity and deep cunning of Fleury.”+ One might think there was the same irony in Pope's eulogy of "honest Fleury" as the reader of Shakspeare feels, though Othello did not feel it, at the Moor's iterated praise of “honest, honest Iago." But Pope was seemingly all seriousness and sincerity in his reference to the Cardinal as a Minister whom no odious comparisons could affect:
Sejanus, Wolsey, hurt not honest Fleury,
But well may put some statesmen in a fury. I And history, by the pen of some of its best-informed and least-partial scholars, goes far to justify the personal epithet. Earl Stanhope, for one, bears record, that during his whole government Fleury sought no riches, and displayed no splendour ; but lived in the same plain and unostentatious manner as when in a private station. The same historian considers that in knowledge of foreign affairs Fleury was second only to Dubois, though he admits the Cardinal's abilities to have been “not, perhaps, of the highest order”g—and also that Fleury was not “wholly free" from the common defects of age-being too fond of expedients and delays, and on many occasions carrying his caution to timidity, his economy to avarice. Yet the latter, it is argued, was exerted in the
* Bibliothèque des Mémoires, t. ii. Introd. par M. F. Barrière. (1846.) † Appendix to Historical Sketches, vol. vi.
Fope, Epilogue to the Satires, Dial. i. Ś “Had they been so, they would probably have worn out earlier in life. The flame of genius which dazzles the beholder is almost equally certain to burn and consume its tenement.”—Mahon, Hist. of Engl., ch, xiv.
public expenses as much as in his own; and if he was afraid of war, his predecessors for the most part had a far worse fault-they were ambitious of it. Speaking, again, of the pacific mediation of Fleury and Walpole between Spain and Portugal in 1736, by which harmony was restored between the two Peninsular Courts, Lord Mahon says that in all these foreign negotiations the English Ministers found in Fleury the same judicious and conciliatory, though sometimes a little timid, temper.
Fleury's approximation in policy to Sir Robert Walpole was made, indeed, a charge against him, which some took for a compliment, others for a stigma. We find Sir Robert's son, the Strawberry-hill one, the son, asking my Lady Ossory in 1784 if she has seen the Memoirs of Marshal Villars? “ To me they are very interesting, for they abuse my father stay, let me account for this satisfaction. The Opposition wrote volumes to accuse him of beidg a tool to France, and governed by Cardinal Fleury; Marshal Villars is so good as to rail at the Cardinal for being governed and duped by my father. It is not living to no purpose, when I have reached to this vindication.”*
But although Fleury had used every endeavour to avert a war between the Courts of London and Madrid,—when that war actually broke out, he became, as the most favourably-disposed of English historians is constrained to relate, “more and more estranged from his English allies” — and the despatches of 1740 are said to display the growing coldness, and point to the probable result. When he perceived that France must probably follow Spain in a breach with England, he began to lend a ready ear to Jacobite malcontents and exiles, and entered into their designs, with secresy indeed and caution, but still with considerable warmth. So, for France, and for England, and for himself, the last end of this man was worse than the first.
First and last, however, he did the state some service, and that of no slight kind. The monument of his administration, it has been said, was everywhere seen inscribed, not on brass or marble, but on the smiling and happy faces of the people. Between the aspect of France as it was in the last days of long-lived Lewis the Fourteenth, and that of France as it was in the last days of long-lived Cardinal Fleury, there was a great gulf fixed. Happy they whose lot was cast on the hither side.
When Lady Mary W. Montagu visited France in 1739, she declared it to be so much improved, that it would not be known to be the same country that she passed through twenty years before; and adds: “Everything I see speaks in praise of Cardinal Fleury: the roads are all mended, and the greater part of them (she wrote from Dijon] paved as well as the streets of Paris, planted on both sides like the roads in Holland : and such good care taken against robbers, that you may cross the country with your purse in your hand.”+ And further on she proceeds to describe the French as more changed than their roads; for, instead of pale yellow faces wrapped up in blankets, as her ladyship and her husband had seen them in the early days of the Regency, she now saw the villages all filled with fresh-coloured lusty peasants, in good clothes and clean linen. “It is incredible,” she adds, " what an air of plenty and content is over the whole country.”
* Horace Walpole's Letters, vol. viii. p. 497.
† Mahop, II, 1-2, 27. # Lady Mary to Mr. Wortley, Aug. 18, 1739.