Chapter

Unforeseen Necessities: The Government and Venality, 1768–1788

William Doyle

in Venality

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780198205364
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191676598 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205364.003.0005
Unforeseen Necessities: The Government and Venality, 1768–1788

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No serious attempt was ever made by ministers of ancien régime France to eliminate venality from public life. It is true that, to the public at large, the spectacular attacks of René Nicolas Charles Augustin de Maupeou or Chrétien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes on the greatest venal companies in the kingdom, or those of Jacques Necker on courtiers and financiers, showed that more extensive reform was possible than had hitherto been thought. In the shorter term, however, attacks on the judiciary highlighted the dangers of despotism, and showed that despots themselves recognized how venal tenure set limits to their power. In the absence of more effective constraints on government, the sale of public offices acquired a new justification as a bulwark of public liberty. That justification would vanish abruptly in 1789, with the advent of national representative institutions. But for most of Louis XVI's reign it meant that the practice of venality was stronger than ever.

Keywords: France; de Maupeou; Necker; venality; Louis XVI; judiciary; ancien régime; venal companies; de Malesherbes; public offices

Chapter.  20077 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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