Mémoires presentés à Monseigneur le duc d’Orleans, by BOULAINVILLIERS, Henri,…

BOULAINVILLIERS, Henri, comte de (1658-1722).

Mémoires presentés à Monseigneur le duc d’Orleans, Régent de France. Contenant les moyens de rendre ce Royaume très puissant, & d’augmenter considerablement les revenus du Roi & du Peuple. Par le C. de Boulainvilliers. Tome I [-II]. The Hague, aux dépens de la Compagnie, 1727.

First Edition. Two volumes in one, 8vo, (152 x 88 mm), pp. [vi], 158; [vi], 5-230, [2] table and errata, title-page to the first volume printed in red and black, the second title-page printed in black only, in contemporary speckled calf, spine gilt in compartments, brown morocco label lettered in gilt, surface cracking to joints and extremities a little rubbed, plain endpapers, red edges, from the library of Claude Lebédel.

An important economic treatise on the causes of financial distress in France, with suggested political and economic solutions. Boullainvilliers’ frank exposé of the last years of Louis XIV’s reign was rather too much for the authorities, who had it condemned on publication. His political writings - ‘original to the point of eccentricity’, says Christopher Betts in the New Oxford Companion to Literature in French - were hostile to royal policy and express an extreme version of feudalism, ‘le chef d’œuvre de l’esprit humain’, in which power is returned from the king to the nobles. An expansion of the economic sections of his more famous État de la France, the present work is dedicated to the duc d’Orléans. In common with all Boulainvilliers’ works, the present memoir was published posthumously and outside France.
Boulainvilliers presents his argument in six parts or memoirs, the most striking of which is the second, that comes down heavily against the financiers and proposes a separate office for the state treasure, the third memoir, which attacks arbitrary taxation and the sixth, particularly resonant, which attacks poor financial administration. Boulainvilliers may have been an eccentric, but many of his economic theories were well ahead of his time and anticipated the ideas of the physiocrats, by whom he was much admired.
‘Some scholars happily ascribe all six memoranda under consideration to Boulainvilliers in order (it appears) to enhance his reputation - for once an attractive reputation - as an aristocratic liberal or progressive reformer of the 18th century. In fact, one may exclude from the Boulainvilliers corpus two or even three of the six memoranda under consideration. In keeping with Boulainvilliers' character, the author of memorandum 1 claims no expertise in fiscal matters, recommends instead that some faithful, enlightened, and wise persons screen any financial advice or projects submitted to the regent, and urges him above all to assemble the Estates. Equally consonant with Boullainvilliers' character is memorandum 4’ (H. A. Ellis, S. 244f).

Cioranescu 13383; Einaudi 656; INED 714.

Keywords: Continental Books
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