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entrance of the foe into Paris, to raise funds, he proposed a national subscription, and munificently headed the list. When the allies were at the gates of the city, he steadily refused to endanger the credit of the bank by a forced loan; and, to avert the horrors of civil war, placed two millions of his own property in the hands of the Minister of Finance. After the events of the three days, he resigned his coffers to the provisional government: his hotel was the rendezvous of the chief actors, his party installed Lafayette at the head of the troops, and it was he that sent word to the Duke of Orleans to choose between a crown and a passport, and subsequently caused him to be proclaimed.

Thus Lafitte thrice gave a safe direction to the chaotic elements of revolution, and came bravely and successfully to the rescue of his country in great emergencies. Nor was his action in behalf of individuals less noble and prompt. When Louis XVIII. was exiled, he sent the royal fugitives four millions of francs; when the Duke of Orleans offered large though doubtful securities to various commercial houses in vain, Lafitte accepted them at par value, uncertain as they were. When Napoleon departed for St. Helena, Lafitte became the repository of the remainder of his fortune; when General Foy experienced a reverse of fortune, and imprudently sought relief in stock speculations, the generous banker confidentially arranged with his broker to enrich the brave and proud officer, and, when he died, subscribed a hundred thousand francs for the benefit of his family. These are but casual instances of his private liberality. It was a habit as well as principle with him to afford pecuniary relief whenever and wherever real misfortune existed; to cherish, by the same means, industry, letters, art, and benevolent institutions, with a judgment and delicacy that infinitely endeared his gifts. It is not surprising that both people and rulers were, at times, impelled by grateful sympathy to recognize the noble spirit of such a financier; that the Emperor Alexander placed a guard at his door when his liberty was threatened by the invaders; - that Napoleon expressed his confidence by saying, as he left the remnant of his fortune in his hands, "I know you did not like my government, but I know you are an honest man;" and that France herself, when his own fortune was wrecked by his devotion to the

bank and the country, was moved at the remembrance of his sacrifices, would not permit the first asylum of the revolution to be sold, and, by a national subscription, redeemed it for Lafitte.

It is, however, to be regretted that he ever interested himself actively in politics, except as they were directly related to his peculiar sphere. When called upon to bring financial means to the aid of government or people, in their exigencies of civil life, we have seen his exemplary wisdom, integrity, and generous spirit; when he addressed the Chambers upon any question of debt, credit, loans, or currency, his superior intelligence and practical genius at once won respectful attention; his lucid and able reports, while governor of the bank, indicate his accurate knowledge of the principles of public credit; the remarkable speeches in which he revealed a project for resuscitating the nation's treasury, the originality of his ideas, his colloquial eloquence, and the manner in which he made a dry subject, and even figures themselves, interesting and comprehensive, amply prove his remarkable adaptation to the domain of social economy and political action he illustrated. Appointed by the king in 1816 as one of the Committee of Finance, with the Duke of Richelieu at its head, he contested the system of forced loans as identical with bankruptcy. In 1836 he demanded the reimbursement of the five per cents. His theory was founded essentially on the conviction that the way to diminish the burdens of the people is to diminish the expenses of the state.

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Had Lafitte thus strictly confined himself to the subject of which he was master, it is probable he would have escaped, in a great degree, the blind prejudice of his opponents. As it was, however, his career as a deputy, to the view of an impartial spectator, reflects honor upon his character. Here, as in private life, he was eminently distinguished by moral courage. On one occasion he boldly proposed the impeachment of ministers. During the hundred days he was one of the intrepid minority that sought to preserve France from a second invasion. In opposing the system of forced loans, his noble hardihood induced the king to invest him with the legion of honor. "I have," he said to the Duke of Richelieu, his most formidable antagonist on this occasion, "bound myself to speak my mind; if the plan I propose is

salutary, it is for the king to decide whether he will sacrifice the Chambers to France, or the country to the Chambers."

On the celebrated twenty-eighth of July, accompanied by his friends, he traversed the scene of hostilities to the Carousel,—the quarters of Marshal Marmont, and adjured him to put a stop to the carnage. "Military honor," said the commander of Paris, "consists in obedience." "Civil honor," replied the brave deputy, "consists in not slaughtering the citizens to destroy the constitution." At the funeral of Manuel he arrested with his eloquence the outbreak between the military and the people. He was in the front rank of the defenders of the charter, the stanch advocate of the freedom of the press; and, when he saw the revolution of July approaching, effectually and at great personal risk strove to make it as useful and bloodless as the nature of things would permit. "My conscience," he said, "is without reproach. I founded, it is true, a new dynasty, but I found something in it legitimate. Posterity will judge me. I hope the loyalty of my intentions will find me grace in the eyes of history. I never deceived any one. My principles never changed. I believed in 1830 that France could only be republican through monarchy. I was wrong, and I repent with all my heart." For half a century he defended the rights of the people, and never ceased to preach moderation, but "a moderation compatible with liberty and national honor."

In the war of opinion and the strife of party Lafitte suffered the inevitable caprices of popular favor. Even his opponents, however, considered what they deemed his faults to arise from the strength of his affections, rather than the perversion of his will. His official life ruined his private fortunes; and the bitterness of his disappointment at the apparent inefficacy of the revolution in which he had taken so prominent a part, may be inferred from the memorable fact that he ascended the tribune, and, with much solemnity, asked pardon of Heaven for having contributed to its success. He seems at last to have become thoroughly aware of the limits of his natural vocation, and expressed himself as content when, free once more from the trammels of state, he began to retrieve his fortunes as a banker.

The views of Lafitte, however, on all subjects which he inves


tigated, were remarkable for sound reason and moderation. was no fanatic in politics, and understood the character of his nation. Louis XVI., he thought, aimed at a moral impossibility in attempting to retain all his prerogatives, without which the eclat of his office would be lost, while he knew the complaints of his people to be just. To the vacillation incident to this double view of the case, and the consequent indecision of a naturally good heart, he ascribed his course, which abased royalty while making sincere concessions. He believed, too, that the monarch owed his downfall more to injudicious friends than real enemies. The Girondists, he considered, tried the fatal experiment of attempting to reconcile people and court, and were too timid for the first and too advanced for the last; he regarded the irresolution of Lafayette as the flaw in his excellent nature; Danton, Robespierre, and Marat, he viewed as victims of the fiévre revolutionnaire, and, therefore, not to be judged in the same manner as men in a healthful condition. Indeed, he declared that no one could safely predict his own conduct under the influence of great political excitement. "I have," he said, "made the sad experiment; it is best not to enter the vortex; if you do you are borne on blindfolded." He always insisted that the great results of the French Revolution could have been attained by less terrible means. He recognized fully the reforms of Napoleon, and, with the acumen of a political economist, watched the growing prosperity of the nation; but none the less lamented the decadence of freedom with the grief of a patriot. He recoiled from the duplicity of the emperor, and grieved at the subserviency of the senate. What most surprised Lafitte, in Bonaparte, was his fortune; and he deemed his fatal error the attempt to impose on France a continental system wholly incompatible with the age. In a word, he honored Napoleon as a soldier, and despised him as a ruler. The office of the press he seems to have thoroughly appreciated; "j'ai toujours pensé," he says, "que la presse est dans un état, l'unique moyen de retenir le pouvoir dans les bornes de la moderation et de l'empêcher de se livrer a l'arbitraire."

Although, when elected to the Chamber of Deputies, Lafitte immediately took his place on the benches of the opposition, and

subsequently attained the presidency of the cabinet, and in 1817 was the only name deposited in the urns of twenty sections of the electoral college, by supporting the reduction of the rents and the creation of the three per cents, he alienated many of his party. Indeed, such was his political eclecticism, that a democratic writer says he lost his popularity by his monarchical affections," alluding to his personal attachments to members of the royal family; and a monarchist attributes it to his democratic attachments; thus justifying the inference of his biographer, that he was "too much a man of heart to be a statesman." In the sphere of his individual ambition, however, in his financial opinions and career, as well as in the tone of his character, Lafitte was remarkably consistent; sagacious, upright, benevolent, and patriotic. He completely refuted the base charge, suggested by partisan animosity, of having sold his vote to the minister; and whatever popular favor he may have lost as the member of a faction, he amply regained as a man. This is evident from the universal sympathy awakened by his loss of fortune, and the confidence and gratitude with which the people rallied to his call when he established his famous Caisse d'escompte, now the memorial of his useful and honorable career. By means of this institution the poorest artisan has a safe and profitable investment for his earnings.


In 1837, having thus settled his affairs and reestablished his credit, he thus addressed the shareholders: "It is not without emotion that I find myself restored to these labors, and about to crown, with an undertaking worthy of my best efforts, a career in which I have perhaps done some good. I forget many past mishaps, and all the bitterness of political life, which promised nothing to my ambition, and the burden of which I only accepted from devotion to my country. The future had compensation in reserve for me; and the second of October, 1837 - the day on which I resume my business-consoles me for the nineteenth of January, 1831-the day on which I left it." Thus opening a credit to the humbler branches of industry, Lafitte rescued many a victim from the extortions of the usurer.

The financial services of Lafitte in France vividly recall those of Robert Morris in America. At the commencement of the

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