Jacques Necker

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Necker, Jacques

(zhäk nĕkĕr`), 1732–1804, French financier and statesman, b. Geneva, Switzerland. In 1750 he went to Paris and entered banking. He rose rapidly to importance, established a bank of his own, and became a director of the French East India CompanyEast India Company, French,
1664–1769, commercial enterprise planned by Jean Baptiste Colbert and chartered by King Louis XIV for the purpose of trading in the Eastern Hemisphere.
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. As a writer, Necker opposed the then fashionable physiocratsphysiocrats
, school of French thinkers in the 18th cent. who evolved the first complete system of economics. They were also referred to simply as "the economists" or "the sect." The founder and leader of physiocracy was François Quesnay.
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 and free traders; his eulogy on Jean Baptiste ColbertColbert, Jean Baptiste
, 1619–83, French statesman. The son of a draper, he was trained in business and was hired by Cardinal Mazarin to look after his financial affairs.
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 was lauded (1773) by the French Academy, and his Essai sur la législation et le commerce des grains (1775) criticized the free trade in grains advocated by A. R. J. TurgotTurgot, Anne Robert Jacques
, 1727–81, French economist, comptroller general of finances (1774–76). The son of a rich merchant, he showed precocious ability at school and at the Sorbonne.
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. In 1776, Necker, who had previously aided the government with loans, was made director of the treasury; in 1777 he was made director-general of finances. He did not have the title controller general, because he was a foreigner and a Protestant. The salon of his wife, Suzanne NeckerNecker, Suzanne (Curchod)
, 1739–94, French writer; wife of Jacques Necker and mother of Mme de Staël. Her salon was frequented by celebrated Frenchmen and foreign visitors. A hospital that she founded c.1776 is still in existence.
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, exerted considerable influence. By measures of reform and retrenchment and by borrowing at high interest to finance the colonial cause in the American Revolution, he sought to restore the nation's financial position and gain popular confidence. In 1781 he published his Compte rendu, which stated that the government was in a sound financial position. He then demanded greater reform powers and was opposed by the comte de MaurepasMaurepas, Jean Frédéric Phélippeaux, comte de
, 1701–81, French statesman. He succeeded his father as minister of state at 14, the post being administered for him in his minority.
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, who resented his increased influence. He resigned and retired to St. Ouen. There he wrote the Traité de l'administration des finances de la France (1784). Returning to Paris in 1787, Necker was soon exiled from the city for having engaged in public controversy over financial policy with Charles Alexandre de CalonneCalonne, Charles Alexandre de
, 1734–1802, French statesman, controller general of finances (1783–87). Faced with a huge public debt and a steadily deteriorating financial situation, Calonne adopted a spending policy to inspire confidence in the nation's financial
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. In 1788, Louis XVI recalled Necker as director-general of finances and minister of state. The populace acclaimed him, and he concurred with the recommendation that the States-General be summoned and reforms introduced. When his enemies at court again secured his dismissal in 1789, the populace, on July 14, stormed the Bastille in the first outbreak of violence of the French RevolutionFrench Revolution,
political upheaval of world importance in France that began in 1789. Origins of the Revolution

Historians disagree in evaluating the factors that brought about the Revolution.
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; Necker was once more recalled. His final resignation came in 1790. His last years were spent at "Coppet," his Swiss estate. His daughter, Germaine de StaëlStaël, Germaine de
, 1766–1817, French-Swiss woman of letters, whose full name was Anne Louise Germaine Necker, baronne de Staël-Holstein. Born in Paris, the daughter of Jacques Necker and Suzanne Necker, she early absorbed the intellectual and political
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, wrote La Vie privée de M. Necker (1804), and his grandson edited a collection of his writings (1820–21).

Bibliography

See also R. D. Harris, Necker: Reform Statesman of the Ancient Regime (1979) and Necker and the Revolution of 1789 (1986)

Necker, Jacques

 

Born Sept. 30, 1732, in Geneva; died Apr. 9, 1804, in Coppet, near Geneva. French financier and statesman; father of Madame de Staël.

Necker began his career in 1750 as a bank employee in Paris. He amassed a great fortune through clever financial dealings during the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) and became head of a bank. He gained prominence not only through his financial reputation but also for published works on economics, in which he attacked the views of the Physiocrats, especially A. R. Turgot. Necker argued for state regulation of the grain trade.

In 1776, Necker was appointed director of the royal treasury and in 1777 director-general (minister) of finances. He tried to solve the state’s acute financial crisis. However, his measures—including restrictions on court expenditures and a number of changes in the tax collection system—were only partial reforms; although they encroached in some ways on the interests of the royal court and the court aristocracy, they did not affect the basis of the feudal-absolutist system. The publication of Necker’s financial report telling of the enormous sums of money received by courtiers from the treasury made a great impression, especially among the third estate, and his popularity rose still further.

In 1781 the king dismissed Necker. But as the financial crisis worsened, the court was compelled to recall him as minister of finance in August 1788. Necker hoped to alleviate the financial crisis through strict control over the expenditure of state funds. He played a major role in the convocation of the estates general of 1789 and in granting double representation to the third estate. On July 11 of that year, Louis XVI dismissed Necker but was forced to recall him to his former post after the victory of the popular uprising of July 14, 1789. However, Necker’s timid policy was now inadequate to meet the scope of the revolution. Necker resigned in September 1790 and thereafter played no political role.

WORKS

Oeuvres complètes, 15 vols. Paris, 1820–21.

REFERENCE

Jolly, P. Necker. Paris, 1951.

A. Z. MANFRED