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FOUQUET (or FOUCQUET), NICOLAS (1615-...

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Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 751 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FOUQUET (or FOUCQUET), NICOLAS (1615-168o), viscount of Melun and of Vaux, marquis of Belle-Isle, superintendent of finance in France under Louis XIV., was born at Paris in 1615. He belonged to an influential family of the noblesse de la robe, and after some preliminary schooling with the Jesuits, at the age of thirteen was admitted as avocat at the parlement of Paris. While still in his teens he held several responsible posts, and in 1636, when just twenty, he was able to buy the post of maitre des requeles. From 1642 to 1650 he held various intendancies at first in the provinces and then with the army of Mazarin, and, coming thus in touch with the court, was permitted in 165o to buy the important position of procureur general to the parlement of Paris. During Mazarin's exile Fouquet shrewdly remained loyal to him, protecting his property and keeping him informed of the situation at court. Upon the cardinal's return, Fouquet demanded and received as reward the office of superintendent of the finances (1653), a position which, in the unsettled condition of the government, threw into his hands not merely the decision as to which fundsshould be applied to meet the demands of the state's creditors, but also the negotiations with the great financiers who lent money to the king. The appointment was a popular one with the moneyed class, for Fouquet's great wealth had been largely augmented by his marriage in 1651 with Marie de Castille, who also belonged to a wealthy family of the legal nobility. His own credit, and above all his unfailing confidence in himself, strengthened the credit of the government, while his high position at the parlement (he still remained procureur general) secured financial transactions from investigation. As minister of finance, he soon had Mazarin almost in the position of a suppliant. The long wars, and the greed of the courtiers, who followed the example of Mazarin, made it necessary at times for Fouquet to meet the demands upon him by borrowing upon his own credit, but he soon turned this confusion of the public purse with his own to good account. The disorder in the accounts became hopeless; fraudulent operations were entered into with impunity, and the financiers were kept in the position of clients by official favours and by generous aid whenever they needed it. Fouquet's fortune now surpassed even Mazarin's, but the latter was too deeply implicated in similar operations to interfere, and was obliged to leave the day of reckoning to his agent and successor Colbert. Upon Mazarin's death Fouquet expected to be made head of the government; but Louis XIV. was suspicious of his poorly dissembled ambition, and it was with Fouquet in mind that he made the well-known statement, upon assuming the government, that he would be his own chief minister. Colbert fed the king's displeasure with adverse reports upon the deficit, and made the worst of the case against Fouquet. The extravagant expenditure and personal display of the superintendent served to intensify the ill-will of the king. Fouquet had bought the port of Belle Isle and strengthened the fortifications, with a view to taking refuge there in case of disgrace. He had spent enormous sums in building a palace on his estate of Vaux, which in extent, magnificence, and splendour of decoration was a forecast of Versailles. Here he gathered the rarest manuscripts, the finest paintings, jewels and antiques in profusion, and above all surrounded himself with artists and authors. The table was open to all people of quality, and the kitchen was presided over by Vatel. Lafontaine, Corneille, Scarron, were among the multitude of his clients. In August 1661 Louis XIV., already set upon his destruction, was entertained at Vaux with a fete rivalled in magnificence by only one or two in French history, at which Moliere's Les Fdcheux was produced for the first time. The splendour of the entertainment sealed Fouquet's fate. The king, however, was afraid to act openly against so powerful a minister. By crafty devices Fouquet was induced to sell his office of procureur general, thus losing the protection of its privileges, and he paid the price of it into the treasury. Three weeks after his visit to Vaux the king withdrew to Nantes, taking Fouquet with him, and had him arrested when he was leaving the presence chamber, flattered with the assurance of his esteem. The trial lasted almost three years, and its violation of the forms of justice is still the subject of frequent mono-graphs by members of the French bar. Public sympathy was strongly with Fouquet, and Lafontaine, Madame de Sevigne and many others wrote on his behalf; but when Fouquet was sentenced to banishment, the king, disappointed, " commuted " the sentence to imprisonment for life. He was sent at the beginning of 1665 tothe fortress of Pignerol, where he undoubtedly died on the 23rd of March 1680.1 Louis acted throughout " as though he were conducting a campaign," evidently fearing that Fouquet would play the part of a Richelieu. Fouquet bore himself with manly fortitude, and composed several mediocre translations in prison. The devotional works bearing his name are apocryphal. A report of his trial was published in Holland, in 15 volumes, in 1665–1667, in spite of the remonstrances which Colbert addressed to the States-General. A second edition under the title of fEuvres de M. Fouquet appeared in 1696. 1 Fouquet has been identified with the " Man with the Iron Mask " (see IRON MASK), but this theory is quite impossible. See Cheruel, Memoires sur la vie publique et privee de Fouquet . . d'apres ses lettres et des pieces inidites (2 vols., Paris, 1864) ; J. Lair, Nicolas Foucquet, procureu' general, surintendant des finances, ministre d'Etat de Louis XIV (2 vols., Paris, 189o) ; U. V. Chatelain, Le Surintendant Nicolas Fouquet, protecteur des lettres, des arts et des sciences (Paris, 1905) ; R. Pfnor et A. France, Le Chdteau de Vaux-le-Vicomte dessine et grave (Paris, 1888). FOUQUIER-TINVILLE, ANTOINE QUENTIN (1746-1795), French revolutionist, was born at Herouel, a village in the department of the Aisne. Originally a procureur attached to the Chatelet at Paris, he sold his office in 1783, and became a clerk under the lieutenant-general of police. He seems to have early adopted revolutionary ideas, but little is known of the part he played at the outbreak of the Revolution. When the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris was established on the loth of March 1793, he was appointed public prosecutor to 'it, an office which he filled until the 28th of July 1794. His activity during this time earned him the reputation of one of the most terrible and sinister figures of the Revolution. His function as public prosecutor was not so much to convict the guilty as to see that the proscriptions ordered by the faction for the time being in power were carried out with a due regard to a show of legality. He was as ruthless and as incorrupt as Robespierre himself; he could be moved from his purpose neither by pity nor by bribes; nor was there in his cruelty any of that quality which made the ordinary Jacobin enrage by turns ferocious and sentimental. It was this very quality of passionless detachment that made him so effective an instrument of the Terror. He had no forensic eloquence; but the cold obstinacy with which he pressed his charges was more convincing than any rhetoric, and he seldom failed to secure a conviction. His horrible career ended with the fall'of Robespierre and the terrorists on the 9th Thermidor. On the 1st of August 1794 he was imprisoned by order of the Convention and brought to trial. His defence was that he had only obeyed the orders of the Committee of Public Safety; but, after a trial which lasted forty-one days, he was condemned to death, and guillotined on the 7th of May 1795. See Memoire pour A. Q. Fouquier ex-accusateur public pres le tribunal revolutionnaire, &c. (Paris, 1794) ; Domenget. Fouquier-Tinville et le tribunal revolutionnaire (Paris, 1878); H. Wallon, Histoire du tribunal revolutionnoire de Paris (188o-1882) (a work of general interest, but not always exact) ; George Lecocq, Notes et documents sur Fouquier-Tinville (Paris, 1885). See also the documents relating to his trial enumerated by M. Tourneux in Bibliographie de l'histoire de Paris pendant la Revolution Francaise, vol. i. Nos. 4445-4454 (1890).
End of Article: FOUQUET (or FOUCQUET), NICOLAS (1615-168o)
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