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JACQUES LAFFITTE (1767-1844)

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 68 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JACQUES LAFFITTE (1767-1844), French banker and politician, was born at Bayonne on the 24th of October 1767, one of the ten children of a carpenter. He became clerk in the banking house of Perregaux in Paris, was made a partner in the business in 1800, and in 1804 succeeded Perregaux as head of the firm. The house of Perregaux, Laffitte et Cie. became one of the greatest in Europe, and Laffitte became regent (1809), then governor (1814) of the Bank of France and president of the Chamber of Commerce (1814). He raised large sums of money for the provisional government in 1814 and for Louis XVIII. during the Hundred Days, and it was with him that Napoleon deposited five million francs in gold before leaving France for the last time. Rather than permit the government to appropriate the money from the Bank he supplied two million from his own pocket for the arrears of the imperial troops after Waterloo. He was returned by the department of the Seine to the Chamber of Deputies in 1816, and took his seat on the Left. He spoke chiefly on financial questions; his known Liberal views did not prevent Louis XVIII. from insisting on his inclusion on the commission on the public finances. In 1818 he saved Paris from a financial crisis by buying a large amount of stock, but next year, in consequence of his heated defence of the liberty of the press and the electoral law of 1867, the governorship of the Bank was taken from him. One of the earliest and most determined of the partisans of a constitutional monarchy under the duke of Orleans, he was deputy for Bayonne in July 183o, when his house in Paris became the headquarters of the revolutionary party. When Charles X., after retracting the hated ordinances, sent the comte d'Argoutl to Laffitte to negotiate a change of ministry, the banker replied, " It is too late. There is no longer a Charles X.," and it was he who secured the nomination of Louis Philippe as lieutenant-general of the kingdom. On the 3rd of August he became president of the Chamber of Deputies, and on the 9th he received in this capacity Louis Philippe's oath to the new constitution. The clamour of the Paris mob for the death of the imprisoned ministers of Charles X., which in October culminated in riots, induced the i Apoilinaire Antoine Maurice, comte d'Argout (1782-1858), after-wards reconciled to the July monarchy, and a member of the Laffitte, Casimir-Perier and Thiers cabinets.more moderate members of the government—including Guizot, the duc de Broglie and Casimir-Perier—to hand over the administration to a ministry which, possessing the confidence of the revolutionary Parisians, should be in a better position to save the ministers from their fury. On the 5th of November, accordingly, Laffitte became minister-president of a government pledged to progress (mouvement), holding at the same time the portfolio of finance. The government was torn between the necessity for preserving order and the no less pressing necessity (for the moment) of conciliating the Parisian populace; with the result that it succeeded in doing neither one nor the other. The impeached ministers were, indeed, saved by the courage of the Chamber of Peers and the attitude of the National Guard; but their safety was bought at the price of Laffitte's popularity. His policy of a French intervention .in favour of the Italian revolutionists, by which he might have regained his popularity, was thwarted by the diplomatic policy of Louis Philippe. The resignation of Lafayette and Dupont de 1'Eure still further undermined the government, which, incapable even of keeping order in the streets of Paris, ended by being discredited with all parties. At length Louis Philippe, anxious to free himself from the hampering control of the agents of his fortune, thought it safe to parade his want of confidence in the man who had made him king. Thereupon, in March 1831, Laffitte resigned, begging pardon of God and man for the part he had played in raising Louis Philippe to the throne. He left office politically and financially a ruined man. His affairs were wound up in 1836, and next year he created a credit bank, which prospered as long as he lived, but failed in 1848. He died in Paris on the 26th of May 1844. See P. Thureau-Dangin, La Monarchie de Juillet (vol. i. 1884).
End of Article: JACQUES LAFFITTE (1767-1844)
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