Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V02, Page 459 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MARC PIERRE DE VOYER DE PAULMY, Comte d'Argenson (1696-1764), younger brother of the preceding, was born on the 16th of August 1696. Following the family tradition he studied law and was councillor at the parlement of Paris. He succeeded his father as lieutenant-general of police in Paris, but held the post only five months (January 26 to June 30, 1720). He then received the office of intendant of Tours, and resumed the lieutenancy of police in 1722. On the 2nd of January 1724 he was appointed councillor of state. He gained the confidence of the regent Orleans, administering his fortune and living with his son till 1737. During this period he opened his salon to the philosophers Chaulieu, la Fare and Voltaire, and collaborated in the legislative labours of the chancellor d'Aguesseau. In March 1737 d'Argenson was appointed director of the censorship of books, in which post he showed sufficiently liberal views to gain the approval of writers—a rare thing in the reign of Louis XV. He only retained this post for a year. He became president of the grand council (November 1738), intendant of the generalite of Paris (August 1740), was admitted to the king's council (August 1742), and in January 1743 was appointed secretary of state for war in succession to the baron de Breteuil. As minister for war he had a heavy task; the French armies engaged in the War of the Austrian Succession were disorganized, and the retreat from Prague had produced a disastrous effect. After consulting with Marshal Saxe, he began the reform of the new armies. To assist recruiting, he revived the old institution of local militias, which, however, did not come up to his expectation. In the spring of 1744 three armies were able to resume the offensive in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, and in the following year France won the battle of Fontenoy, at which d'Argenson was present. After the peace in 1748 he occupied himself with the important work of recasting the French army on the model of the Prussian. He unified the types of cannon, grouped the grenadiers into separate regiments, and founded the I cote Militaire for the training of officers (1751). An edict of the 1st of November 1751 granted patents of nobility to all who had the rank of general officer. In addition to his duties as minister of war he had the supervision of the printing, postal administration and general administration of Paris. He was responsible for the arrangement of the promenade of the Champs tlysees and for the plan of the present Place de la Concorde. He was exceedingly popular, and, although the court favourites hated him, he had the support of the king. Nevertheless, after the attempt of R. F. Damiens to assassinate the king, Louis abandoned d'Argenson to the machinations of the court favourites and dismissed both him and his colleague, J. B. de Machault d'Arnouville (February 1757). D'Argenson was exiled to his estates at Les Ormes near Saumur, but he had previously found posts for his brother, the marquis d'Argenson, as minister of foreign affairs, for his son Marc Rene as master of the horse, and for his nephew Marc Antoine Rene as commissary of war. From the time of his exile he lived in the society of savants and philosophers. He had been elected member of the Academic des Inscriptions in 1749. Diderot and d'Alembert .iedicat ed the Encyclopedie to him, and Voltaire, C. J. F. Henault, and J. F. Marmontel openly visited him in his exile. After thedeath of Madame de Pompadour he obtained permission to return to Paris, and died a few days after his return, on the 22nd of August 1764.

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