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MARC RENE DE VOYER

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Originally appearing in Volume V02, Page 458 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MARC RENE DE VOYER, marquis de Paulmy and marquis d'Argenson' (1652-1721), son of the preceding, was born at Venice on the 4th of November 1652. He became avocat in 1669, and lieutenant-general in the senechaussee of Angouleme (1679). After the death of Colbert, who disliked his family, he went to Paris and married Marguerite Lefevre de Caumartin, a kinswoman of the comptroller-general Pontchartrain. This was the beginning of his fortunes. He became successively maitre des requites (1694), member of the conseil des prises (prize court) (1695), procureur-general of the commission of inquest into false titles of nobility (1696), and finally lieutenant-general of police (1697). This last office, whith had previously been filled by N. G. de la Reynie, was very important. It not only gave him the control of the police, but also the supervision of the corporations, printing press, and provisioning of Paris. All contraventions of the police regulations came under his jurisdiction, and his authority was arbitrary and absolute. Fortunately, he had, in Saint-Simon's phrase, "a nice discernment as to the degree of rigour or leniency required for every case that came before him, being ever inclined to the mildest measures, but possessed of the faculty of making the most innocent tremble before him; courageous, bold, audacious in quelling emeutes, and consequently the master of the people." During the twenty-one years that he exercised this office he was a party to every private and state secret; in fact, he had a share in every event of any importance in the history of Paris. He was the familiar friend of the king, who delighted in scandalous police reports; he was patronized by the duke of Orleans; he was supported by the Jesuits at court; and he was feared by all. He organized the supply of food in Paris during the severe winter of 1709, and endeavoured, but with little success, to run to earth the libellers of the government. He directed the destruction of the Jansenist monastery of Port Royal (1709), a proceeding which provoked many protests and pamphlets. Under the regency, the Chambre de Justice, assembled to inquire into the malpractices of the financiers, suspected d'Argenson and arrested his clerks, but dared not lay the blame on him. On the 28th of January 1718 he voluntarily resigned the office of lieutenant-general of police for those of keeper of the seals—in the place of the chancellor d'Aguesseau—and president of the council of finance. He was appointed by the regent to suppress the resistance of the parlements and to reorganize the finances, and was in great measure responsible for permitting John Law to apply his financial system, though he soon quarrelledwith Law and intrigued to bring about his downfall. The regent threw the blame for the outcome of Law's schemes on d'Argenson, who was forced to resign his position in the council of finance (January 1720). By way of compensation he was created inspector-general of the police of the whole kingdom, but had to resign his office of keeper of the seals (June 1720). He died on the 8th of May 1721, the people of Paris throwing taunts and stones at his coffin and accusing him of having ruined the kingdom. In 1716 he had been created an honorary member of theAcademie des Sciences and, in 1718, a member of the French Academy. See the contemporary memoirs, especially those of Saint-Simon (de Boislisle's ed.), Dangeau and Math. Marais; Barbier's Journal; "Correspondance administrative sous Louis XIV." in Coll. des doc. fined. sur l'histoire de France, edited by G. B. Depping (1850–1855); Correspondance des controleurs-generaux des finances, pub. by de Bois-lisle (1893–1900) ; Correspondance de M. de Marville avec M. de Maurepas (1896–1897); Rapporls de police de Rene d'Argenson, pub. by P. Cottin (Paris, undated) ; P. Clement, La police sous Louis XIV. (1873).
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