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VenalityThe Sale of Offices in Eighteenth-Century France$
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William Doyle

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205364

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205364.001.0001

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The Venal Labyrinth

The Venal Labyrinth

(p.58) 3 The Venal Labyrinth

William Doyle

Oxford University Press

The number of venal offices in France was in constant flux. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, determined to curb, and perhaps to eliminate, venality, found that in 1664 there were 45,780 offices of justice and finance in the kingdom. Even after the tide had ebbed in the 1720s, the number and range of venal offices remained much more extensive than before. Venality permeated almost every corner of the kingdom's public life, but when contemporaries thought or spoke about it, they normally had the judiciary in mind. Military authority was also in venal hands. The year 1787 brought to power an enthusiast for Jacques Necker's approach to financial administration, Loménie de Brienne; and in November of that year, as a prelude to a more general onslaught on financial offices, he decreed the abolition of the gold-mark department, and of the parts casual. Two years before the venal labyrinth was condemned to destruction, the lair at its heart was already empty.

Keywords:   France, venality, venal offices, Jacques Necker, financial administration, military authority, judiciary, parts casual

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