Charles Alexandre de Calonne

Charles Alexandre de Calonne
Count of Hannonville
Charles-Alexandre de Calonne - Vigée-Lebrun 1784.jpg
Portrait of de Calonne by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun (1784, Royal Collection)
Controller-General of Finances
In office
3 November 1783 – 17 May 1787
MonarchLouis XVI
Preceded byHenri Lefèvre d'Ormesson
Succeeded byMichel Bouvard de Fourqueux
Personal details
Born(1734-01-20)20 January 1734
Douai, French Flanders and Hainaut, France
Died30 October 1802(1802-10-30) (aged 68)
Paris, Seine, France
Spouse(s)
Marie Joséphine Marquet
(m. 1766; died 1770)

Anne-Rose de Nettine
(m. 1788; his d. 1802)
Children1 son
Alma materUniversity of Paris
ProfessionStatesman, parliamentarian

Charles Alexandre de Calonne (20 January 1734 – 30 October 1802), titled Count of Hannonville in 1759,[1] was a French statesman, best known for his involvement in the French Revolution.

Realizing that the Parlement of Paris would never agree to reform, Calonne handpicked an Assembly of Notables in 1787 to approve new taxes. When they refused, Calonne's reputation plummeted and he was forced to leave the country.

Origins and rise to prominence

Born in Douai of an upper-class family, he entered the legal profession and became a lawyer to the general council of Artois, procureur to the parlement of Douai, Master of Requests (France), intendant of Metz (1768) and of Lille (1774). He seems to have been a man with notable business abilities and an entrepreneurial spirit, while generally unscrupulous in his political actions. In the terrible crisis preceding the French Revolution, when successive ministers tried in vain to replenish the exhausted royal treasury, Calonne was summoned as Controller-General of Finances, an office he assumed on 3 November 1783.[2]

He owed the position to the Comte de Vergennes, who for over three years continued to support him. According to the Habsburg ambassador, his public image was extremely poor. Calonne immediately set about remedying the fiscal crisis, and he found in Louis XVI enough support to create a vast and ambitious plan of revenue-raising and administrative centralization. Calonne focused on maintaining public confidence through building projects and spending, which was mainly designed to maintain the Crown's capacity to borrow funds.[3] He presented the king with his plan on 20 August 1786. At its heart was a new land value tax, which would replace the old vingtieme taxes and finally sweep away the fiscal exemptions of the privileged orders. The new tax would be administered by a system of provincial assemblies elected by the local property owners at parish, district and provincial level. This central proposal was accompanied by a further package of rationalizing reform, including free trade in grain and abolition of France's myriad internal customs barriers. It was in effect one, if not the most, comprehensive attempt at enlightened reform during the reign of Louis XVI.

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