Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

has been mentioned, he found time to do something for the better administration of justice (the codification of ordinances, the diminishing of the number of judges, the reduction of the expense and length of trials for the establishment of a superior system of police) and evenfor the improvement of the breed of horses and the increase of cattle. As superintendent of public buildings he enriched Paris with boulevards, quays and triumphal arches; he relaid the foundation-stone of the Louvre, and brought Bernin from Rome to be its architect; and he erected its splendid colonnade upon the plan of Claude Perrault, by whom Bernin had been replaced. He was not permitted, however, to complete the work, being compelled to yield to the king's preference for residences outside Paris, and to devote himself to Marly and Versailles.

Amid all these public labours his private fortune was never neglected. While he was reforming the finances of the nation, and organizing its navy, he always found time to direct the management of his smallest farm. He died extremely rich, and left fine estates all over France. He had been created marquis de Seignelay, and for his eldest son he obtained the reversion of the office of minister of marine; his second son became archbishop of Rouen; and a third son, the marquis d'Ormoy, became superintendent of buildings.

To carry out his reforms, Colbert needed peace; but the war department was in the hands of his great rival Louvois, whose influence gradually supplanted that of Colbert with the king. Louis decided on a policy of conquest. He was deaf also to all the appeals against the other forms of his boundless extravagance which Colbert, with all his deference towards his sovereign, bravely ventured to make? Thus it came about that, only a few years after he had commenced to free the country from the weight of the loans and taxes which crushed her to the dust, Colbert was forced to heap upon her a new load of loans and taxes more heavy than the last. Henceforth his life was a hopeless struggle, and the financial and fiscal reform which, with the great exception of the establishment of the navy, was the most valuable service to France contemplated by him, came to nought. Depressed by his failure, deeply wounded by the king's favour for Louvois, and worn out by overwork, Colbert's strength gave way at a comparatively early age. In 1680 he was the constant victim of severe fevers, from which he recovered for a time through the use of quinine prescribed by an English physician. But in 1683, at the age of sixty-four, he was seized with a fatal illness, and on the 6th of September he expired. It was said that he died of a broken heart, and a conversation with the king is reported in which Louis disparagingly compared the buildings of Versailles, which Colbert was superintending, with the works constructed by Louvois in Flanders. He took to bed, it is true, immediately afterwards, refusing to receive all messages from the king; but his constitution was utterly broken before, and a post-mortem examination proved that he had been suffering from stone. His body was interred in the secrecy of night, for fear of outrage from the Parisians, by whom his name was cordially detested.

Colbert was a great statesman, who did much for France. Yet his insight into political science was not deeper than that of his age; nor did he possess any superiority in moral qualities. His rule was a very bad example of over-government. He did not believe in popular liberty; the parlements and the states general received no support from him. The technicalities of justice he never allowed to interfere with his plans; but he did not hesitate to shield his friends. He trafficked in public offices for the profit of Mazarin and in his own behalf. He caused the suffering of thousands in the galleys; he had no ear, it is said, for the cry of the suppliant. There was indeed a more human side to his character, as is shown in his letters, full of wise advice and affectionate care, to his children, his brothers, his cousins even. Yet to all outside he was “ the man of marble.” Madame de Sévigné called him “the North.” To diplomacy he never pretended; persuasion and deceit were not the weapons he See especially a Mémoire presented to the king in 1666, published in the Lettres, Ev'c., de Colbert, vol. ii. employed; all his work was carried out by the iron hand of authority. He was a great statesman in that he conceived a, magnificent yet practicable scheme for making France first among nations, and in that he possessed a matchless faculty for work, neither shrinking from the vastest undertakings nor scorning the most trivial details.

Numerous vies and éloges of Colbert have been published; but the most thorough student of his life and administration was Pierre Clément, member of the Institute, who in 1846 published his Vie de Colbert, and in 1861 the first of the 9 vols. of the Lettres, instructions, et mémoires de Colbert. The historical introductions prefixed to each of these volumes have been published by Mme. Clement under the title of the Histoire de Colbert et de son administration (3rd ed., 1892). The best short account of Colbert as a statesman is that in Lavisse, Histoire de France (1905), which gives a thorough study of the administration. Among Colbert's papers are Mémoires rur les afaires de finance de France (written about 1663), a fragment entitled Particularités secrétes de la vie du Rey, and other accounts of the earlier part of the reign of Louis XIV.

COLBERT DE CROISSY, CHARLES, Marquis (1625–1696), French diplomatist, like his elder brother Jean Baptiste Colbert, began his career in the office of the minister of War Le Tellier. In 1656 he bought a counsellor ship at the parlement of Metz, and in 1658 was appointed intend ant of Alsace and president of the newly-created sovereign council of Alsace. In this position he had to re-organize the territory recently annexed to France. The steady support of his brother at court gained for him several diplomatic missions-to Germany and Italy (1659-1661), In 1662 he became marquis de Croissy and president à mortier of the parlement of Metz. After various intendancies, at Soissons (1665), at Amiens (1666), and at Paris (1667), he turned definitely to diplomacy. In 1668 he represented France at the conference of Aix-la-Chapelle; and in August of the same year was sent as ambassador to London, where he was to negotiate the definite treaty of alliance with Charles II. Hearranged the interview at Dover between Charles and his sister Henrietta of Orleans, gained the king's personal favour by finding a mistress for him, Louise de Kéroualle, maid of honour to Madame, and persuaded him to declare war against Holland. The negotiation of the treaty of Nijmwegen (1676-1678) still further increased his reputation as a diplomatist and Louis XIV. made him secretary of state for foreign affairs after the disgrace of Arnauld de Pomponne, brought about by his brother, 1679. He at once assumed the entire direction of French diplomacy. Foreign ambassadors were no longer received and diplomatic instructions were no longer given by other secretaries of state. It was he, not Louvois, who formed the idea of annexation during a time of peace, by means of the chambers of reunion. He had outlined this plan as early as 1658 with regard to Alsace. His policy at first was to retain the territory annexed by the chambers of reunion without declaring war, and for this purpose he signed treaties of alliance with the elector of Brandenburg (1681), and with Denmark (1683); but the troubles following upon the revocation of the edict of Nantes (1685) forced him to give up his scheme and to prepare for war with Germany (1688). The negotiations for peace had been begun again when he died, on the 28th of July 1696. His clerk, Bergeret, was his invaluable assistant.

Bibliography.-His papers, preserved in the Archives des ajaires étrangéres at Paris, have been partially published in the Recueil des instructions données aux ambassadeurs et ministres de France (since 1884). See especially the volumes:-Autriche (t. i.), Suede (t. ii.), Rome (t. vi.), Baviére (t. viii.), Savoie (t. xiv.), Prusse (t. xvi.). Other documents have been published in Mignet's Négociations relatives à la succession d'Espagne, vol. iv., and in the collection of Lettres et négociations .... pour la paix de Niniegue, 1676-1677 (La Haye, 1710). In addition to the Mémoires of the time, see Spanheim, Relation de la cour de France en 1600, ed. E. Bourgeois (Paris and Lyons, 1900); Baschet, Histoire du depot des afaires étrangéres; C. Rousset, Histoire de Louvois (4 vols., Paris, 1863); E. Bourgeois, “Louvois, et Colbert de Croissy," in the Revue historigue, vol. xxxiv. (1887); A. Waddington, Le Grand Electeur et Louis XIV (Paris, 1905); G. Pagis, Le Grand Electeur et Louis XIV (Paris, 1905).

COLBURN, HENRY (d. 1855), British publisher, obtained his earliest experience of book selling in London at the establishment of W. Earle, Albemarle Street, and afterwards as an assistant at Morgan's Library, Conduit Street, of which in 1816 he became