1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Loménie de Brienne, Étienne Charles de
LOMÉNIE DE BRIENNE, ÉTIENNE CHARLES DE (1727–1794), French politician and ecclesiastic, was born at Paris on the 9th of October 1727. He belonged to a Limousin family, dating from the 15th century, and after a brilliant career as a student entered the Church, as being the best way to attain to a distinguished position. In 1751 he became a doctor of theology, though there were doubts as to the orthodoxy of his thesis. In 1752 he was appointed grand vicar to the archbishop of Rouen. After visiting Rome, he was made bishop of Condom (1760), and in 1763 was translated to the archbishopric of Toulouse. He had many famous friends, among them A. R. J. Turgot, the Abbé A. Morellet and Voltaire, and in 1770 became an academician. He was on three occasions the head of the bureau de jurisdiction at the general assembly of the clergy; he also took an interest in political and social questions of the day, and addressed to Turgot a number of mémoires on these subjects, one of them, treating of pauperism, being especially remarkable. In 1787 he was nominated as president of the Assembly of Notables, in which capacity he attacked the fiscal policy of Calonne, whom he succeeded as head of the conseil des finances on the 1st of May 1787. Once in power, he succeeded in making the parlement register edicts dealing with internal free trade, the establishment of provincial assemblies and the redemption of the corvée; on their refusal to register edicts on the stamp duty and the proposed new general land-tax, he persuaded the king to hold a lit de justice, to enforce their registration. To crush the opposition to these measures, he persuaded the king to exile the parlement to Troyes (August 15th, 1787). On the agreement of the parlement to sanction a prolongation for two years to the tax of the two vingtièmes (a direct tax on all kinds of income), in lieu of the above two taxes, he recalled the councillors to Paris. But a further attempt to force the parlement to register an edict for raising a loan of 120 million livres met with determined opposition. The struggle of the parlement against the incapacity of Brienne ended on the 8th of May in its consenting to an edict for its own abolition; but with the proviso that the states-general should be summoned to remedy the disorders of the state. Brienne, who had in the meantime been made archbishop of Sens, now found himself face to face with almost universal opposition; he was forced to suspend the Cour plénière which had been set up to take the place of the parlement, and himself to promise that the states-general should be summoned. But even these concessions were not able to keep him in power, and on the 29th of August he had to retire, leaving the treasury empty. On the 15th of December following, he was made a cardinal, and went to Italy, where he spent two years. After the outbreak of the Revolution he returned to France, and took the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in 1790 (see French Revolution). He was repudiated by the pope, and in 1791 had to give up the biretta at the command of Pius VI. Both his past and present conduct made him an object of suspicion to the revolutionaries; he was arrested at Sens on the 9th of November 1793, and died in prison, either of an apoplectic stroke or by poison, on the 16th of February 1794.
The chief works published by Brienne are: Oraison funèbre du Dauphin (Paris, 1766); Compte-rendu au roi (Paris, 1788); Le Conciliateur, in collaboration with Turgot (Rome, Paris, 1754). See also J. Perrin, Le Cardinal Loménie de Brienne . . . épisodes de la Révolution (Sens, 1896).