Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/562

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A comparison with the position of the Crown in England, when Cecil was working for the development of the realm, may serve to point the contrast. Elizabeth was very poor, and she was particularly averse to summoning Parliament and levying taxation; she had little money to spare for encouraging improvements in rural and industrial pursuits that would only bring indirect gains to the government. The King of France had a large permanent income from taxation, and it was worth his while to invest a part of it in undertakings that were not directly remunerative; the increase of the wealth of iig subjects was the surest method of increasing the prospective income of the Crown.

At the time when Sully became superintendent of finances in 1598, he had to face an enormous burden of debt, entailed by the expenses of the Wars in which Henry had rendered his possession of the throne secure. The debt amounted to no less than 348 million livres; loans had been obtained by pledging the personal estates of the King, as well as a large part of the receipts from taxation. Only a comparatively small portion of the taille was available for current expenditure. Sully's first care was to reform the abuses in the collection of the revenue; he completely overhauled the fiscal administration and rendered the incidence of taxation more equable; while, by cancelling heavy arrears of taille, he relieved the tax-payers from an intolerable burden, and placed them in a position of solvency which rendered it possible for them to meet the current demands of the government. By these means he was able to steadily diminish the burden of indebtedness, while there was money at command, not only for the expenses of the Court, but also for much-needed public works.

The most important undertaking was that of facilitating internal trade by improving the water-communication through different parts of France. Humphry Bradley, who had had much experience in Holland, was the principal engineer employed; in some cases rivers were opened to the passage of barges, while canals were also laid out to connect the river-basins, and thus to provide great channels of through communication; a canal was planned between the Garonne and the Aude to complete a water-way from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean; and another to connect the Loire with the Seine was begun. Great engineering works were also undertaken in the way of banking and draining, so as to recover considerable stretches of land that were lying waste; and attempts were made to improve the facilities for travel by land, especially in the reconstruction of bridges. In many instances the town chiefly concerned defrayed part of this last expense; but the main burden generally lay with the government which had been responsible for initiating these improvements, and no less a sum than a million livres a year was devoted to the construction of main roads.

The policy pursued by the French Crown in the planting of industry is open to criticism; but it must at least be allowed to