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Etienne de Silhouette

Silhouette took its name, from Louis XV.'s the miserly finance minister, Etienne de Silhouette 1709-1767). Born at Limoges on July 8th, he received as good an education as could then be obtained in a provincial town, studying such books on finance and administration as he could obtain. After traveling in Europe, he settled in London for a year to examine our practice of public economy (the Progressive of our present County Council had not yet been born); he then determined that one day France should have the same sound financial system. On returning to Paris, he translated some English works, which made his name known, and, becoming attached to the household of Marshal Nivelles, was appointed Secretary to the Duc d'Orleans, the son of the Regent, who in s short time made him his Chancellor. At this time costly wars were depleting the treasury of France, and ministers were rapidly succeeding each other as head of the finance department of the State. Silhouette had always preached economy, s most uncommon plank in the political platform of those days of huge personal and State expenditure, Disgusted at the extremes of the Grand Monarque and the Regency, a section of thinking men gathered round Silhouette, seeing in him the controller who would straighten out the finances of the State. A party headed by the Prince de Conde opposed him, on the ground that he had committed s crime by translating English books into French. Silhouette, however, possessed the powerful influence of Madame de Pompadour, and was, through her, elected Controleur-General in March 1757. It is said that he saved the treasury seventy-two millions of francs before he had been in office twenty-four hours. " This is the more remarkable," naively comments the old biographer Michaud, " because many of his relations were amongst those whose salaries he cut down." Economies next came in the household expenditure of Louis XV, and it is owing to Silhouette's policy that so many of the splendid masterpieces of the goldsmith's and silversmith's art of that epoch found their way into the melting-pot. Silhouette next proposed a novel system of banking. This led to the unpopularity, which centrally brought about his downfall. He was forced to resign after s term of office lasting eight months, and on retiring he spent his time in regulating his estate on economical lines, and in silhouette cutting at Brie sur Marne.