Swiss-born Jacques Necker had amassed a considerable personal fortune as a banker before going down in history as Louis XVI’s minister of finance. His economic policy focused on rigour, reducing expenses and overhauling the structures of financial administration. The king dismissed and recalled him several times and he left the government for good in 1790.
Louis XVI appointed Necker director of the royal treasury after Turgot’s disgrace in 1776. By then he had already won the Académie Française prize for eloquence for his Eulogy of Colbert. Necker stepped up measures to cut government spending but he resigned in 1781 and retired to his château in Saint-Ouen after boasting about his policy in a report to the king that was made public and criticised.
In 1788 Louis XVI called Necker out of retirement, appointing him director-general of finance, a minister and a member of the king’s council. His activities extended into the political arena. He reconvened the parliament of Paris, whose members had been exiled, and advanced the date of the Estates-General. Necker implemented protectionist measures to cope with the severe financial crisis rocking France: grain exports and the purchase of grain outside markets were banned. But, unable to decide on a solution to the Estates General crisis and meeting with objections to his projects, Necker refused to attend the royal council of 23 June 1789 and was dismissed by Louis XVI.
The king called him back to power for the third time in July 1789 but was displeased by his political decisions. He resigned in September 1790 and retired to Switzerland, where he devoted himself to writing and his family. He died in 1804.