Deflation Made Simple (Part III)
A falsely vilified phenomenon (Entry 169)
Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) was not of noble birth. The etymology of the name Colbert suggests that Jean-Baptiste’s ancestors trucked rocks between the city of Reims and Les Ardennes at the close of the Hundred Years War (Guerre de cent ans, 1377-1453) — a century before the birth of Henri IV in 1553. Les Ardennes is a province in the northern part of modern France very close to the Belgium border. By the 16th century Colbert’s ancestors had become wholesale traders and at on the city council of Reims. They were considered part of the grand bourgeoisie of the city.
The details of Jean-Baptiste’s childhood are not well-documented. It is believed that he received his formal training at Jesuit schools. More certain is that he began an apprenticeship with a banker in Lyon named Mascranny in 1634. From there, he relocated to Paris where he worked as a notary-in-training for a financial officer and former procurer of munitions. Recall that the Medici family had a branch bank in Lyon as early as the 15th century (Image 20), that Michel Particelli was born and raised in Lyon (Entry 162), and that Cardinal Richelieu’s older brother became the Cardinal of Lyon (Entry 160).
In 1640 Jean-Baptiste became a commissioner for the army and an assistant to the French Secretary of War (Secrétaire d’état à la guerre) under François Sublet de Noyers (1589-1645), a protégé of Cardinal Richelieu. During this part of his career Jean-Baptiste toured the garrisons of France and became well-acquainted with the overall layout of the kingdom’s defenses. When De Noyers passed away in 1645, Jean-Baptiste remained in his position, but in the service of the new Secretary of War, Michel le Tellier (1603-1685).
Le Tellier’s owed his promotion, in part, to his relationship with Cardinal Mazarin, whom Le Tellier would later serve as a key liaison person between the Queen Regent and Cardinal Mazarin while this latter was in exile during La Fronde (1648-1652). Le Tellier’s administrative career traversed that of both Cardinal Richelieu and Cardinal Mazarin during which he played an important role in the reformation of the French military. Jean-Baptiste’s own administrative career benefited greatly from his service to both De Noyers and Le Tellier.
Jean-Baptiste married the daughter of a French intendant in 1648, the year that La Fronde broke out, at the age of 29, and his post was transferred from that of Michel le Tellier to that of Cardinal Mazarin. Only one person stood between Jean-Baptiste and the king!
At this point it is worth noting that Michelle le Tellier was largely responsible for the revocation of the Édit de Nantes (1598) that protected religious tolerance in the French kingdom until 1685, and that Jean-Baptiste Colbert was responsible for the demise of Nicolas Fouquet (Entry 159) whom he replaced as Finance Minister in 1661 shortly after the death of Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661). Louis XIV was 23 years of age at the time. But, let us not jump ahead.
As one might expect it took many key players to make La Fronde (1648-1652) happen, and an entire book could be written on the event alone. La Fronde, however, is not our goal; it is merely a stepping stone along the way.
When La Fronde broke out Michel le Tellier had only been in office as the Secretary of War for three years.
In liberty, or not at all,
Roddy A. Stegemann, First Hill, Seattle 98104