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Talleyrand: For The Love Of France

7630 words - 31 pages

Examining the career of Charles- Maurice de Talleyrand can be rather a daunting task because he is a character in our history books that is surrounded by the ideas of his times and in the government renovations that occurred in pre-revolutionary and then during the French Revolution. Due to the very nature of the changing ideas associated French Revolution itself and the quickness and the complexity of the evolution from one form of government to another, it becomes quite difficult analyze the performance of a man's service to his country when the nature of the entity of the country itself rapidly transforming. Leaders in this period were forced to make crucial decisions and as a result, most fell. But, Charles-Maurice Talleyrand proved to be a political survivor of the French Revolution, quite an amazing feat. Not only did he endure this radical government transformation, but also afterward, he was able to hold key diplomatic offices in the Directory, the Empire, the Bourbon Restoration, and the July Monarchy. He emerged as one of the most significant and clever diplomats of the late 18th and early 19th century. This master diplomat started his career serving as priest and then bishop for the Church of France in the in the Old Regime. The culmination of his acquired skills shined at their brightest at the Congresses of Vienna. Because Talleyrand's servitude to France spanned such a long period, it is impossible to cover all his actions and decisions within the confines of this paper. This paper then will look at Talleyrand's career from the eve of the 1789 Revolution until he was left the country in 1792 on his first semi- diplomatic mission. It is the purpose of this study to present enough evidence to illustrate the value of Talleyrand's service to France during her most unpredictable of times with the final result being a new found gratitude to a servant of France, who has indeed been harshly judged by the ages for many, an often biased, reasons.Special consideration is given to his clerical career, a largely ignored segment in his life, for two key reasons, both paramount in the measurement of his servitude to France. First, his time in the service of the Church of France for the most part been addressed only in the context of the contradiction between his Church career and his historical and much debated 1789 proposal for the nationalization of the church's temporal. In other words, it has been addressed largely in the debate concerning his "about face." This proposal was an event of great importance to both the French Revolution and the future of France and therefore vital in measuring his servitude to France outside the realm of morals. In order to understand why a Bishop would do such a thing, it is necessary to investigate the depth of his knowledge of the financial state of affairs at hand. And, his insight into the financial predicament of France on the eve of the revolution came from his clerical career because the Church of France...

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