He remained several years at Venice, upon very scanty means, and died there a Catholic, having lived decently, but very humbly, wisely, and modestly, and received with piety the last sacraments of the Church.
Thus terminates all I have to say of Law. But a painful truth remains. I have to speak of the woful disorder in the finances which his system led to, disorder which was not fully known until after his departure from France. Then people saw, at last, where all the golden schemes that had flooded upon popular credulity had borne us;—not to the smiling and fertile shores of Prosperity and Confidence, as may be imagined; but to the bleak rocks and dangerous sands of Ruin and Mistrust, where dull clouds obscure the sky, and where there is no protection against the storm.
Not long after the flight of Law, that is to say, on Sunday, the 24th of January, of the new year, 1721, a council was held at the Tuileries, at four o’clock in the afternoon, principally for the purpose of examining the state of the finances and of Law’s Bank and India Company. It was, in fact, high time to do something to diminish the overgrown disorder and confusion everywhere reigning. For some time there had been complete stagnation in all financial matters; the credit of the King had step by step diminished, private fortune had become more and more uncertain. The bag was at last empty, the cards were cast aside, the last trick was played: The administration of the finances had passed into the hands of La Houssaye, and his first act was to call the attention of the Regency Council to the position of the bank and the company. We were prepared to hear that things were in a very bad state, but we were scarcely prepared to find that they so closely resembled utter ruin and bankruptcy.
I need not relate all that passed at this council; the substance of it is enough. From the statement there of M. le Duc d’Orleans, it appeared that Law had issued 1,200,000,000 livres of bank notes more than he ought to have issued. The first 600,00,000 livres had not done much harm, because they had been kept locked up in the bank; but after the 22nd of May, another issue of 600,000,000 had taken place, and been circulated among the public, without the knowledge of the Regent, without the authorisation of any decree. “For this,” said M. le Duc d’Orleans, “Law deserved to be hanged, but under the circumstances of the case, I drew him from his embarrassment, by an ante-dated decree, ordering the issue of this quantity of notes.”
Thereupon M. le Duc said to the Regent, “But, Monsieur, why, knowing this, did you allow him to leave the realm?”
“It was you who furnished him with the means to do so,” replied M. le Duc d’Orleans.
“I never asked you to allow him to quit the country,” rejoined M. le Duc.
“But,” insisted the Regent, “it was you yourself who sent him his passports.”