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Henri-François Daguesseau

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(Also rendered d'Aguesseau).

Chancellor of France, born at Limoges, 27 November, 1668; died at Paris, 5 February, 1751. He belonged to a distinguished family which had produced many able magistrates, and was educated by his father, who was intendant of Languedoc and afterwards a councillor of state. Having been appointed advocate-general of the Parlement of Paris at the age of twenty-two, Daguesseau performed the duties of his office in the most satisfactory manner for ten years, his speeches being models of elegant diction and clear reasoning. In 1700 he was promoted to the office of attorney-general. In this position he re-established order in the courts, reformed the management of the hospitals, prevented and corrected abuses. In 1709 war, famine, and public distress gave him an opportunity to display all his energy, judgment and goodness of heart. He was consulted on the most difficult points of administration and drew up many memorials for the king. Towards the end of the reign of Louis XIV, however, he was threatened with disgrace for refusing to register the Bull "Unigenitus", of which, as he was a strong Gallican, he was a pronounced opponent.

In 1717 the regent, the Duc d'Orléans, appointed Daguesseau chancellor, but before a year had elapsed, the seals were taken from him because he opposed the projects of the notorious John Law. In 1720, after the failure of Law's schemes, he was recalled to his former office. He repaired the mischief done during his retirement and by his firmness and sagacity prevented total bankruptcy. With a view to conciliation he finally consented to the registration of the Bull "Unigenitus". He was again disgraced in 1722, through the influence of Cardinal Dubois, and retired to his estate at Fresnes, where he passed five years. Here the Scriptures, which he read and compared in various languages, and the jurisprudence of his own and other countries were the principal objects of his study; the rest of his time he devoted to philosophy, literature, and gardening. Daguesseau was recalled to office in 1727. Chancellor now for the third time, he revived public respect for law, introduced several important enactments regarding donations, testaments, and succession, and effected a greater uniformity in the execution of the laws throughout the several provinces. In 1750 he resigned his position, the king bestowing upon him a pension of 100,000 francs, which he enjoyed until his death.

During his long career Daguesseau was a man of spotless honesty and absolute devotion to the public interest. He was an upright magistrate, a fine orator and jurist, and a remarkable linguist. He used his extensive knowledge and intellectual acquirements in the cause of religion and morals. Saint-Simon speaks of him thus: "Talent, industry, penetration, universal knowledge, dignity, purity, equity, piety and innocence of life are the foundation of M. d'Aguesseau's character." The greater part of Daguesseau's writings and letters were edited by Pardessus, "Oeuvres complètes" (Paris, 1818-1820), 16 vols. 8vo; other letters were edited by M. Rives, "Lettres inédites" (Paris, 1823).

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