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Lot 607: CANAL DU MIDI - RENTE NAPOLEON
29 October 2016
Brussels, BelgiumLive Auction
Description: January 1812 PARIS. Action avec 500 Fr. de rente. black. Fold. Paper seal. The story of the Canal du Midi began as early as 1652, when Pierre-Paul Riquet sent a letter to Colbert, with his ideas for a canal to link the Atlantic (the Garonne River, above Bordeaux) with the Mediterranean (near Narbonne). The idea was adopted with enthusiasm by Louis XIV, and the canal was built by Riquet from 1667 to 1681. It was a marvel for its time. It has 65 locks, and is 240 km long. But being only 2m deep, it cannot handle modern traffic, and is used for pleasure only these days. This 'action' was granted to a Sr. Beckmann after a decree by Napoleon in 1810, at which time the Emperor owned the majority of the shares, and distributed a large number to favoured army officers. The 'action' could not be sold, but was an entitlement to an income of 500 francs annually from the canal. It seems that the canal revenues were a vehicle for paying annuities to favoured persons. In 1823 the Riquet family recovered part of the ownership of the canal, but in 1897 the French state bought the whole property. This is by far the earliest Canal du Midi paper we know of. The document is issued by the office of the Arch-Chancellier and Prince of the Empire in 1812, granting a rente, or pension, to a M. Labbe, of the Gendarmerie d'Elite. Hand-signed by the Arch-Chancellier, Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès, 1st Duke of Parma, and an important personage in Napoleon's administration. Cambacérès (1753-1824) was a statesman and lawyer, best known for having drafted the Code Napoléon, still the basis of the French Civil Code today. He was appointed Second Consul by Napoléon in 1799, on account of his vast legal knowledge and reputation as a moderate republican. He was appointed 1st Duke of Parma, a rare and senior honour, in 1808. Under Napoleon, as under the revolutionary regime, he was a force for moderation, opposing adventures such as the invasion of Russia in 1812. As Napoleon became increasingly obsessed with military affairs, Cambacérès became the de facto domestic head of government of France, a position which inevitably made him increasingly unpopular as France's economic situation grew worse. His taste for high living attracted hostile comment. Nevertheless he was given credit for the justice and moderation of his government. He left most public life after the fall of Napoléon.
Condition Report: VF