Necker, Jacques an eminent financier and religious statesman, father of the noted French female writer, Madame de Stael, was born of distinguished parentage Sept. 30,1732. He was sent to Paris in his youth, and was employed in the house of Thellusson, the great banker, who, after a time, took him into partnership. Necker realized a very large fortune, and retired from business at forty years of age. He now began to aspire to official situations, and wrote several works on financial affairs, which made him favorably known. One of these works, a memoir upon the French finances, suggesting the means of making up the deficiency in the revenue, and forwarded to the minister Maurepas, the president of the council of finances, so delighted this French statesman that he obtained for the author, from Louis XVI, after some hesitation, as Necker was an alien and a Protestant, the appointment of director of the treasury in 1776. Necker was appointed director-general of finances in June 1777, but without a seat in the council; being averse to imposing new taxes, he endeavored to make up the national income by economy and loans. In 1781 he published his Compte Rendu, which disclosed for the first time the state of the revenue and expenditure of France, and made him numerous enemies, and he resigned in May 1781. He withdrew to Switzerland, where he purchased an estate at Copet, on the banks of the Leman Lake, and there he wrote his work Sur l'Administration des Finances, 1784. In 1787 Necker returned to Paris, where he wrote against Calonne, who had just been dismissed from his office of comptroller-general of the finances, and he was in consequence banished from the capital, but was soon after recalled. In the following year (August 1788), on the resignation of Brienne, and at the suggestion of that minister, Louis XVI appointed Necker director-general of finances, as the only man capable of restoring order in the administration. The king had already promised the convocation of the states-general, and Necker urged him to keep his promise. But he failed as a statesman in not arranging beforehand a plan for the sittings of those states, so as to prevent the collision that took place on their first meeting. In fact Necker was a financier, but not a statesman; he was a philosopher and a man of letters, but not a jurist or a legislator, and he was thus considered by a man well qualified to judge of these matters. His second ministry was short. Unable to check or direct the popular storm, and not enjoying the confidence of the court, Necker, unwilling to become the reproach of the agitators, quitted his place and the kingdom. On the 11th of July, 1789, he set off for Switzerland. After the taking of the Bastille, the National Assembly demanded the recall of Necker, and Louis complied. Necker was received in triumph, but his popularity was short-lived. He did not go far enough to please the movement-men. In December of the following year, 1790, he gave in his resignation to the National Assembly, which received it with cool indifference. He spent the remainder of his life in Switzerland, in retirement and study, and wrote several political tracts. He had written, several years before, a work, De l'Importance des Opinions Religieuses (translated into English under the title Of the Inportance of Religious Opinions [London, 1788, 8vo]). This work is eminently able and serviceable to Christianity. In 1800 he published his last and greatest work on the religious view of morality. This work is highly esteemed, and secured a prominent rank for Necker as a moralist. He died April 9, 1804. His works were collected and published by his accomplished daughter in 15 volumes, 8vo (1821). See Madame de Stael, Vie privee de M. Jacques Necker (1804-1821); Lanjuinais, Etudes biograph. sur Antoine Arnauld, P. Nicole, et J. Necker (1823); Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du Lundi, 7:329 sq.;
Edinb. Rev. January 1803; Engl. Cyclop. s.v.; Darling, Cycl. Bibliog. 2:2166.