Jaeqnes Laffitte, a French banker, born in Bayonne, Oct. 24, 1767, died in Paris, May 26, 1844. He was the son of a poor carpenter, but received a fair education. In 1788 he went to Paris, was admitted a clerk in the banking house of Perregaux, and at the end of a few years was made a partner. He at once became the leading spirit of the firm, and successfully extended the range of its operations. He was chosen one of the regents of the bank of France in 1809, member of the tribunal of commerce in 1813, and governor of the bank in 1814, holding the last post for five years. During the events of the two restorations his liberality was equally conspicuous with his integrity. In 1814 he advanced 2,000,000 francs to the provisional government to relieve its embarrassment and secure the pay of the French army. In 1815 he made himself responsible for 600,-000 francs, exacted by Blucher as a war contribution from the city of Paris. Meanwhile he was banker of both Louis XVIII. and Napoleon, and faithfully discharged his confidential duties toward them. When the latter finally left the capital, he placed in trust with Laffitte about 5,000,000 francs, which was afterward distributed according to his will.
In 1816 he was elected to the chamber of deputies; and although he took his seat among the opposition, he was appointed member of a government committee on finance, and was instrumental in persuading the king to resist the imprudent tendencies of his adherents. In 1817 he was reelected; and in 1818, when the public credit was in danger, he prevented a commercial crisis by purchasing government stocks to the amount of several millions, He participated in the establishment of institutions for bettering the condition of the common people, among others of the savings bank of Paris; he opened his purse to old officers in reduced circumstances, relieved merchants on the verge of bankruptcy, and readily assisted even his political opponents. His political importance was increasing daily; his house became the rendezvous of the most eminent members of the opposition, either in the legislative chambers or in the public press; he was the friend of Beranger and the patron of Thiers. He embraced with ardor the cause of Louis Philippe, and pointed him out beforehand as the only man who could save the country in the event of a revolution.
On the publication of the famous ordinances of July, 1830, he first tried to bring back Charles X. to a wiser line of policy; but his efforts being fruitless, he moved the organization of a provisional government, issued a proclamation in behalf of the duke of Orleans, proposed his appointment as lieutenant general of the kingdom, and brought about a reconciliation between him and Lafayette, thus preventing the latter from proclaiming the republic; and finally he had the duke chosen king of the French by 219 deputies, out of 252 present (Aug. 7). He was appointed minister of state, and, assuming the ministry of finance, was intrusted with the premiership, Nov. 3; but his sentiments were too liberal to suit the king, and he resigned in the following March. His banking business had suffered from his absence and the commercial difficulties consequent upon the revolution, his credit became impaired, and his exertions to prevent the fall of his firm were unavailing. He sold his property, and established a new banking house under the appellation of banque sociale, of which he was the manager; but his anticipations of success were not realized.
He was elected again to the chamber of deputies in 1837 by one of the districts of Paris, reelected in 1839 and 1842 by the city of Rouen, and at the opening of the session of 1843-4 presided over the chamber as its oldest member. His only daughter married the eldest son of Marshal Ney. Besides some financial and political essays which have been printed, Laf-fitte left memoires which are still unpublished. Les souvenirs de M. Laffitte, racontes par lui-meme (3 vols., 1844), written by Ch. Marchal, deserves little credit. There is an elegant biographical sketch of him, by Lomenie, in the Galerie des contemporains illustres.