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By Jacques Lefort, Nicolas Oikonomidès, Denise Papachryssanthou, Monastère d'Iviron

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THE INSTRUMENT in, was therefore slow and gradual; the navy did not become a truly aristocratic service until the next century. This relative fluidity within the naval officer corps was parallelled by the absence of venality in its administrative hierarchy; once again, promotion was based on merit and experience, rather than the purchase of an office. The chief drawback of an administrative system built on venality was the immovability of the officials who had bought their offices, and their consequent unresponsiveness to orders.

These conseils were composed partly of the master-shipwrights who directed construction, and partly of sea officers and administrative officials; their purpose was to harmonise the dictates of practical design with the requirements of service at sea, and they ensured the collaboration - really for the first time - of those who built the ships and those who sailed them. Despite disagreements between members of the various conseils de construction, they seem to have had a salutary influence on the development of French ship-design.

61 Friction between the army and the navy led to serious difficulties, particularly in the later stages of the war, when the fleet did not put to sea, and its officers and men were employed in coastal defence, alongside representatives of the land forces: a regulation had to be issued to clarify questions of rank and seniority that had led to quarrels. 62 At the highest level, this inter-service rivalry was part of the continual enmity that divided the Colbert family, who had made the fleet their own, from Louvois and his adherents, whose power-base was the army.

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