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  • Napoleonic Finances

    While economics is not my area of expertise, I have found that among Napoleon's governmental reforms was the bureaucracy he established to manage the government's finances.

    By 1810 the French franc was the most stable currency in Europe, including the British pound. The British doubled its national debt during the period, went off the gold standard, and issued paper money. Napoleon believed in 'hard money' and not paper and the establishment of the Bank of France was an overall success, one continued by the restored Bourbons.

    Napoleon established an efficient fiscal administration which assured that taxes were paid on time, and Napoleon's fiscal structures that he introduced ensured 'a tight fiscal operation, and in the process he kept his own regime going and founded structures that endured.' See Harold T Parker's article on Finances in the Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France edited by Owen Connelly, 179-180).

    For further information, see Harold T Parker's article in the same reference on the Franc, page191. Napoleon established the franc de germinal by Law on 28 March 1803, which gave the country 'for the first time in its history France was provided with a clearly defined 'real money' which coincided in value with its money of account. (see J Godechot's Les Institutions de la France sous la Revolution et l'Empire). Parker further states in the article that 'Newly minted, sound, and practical, it gradually replaced the old coins and became the strongest currency on the European continent. In 1811 it commanded a premium even against the British pound sterling. Indeed, the Law of 7 Germinal [28 March 1803] fixed the money standard of France for 123 years.'

    'The financial achievement of the Napoleonic years is summarized in the creation of a good administrative instrument, which had been lacking in the old monarchy.' See Louis Bergeron, France Under Napoleon, 38.

    Napoleon achieved this, in part, by the creation of the three great funds, the Sinking Fund, the Service Fund, and the Domaine Extraordinaire. The system was not perfect but the bureaucracy thus established was kept intact by the restored Bourbons, as was the Bank of France. Even in 1814 the French national debt was not crippling and Napoleon always attempted, and sometimes achieved, a balanced budget.
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
    Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
    To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

  • #2
    If Napoleons finances were sound it was because of looting, confiscation and indemnities from the lands he conquered on a massive scale.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Gooner View Post
      If Napoleons finances were sound it was because of looting, confiscation and indemnities from the lands he conquered on a massive scale.
      I would highly recommend taking the time to read the references posted. Napoleon did require reparations and indemnities from the wars he won and the nations he defeated, which was common practice at the time. However, that was not the basis of his financial system. Louis Bergeron is most helpful in understanding the system that was established and employed by Napoleon, the restored Bourbons, and the French government for years after Napoleon's fall.
      We are not now that strength which in old days
      Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
      Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
      To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Massena View Post

        I would highly recommend taking the time to read the references posted. Napoleon did require reparations and indemnities from the wars he won and the nations he defeated, which was common practice at the time. However, that was not the basis of his financial system.
        That and stealing from the Church and opponents was just the major source of Government income.

        Louis Bergeron is most helpful in understanding the system that was established and employed by Napoleon, the restored Bourbons, and the French government for years after Napoleon's fall.
        Well any system would have been better than that of of pre-Revolutionary France - there the major source of income was the selling of titles.
        Under Napoleon however the French system required continuous successful conquest, the British system did not.

        Comment


        • #5
          The British went off the gold standard and doubled their national debt and the taking of colonies was a large source of their wealth. The colonies were not given to them, they were taken by conquest.

          Napoleon established the financial system before 1805, so it was on somewhat firm footing before the allies attacked him in 1805.

          Have you read Bergeron?
          We are not now that strength which in old days
          Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
          Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
          To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Gooner View Post

            That and stealing from the Church and opponents was just the major source of Government income.



            Well any system would have been better than that of of pre-Revolutionary France - there the major source of income was the selling of titles.
            Under Napoleon however the French system required continuous successful conquest, the British system did not.
            I agree that you have a point.
            First, I am not an expert and much of what I'm going to say comes from my reading of Michael Broer's book
            https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

            (Messena's review of the first volume convinced me to buy it)

            Anyway, Napoleon did much to improve the Republic's finances as well. He kept some good things they had already started and then added some of his own.
            Napoleon assumed control of a near bankrupt nation. Its ability to even raise money was a mess.
            While dealing with that problem, he had to also fight a war. He did so and was successful against Austria.

            And that set the pattern going forward. Instead of being able to actually stabilize the Nation's financial position, he always had to fight another war. From 1801 until 1811, Napoleon was responsible for starting one war, while his enemies caused all the ones other than the one in Spain.

            As a result, his policy of making the losers of his wars pay for its costs was rationale and probably the only one available.

            It was not a good long term policy, but any change in that policy required cooperation from the Nations that kept declaring war on him.
            And as an aside, the Nations that kept fighting him did so largely because he was a threat to what they wanted to seize in the way of land than anything else. For example, the Saxons, Poles, Bavarians and Italians didn't see Napoleon's enemies as "liberators". Rather, just another form of conqueror and exploiter.
            Avatar is General Gerard, courtesy of Zouave.

            Churchill to Chamberlain: you had a choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Cambronnne View Post

              I agree that you have a point.
              First, I am not an expert and much of what I'm going to say comes from my reading of Michael Broer's book
              https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

              (Messena's review of the first volume convinced me to buy it)

              Anyway, Napoleon did much to improve the Republic's finances as well. He kept some good things they had already started and then added some of his own.
              Napoleon assumed control of a near bankrupt nation. Its ability to even raise money was a mess.
              While dealing with that problem, he had to also fight a war. He did so and was successful against Austria.

              And that set the pattern going forward. Instead of being able to actually stabilize the Nation's financial position, he always had to fight another war. From 1801 until 1811, Napoleon was responsible for starting one war, while his enemies caused all the ones other than the one in Spain.

              As a result, his policy of making the losers of his wars pay for its costs was rationale and probably the only one available.

              It was not a good long term policy, but any change in that policy required cooperation from the Nations that kept declaring war on him.
              And as an aside, the Nations that kept fighting him did so largely because he was a threat to what they wanted to seize in the way of land than anything else. For example, the Saxons, Poles, Bavarians and Italians didn't see Napoleon's enemies as "liberators". Rather, just another form of conqueror and exploiter.
              Err- not quite.....
              Haiti / st Dominique , Leclerc's expedition, was , depending how you look at it, avoidable.....
              Junot's invasion of Portugal occurred while Spain was still an ally....
              The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by marktwain View Post

                Err- not quite.....
                Haiti / st Dominique , Leclerc's expedition, was , depending how you look at it, avoidable.....
                Junot's invasion of Portugal occurred while Spain was still an ally....

                Leclerc's expedition was to a French colony.
                It really wasn't starting a war. It was an effort to put down a rebellion.
                However, I think you are correct about Portugal.
                Avatar is General Gerard, courtesy of Zouave.

                Churchill to Chamberlain: you had a choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cambronnne View Post


                  Leclerc's expedition was to a French colony.
                  It really wasn't starting a war. It was an effort to put down a rebellion.
                  However, I think you are correct about Portugal.
                  &I'll concede you- Switzerland
                  the fourth coalition war is - rather different. Some scholars feel that Jerome Bonaparte instigated it by rounding out his kingdom into areas that Prussia had governorship of...

                  It is hard to feel much sympathy for the old Prussian kingdom..
                  The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cambronnne View Post


                    Leclerc's expedition was to a French colony.
                    It really wasn't starting a war. It was an effort to put down a rebellion.
                    However, I think you are correct about Portugal.
                    France and Spain agreed to invade and divide up Portugal together.
                    We are not now that strength which in old days
                    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                    Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                    To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by marktwain View Post

                      &I'll concede you- Switzerland
                      the fourth coalition war is - rather different. Some scholars feel that Jerome Bonaparte instigated it by rounding out his kingdom into areas that Prussia had governorship of...

                      It is hard to feel much sympathy for the old Prussian kingdom..
                      Westphalia didn't come into being until 1807-after the defeat of Prussia. It was made up of Hesse-Kassel, Brunswick, parts of Hanover, Prussia's former western provinces which she lost because of the war she began in 1806. Saxony also didn't become a member until after Prussia's defeat. So Jerome couldn't have caused the war by 'rounding out his kingdom' as his kingdom didn't exist yet.

                      France and Prussia had become 'allies' by the Treaty of Schonbrunn which Prussia accepted after initially refusing in February 1806. Its provisions gave Hanover to Prussia and Prussia ceded Ansbach to Bavaria and two small Rhineland principalities (Cleves and Neufchatel) to Murat and Berthier. What angered Prussia was Napoleon's creation in the summer of 1806 of the Confederation of the Rhine. Prussia had long-range plans of ingesting Germany and this move by Napoleon greatly frustrated Prussia's goals. Napoleon was also secretly offering Hanover to England as a peace offering. This led to the Prussian ultimatum to Napoleon which meant war-a war for which Prussia was not prepared.
                      We are not now that strength which in old days
                      Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                      Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                      To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cambronnne View Post

                        I agree that you have a point.
                        First, I am not an expert and much of what I'm going to say comes from my reading of Michael Broer's book
                        https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

                        (Messena's review of the first volume convinced me to buy it)

                        Anyway, Napoleon did much to improve the Republic's finances as well. He kept some good things they had already started and then added some of his own.
                        Napoleon assumed control of a near bankrupt nation. Its ability to even raise money was a mess.
                        While dealing with that problem, he had to also fight a war. He did so and was successful against Austria.

                        And that set the pattern going forward. Instead of being able to actually stabilize the Nation's financial position, he always had to fight another war. From 1801 until 1811, Napoleon was responsible for starting one war, while his enemies caused all the ones other than the one in Spain.

                        As a result, his policy of making the losers of his wars pay for its costs was rationale and probably the only one available.

                        It was not a good long term policy, but any change in that policy required cooperation from the Nations that kept declaring war on him.
                        And as an aside, the Nations that kept fighting him did so largely because he was a threat to what they wanted to seize in the way of land than anything else. For example, the Saxons, Poles, Bavarians and Italians didn't see Napoleon's enemies as "liberators". Rather, just another form of conqueror and exploiter.
                        The Poles and northern Italians were allies of the French and the Saxons and Bavarians were also allies and part of the Confederation of the Rhine-allies not satellites.

                        We are not now that strength which in old days
                        Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                        Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                        To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Massena View Post

                          Westphalia didn't come into being until 1807-after the defeat of Prussia. It was made up of Hesse-Kassel, Brunswick, parts of Hanover, Prussia's former western provinces which she lost because of the war she began in 1806. Saxony also didn't become a member until after Prussia's defeat. So Jerome couldn't have caused the war by 'rounding out his kingdom' as his kingdom didn't exist yet.

                          France and Prussia had become 'allies' by the Treaty of Schonbrunn which Prussia accepted after initially refusing in February 1806. Its provisions gave Hanover to Prussia and Prussia ceded Ansbach to Bavaria and two small Rhineland principalities (Cleves and Neufchatel) to Murat and Berthier. What angered Prussia was Napoleon's creation in the summer of 1806 of the Confederation of the Rhine. Prussia had long-range plans of ingesting Germany and this move by Napoleon greatly frustrated Prussia's goals. Napoleon was also secretly offering Hanover to England as a peace offering. This led to the Prussian ultimatum to Napoleon which meant war-a war for which Prussia was not prepared.
                          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_of_Artlenburg 1803 Jerome's kingdom did not spring up overnight.

                          Given time and peace, the kingdom had a good chance of thriving- which brings us back to finances. at a time when 85% of people lived on the land, Napoleon's land ownership reforms were exemplary.

                          Men fought for him, because he gave them the dignity of title.
                          Last edited by marktwain; 12 Feb 19, 18:02.
                          The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by marktwain View Post

                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_of_Artlenburg 1803 Jerome's kingdom did not spring up overnight.

                            Given time and peace, the kingdom had a good chance of thriving- which brings us back to finances. at a time when 85% of people lived on the land, Napoleon's land ownership reforms were exemplary.

                            Men fought for him, because he gave them the dignity of title.
                            In 1803 there was no kingdom of Westphalia. The reference refers to what happened to Hanover in 1803. The two events were not related. Again, Westphalia came into being in 1807 and became a member of the Confederation of the Rhine that was formed the previous year.

                            For an excellent reference on Westphalia see Owen Connelly's Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms.
                            We are not now that strength which in old days
                            Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                            Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                            To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              https://www.nber.org/papers/w3517.pdf
                              We hunt the hunters

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