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THE author introduces his subject, by pointing out the importance of the inquiry; whether the French nation, distinguished by her victories, is also distinguished by her prosperity? This inquiry, he thinks, entered into fully, would be the best practical comment on the doctrines of political economy, and, if it should appear, that the happiness of the people in every respect, is sacrificed to the splendor of power, we should be obliged to acknowledge that her rulers, whatever may be their dexterity, or their talents, must be unacquainted with the true science of government, the object of which ought to be the welfare of the governed.
“Every nation, says Napoleon to his subjects, envies your destiny.--Frenchmen! you are a great and a happy people. You have just entered a long career of prosperity and glory!" But, on the other hand, there exist reports of the prefects of the departments, of the boards of administration, of the chambers of commerce, full of frightful disclosures. We have acknowledgments unguardedly uttered by the depositaries of power; and, above all, we have the yearly accounts of the minister of finance:- accounts, the contents of which, belie the boasts of prosperity that accompany them.
“I shall not pay attention,” says Sir Francis d'Ivernois, “ to boasting phraseology, but scrutinize facts, which are the more to be relied on, the more they are at variance with the interest of those, by whom they are furnished. They present, in the case of France, a picture of misery, which will move to pity even her enemies, and may, perhaps, awaken some compunction in the breast of those, who formerly reproached me with having exaggerated her decline.”
“My principal object,” he continues, “ will be to trace the steps of the French administration, in the arrangement of its domestic concerns. an administration always active, but inva. riably mistaking effort for strength; always vigilant, always calculating, yet constantly incurring expense beyond the measure of revenue; keeping a regular account of the deficit to which this leads, but without any other plan, than to cover it by foreign contributions. During the five years, preceding the 1st of January, 1811, these foreign receipts amounted from 1600 to 1700 millions of francs, (from 296 to 314 millions of dollars.) Who would believe it, had not the inventory, been furnished by the ministers of Napoleon themselves!”
“ After having transcribed the official proofs of this fact, I shall perhaps, be permitted to inquire whether there is not a natural limitation to this unheard of plunder? How long the conquered will be able to satiate the rapacity of the conquerors? Whether that portion of the general revenue, which arises from foreign contributions, must not diminish, commensurately with the diminished means of the tributary nations? Finally, and above all, whether the great spoiler, when foreign pillage begins to fail, will be able to defray the expenses of the new regime, with the proceeds of a system of finance and of commerce, bottomed on espionage, on ransoms, prohibitions, denunciations, sequestrations, corporal punishments, monopolies, and other tyrannical expedients? - The best established maxims of political economy must be absolutely false, if France can thrive under such a system, or maintain the new order of things, and prosper, even with the help of foreign receipts.”
Our author then observes, that a new prospect has opened with the invasion of Spain. Till 1809, Napoleon pursued his triumphant career, by availing himself of the spoils of one enemy, to attack another, to be despoiled in its turn. All his preceding campaigns were short, and so productive, that he constantly returned from them loaded with treasure, after all his expenses had been defrayed, and was thus able in the succeeding year, to equip his conscripts, and to support them in France, till they could be sent to foreign countries. But when he caused them to cross the Pyrenees, he commenced an enterprise, involving such vast expense, that, instead of bringing away, as on former occasions, forty millions of dollars, he was now obliged to disburse as much;~a circumstance which at once changed the complexion of the case, from gain to loss, from revenue to waste.
Our author ascribes this unexpected revolution principally to the conduct of the Portuguese, who, in compliance with the directions of lord Wellington, themselves destroyed such stores, and even moveables, as they were unable to take with them, or to defend, in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of the French. No measure, he thinks, can be better calculated, if not to defeat an enemy, at least to stop him in his career, than to frustrate him of the spoil, for the sake of which he wages war, and, deprived of which, he cannot wage it long. Sir Francis considers the disgrace of Napoleon's arms in Spain, of infinitely less consequence, than the blow given to his finances, by the failure of pillage. He hitherto has succeeded, in retaining his armies under his standard, by giving them victory as the pledge of their pay. It remains to be seen, whether they will continue faithful, under a reverse of fortune.
Having thus given a general view of the subject, our author endeavours to make it appear, that the continuance of Napoleon's power, in adversity, would be highly improbable. He grounds this idea, on the steadily progressive weakness of France, arising from the languishing state of her industry, and the consequent want of internal resources, adequate to the exigencies of her enormous establishments. In order to prove that such is her real situation, he investigates minutely, the amount of the public expenditure, and that of the regular revenue. He points out a gradual, but uninterrupted diminution in the productiveness of the indirect taxes; shows how the deficiency of revenue has hitherto been supplied by foreign receipts; adverts to the conscription, with regard to its destructive influence on population and industry; makes it evident, that the numerical force of the French armies has been
exag: gerated; that their support becomes more and more expensive; offers some arguments to show the impracticability of opening new sources of revenue, or of a recourse to voluntary loans; and finally arrives at the conclusion, that the gigantic fabric of military despotism must crumble, when plunder is exhausted, or can be no longer obtained.
Previously to the budget of 1811, it was impossible to give a complete view of the French finances, that being the first in which the receipts, and expenditure, of the sixteen new departments, make their appearance.
The treasury accounts of 1809 and 1810, published in Paris in July, 1811, are so clear, that those of a mercantile house could not be kept with more order and method.--After having checked, compared, studied them, under an expectation of finding, and with a desire to discover inaccuracies and mistakes, the author remained satisfied, that, if they contained any at all, these must be unintentional.
The case is quite different with the ministerial reports, and the opening speeches of Napoleon, in which he never fails to announce to his legislative body, that the accounts which will be laid before them, attest the growing prosperity of his finances. The reports, the speeches, are mere performances of show, arithmetically contradicted, by the very accounts to which they refer.
The emperor knows, perfectly well, that the reports are false, and that the accounts are true. But he also knows, that nobody on the Continent will dare to scrutinize, much less to expose them; and, in asserting, that they are presented with equal confidence to his friends and his detractors, to his subjects
and to strangers, he flatters himself, not without reason, that the latter will hardly imagine that, if they took the trouble to examine them, they would meet a formal refutation, of the magnificent report, by which they are preceded.
For this reason, probably, the publication of these accounts is now continued, after it had been suspended in 1809.-Napoleon was aware that, by withholding them, he would only cause his assertions, concerning the prosperous state of his finances, to be doubted.
Moreover, each account, taken by itself, exhibits no precise result, nor any means of successful investigation. The item of post-offices, for instance, in that of 1810, states a neat revenue of 11,323,403 francs, (2,094,829 dollars,) a fact from which you can draw no inference, unless you go back to the accounts of 1803, when you discover, that the neat average revenue of the last three years, arising from this source, is inferior to what it was in 1803, and even under the ancient government, notwithstanding the vast accession of territory, and notwithstanding the circumstance, that since 1803 the rates of postage have been doubled.
Similar results are obtained from similar comparisons of the proceeds of almost all the indirect taxes—proceeds, of which, the increase or diminution is the surest indication, of the prosperous or declining state of individual revenue, and of the exchequer.
Public Expenditure. The following facts are stated, in order to show, to what extent Bonaparte has deceived the French people, and perhaps himself, on this subject.
When he had obtained the consulate, he announced through his counsellor, now minister of state, Mr. de Fernon, that the ordinary national expenditure, would not exceed 341 millions of francs, (63 millions of dollars.)
In the year following, Mr. de Hauterive was directed to declare, that 444 millions, would be fully sufficient, even in time of war.
In the year 1804, Mr. Faber, employed in the department of finance, acknowledged, “ that with much economy, and great discretion, with regard to the creation of new offices, the public expenditure would, notwithstanding, in time of peace, reach about 500 millions.”
The speech at the opening of the session of 1806, contains this passage, “ The emperor deems 800 millions requisite in VOL. IV.
time of war, and rather more than 600 millions in time of
In the budget for 1811, the expenditure is estimated at 950 millions, and this estimate is far from being complete.
A comparison of the two budgets of 1803 and 1811, will show the progressive increase of the expenditure, since the coronation of Napoleon. In 1803, the number of French subjects, in consequence of the incorporation of Piedmont, amount. ed to 32 millions. Other incorporations have, since then, in creased it to 40 millions. The expenditure, therefore, had the scale remained the same, should have increased no more than one fourth, instead of which, the increase exceeds three fifths,
BUDGET OF EXPENDITURE.
1803. Perpetual annuities (a)
43,520,250 Life Annuities,
1811. 88,300,000 17,500,000
Grand total, 589,500,000 954,000,000
Equal to $ 109,057,000 $ 176,490,000 (a) The increase of annuities to the amount of 45 millions of francs, which have accrued during the last seven years, comprises the debt of the United Provinces, assumed by the French government, with the reduction of two thirds-equal to 26 millions,-and that of the departments previously incorporated,-equal to about four millions.—The other 15 millions, are an accession of original debt, arising from disguised forced loans, which are further explained in the progress of the work.
(6) These expenditures formed no separate items, in the consular budgets. So much of them, as then existed, was made a general charge to the department of finance, which is the reason why the sum to its debit in 1803, exceeds by 32 millions, that of 1811. The ecclesiastical pensions, are those of runs and monks, pusted from their convents.