The monarchy of Louis XVI suffered revolution and then destruction after failing to settle its financial difficulties. What precisely were those difficulties? In this book, Professor Bosher shows that the monarchy was financed by a chaotic system of private enterprise which proved increasingly unmanageable and wasteful. Hundreds of profit-seeking accountants - 'capitalists', in the language of the time - stood in the way of reform and even of clear accounting until governments of the French Revolution eventually nationalized the financial system and changed it 'from capitalism into a bureaucracy'. From his close study of the administrative changes Professor Bosher concludes that the National Assembly planned to guard the public finances by bureaucratic organization. 'With a vision of mechanical efficiency and articulation', he writes, 'systems of clock-like checks and balances such as eighteenth-century Frenchmen found everywhere, even in nature itself, the revolutionary planners hoped to prevent corruption, putting their faith in the virtues of organization to offset the vices of the individual men.'
Table of ContentsPart I. The Central Administration of Finance and How it Worked: 1. Introduction; 2. King and Council; 3. The Minister and his Department; 4. The Accountants and their Caisses; 5. Private Enterprise in Public Finance; 6. The Chamber of Accounts; Part II. The Bureaucratic Revolution: 7. Thoughts of reform; 8. A Decade of Reform (1771–1781); 9. Six years of Reaction (1781–1787); 10. The Financial Crisis of 1787; 11. The Founding of the Modern Treasury; 12. Struggles for Control of the Treasury; 13. Towards a Single Caisse; 14. Nationalizing the Debt; 15. Towards Public Administration; 16. Conclusion.