NAPOLEON I - Letter Signed 1809 with an autograph postscript
NAPOLEON I (1769-1821)
Letter Signed (“Np”) with a two-line autograph postscript, to his Finance Minister, Count Mollien, requesting a detailed report on the state of finances over the previous three years.
2 pages 4to in French, Paris, 26 January 1809.
An interesting letter, displaying Napoleon’s attention to the minutiae of all aspects of his government and his careful control of finances.
Trans: “Send me next Sunday a report showing me the financial situation as at 1 January 1809 . . . including everything relating to the caisse d’amortissement [essentially the government’s sinking fund], and to the Grande Armée. I wish to see in this report everything which is yet to be paid, and which is yet to come in, from previous years: thus you will send me the 1807 budget as it has been finalised . . . you will do the same for the 1808 budget. You will send me that for 1809 as I approved it with income and expenditure. You will include in this report all the budgets for the various ministries . . . The fourth part will concern the sinking fund and the Grande Armée. You will show what has been received, the funds coming from the third Coalition, its outgoings, what remains to be paid – you will follow the same pattern for the fourth Coalition . . . it is necessary to let me know at the same time the situation regarding receipts, and what expenses to come as at first of January 1809, as well as the Budget for the Grande Armée for the years 1806, 7, 8 and 9 – and for the Army of the Rhine for the year 1808, indicating what is to be paid by the Grande Armée and what by the Treasury. – You will find it easier to deal with the difficulties of this task by talking with M. Daru and M. Lebouillerie. I wish to have a precise picture of my position as at 1 January 1809, and of the state of the finances, in order to see at a glance what my resources are . . . You will add to this report the various decrees . . . I have made, and which were used to arrive at the accounts for the years 1806, 7 and 8. You will also include the sums which I advanced either for canals, or for various cities, so that I can see what is left at my disposal for other operations . . .”
Napoleon has added in a postscript in his own hand: “If this is not possible for Sunday have it ready for a week later.”
Although Count Mollien was extremely well-connected in financial circles, married to the daughter of a close friend of both Necker and Talleyrand, it was his ability to rationalize public finances and present the Emperor with a clear and accurate picture of the state of affairs which brought him to prominence. Briefly exiled to England during the revolution, he returned to ally himself with Napoleon from his accession as First Consul. He retired to private life after the first abdication, but was called back by Napoleon immediately after his return from Elba, and served him faithfully throughout the hundred days.
Napoleon’s concern with the state of the country’s finances, and more especially the finances of the army, would have been greater than ever at this juncture. Recently returned from Spain, where a significant portion of his army was to be engaged over the next five years, he was also about to embark with the Grande Armée on a campaign against the Austrians which would culminate in his victory at Wagram.
The specific reference to canals is interesting. France already enjoyed the benefits of roughly 1000 kms of canals at the time of the revolution, but the subsequent upheavals put an end to their construction and maintenance. Upon his accession as First Consul, Napoleon immediately saw the need to build more canals, both to help trade – increasingly important when the English blockaded French and allied ports from 1807 – and to facilitate the delivery of materials for the French ships in the Channel ports. Napoleon continued to take a keen interest in the development of canals, but sadly the monies available too often had to be diverted to the needs of the army.
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