From deficit to assignat

From deficit to assignat

  • The man with the assignats.

  • Assignat of one hundred pounds.

  • Assignat of five books.

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Title: The man with the assignats.

Author :

Creation date : 1791

Date shown: 1791

Dimensions: Height 17.1 - Width 25.1

Technique and other indications: Aquatint Publication of the caricature announced by the Journal de la Cour et de la Ville of November 17, 1791: "We sell at Webert, bookseller at the Palais-Royal, n ° 203 ..." Description in JM [Boyer Brun, known as] BOYER DE NIMES. The Story of the Caricature of the French Revolt. 1792.

Storage location: Carnavalet museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Cliché Degracessite web

Picture reference: 2005 CAR 0563 A / HIST PC 016C / G 25480

© Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Cliché Degraces

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Title: Assignat of one hundred pounds.

Author :

Creation date : 1790

Date shown: 1790

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Assignat on the Extraordinary Fund. Effigy of Louis XVI engraved by Nicolas-Marie Gatteaux (1751-1832).

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Picture reference: AE / II / 3059 / item 1

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: Assignat of five books.

Author :

Creation date : 1791

Date shown: 1791

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Assignat on the Extraordinary Fund. The dry stamp reproduces the portrait of Louis XVI by Gatteaux. The filigree decorated with volutes has the value in the center: 5 livres.

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Picture reference: AE / II / 3059 / part 4

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: April 2005

Historical context

The Constituent Assembly must both assume the debts of the monarchy - around £ 5 billion plus interest fixed at high rates - and initiate the implementation of the new regime, a source of new expenditure. To this fund are assigned (pledged) bonds bearing interest at 5%, numbering 400,000 denominations of 1,000 pounds. This first measure does not give them currency exchange, but priority for the purchase of goods put up for sale; they should be destroyed as they return to state coffers.

Faced with the disastrous financial situation complicated by a shortage of cash, the Assembly transformed these bonds into paper money and proceeded to issue several assignats in 1790 and 1791, but the first denominations issued were too large to ensure current exchanges. But, as early as May 1790, so-called “trust” currencies appeared almost everywhere in France, issued by patriotic coffers of cities, companies and individuals. They will increase the mass of banknotes and give rise to counterfeits.

The old taxes do not come in, the tax reform does not take effect until the end of 1791, and the sale of national assets does not allow rapid returns. The Assembly created an inflationary system which soon caused a serious social crisis.

Image Analysis

The man with the assignats

Published in November 1791, this anonymous and untitled satire was referred to in 1792 by the monarchist J. M. Boyer of Nîmes as "the man with assignats". Enthusiastic contemporaries liked to detect many allusions to it.

Armand Gaston Camus struts around as a great lord in a costume made up entirely of assignats having legal tender: the first assignat of 1,000 pounds issued in 1790, the 300 and 200 pounds denominations of April 17, 1790, and those of 5 pounds of May 6, 1791.

A former member of the Constituent Assembly, Camus distinguished himself by a reforming passion that was exerted down to the smallest details. The former lawyer for the clergy of France, cold and austere, did not spare the nobility and the clergy, who bitterly resent the publication of the Red book - which contains the list of pensions paid by the Royal Treasury -, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, the abolition of titles of nobility. In 1791, remained archivist of the Assembly, under this title he exercised a very modern role in the management of files referred to in the entry above the door on the left ("Assignat archives") and the banknote matrices. The archivist is the counterpart of the legislator with this lawyer specializing in religious, administrative and financial matters. Also commissioner for the Caisse de l'Extraordinaire and member of the Committee on the Alienation of National Domains, he played not only a political but also a technical role in the printing and reproduction of assignats.

The image denounces with biting derision the recourse to the assignat as a universal means of resolving the difficulties: those of the former presidents of the Constituent Assembly, Antoine Barnave (1761-1793), who would have 4,000 louis in gambling debts, Charles de Lameth (1761-1832) who was to reimburse the National Fund for the 60,000 pounds that, according to the Red Book of Pensions, his mother had received from the queen for her education, and Isaac Le Chapelier (1754-1794), dressed in a biribi game, a croupier's rake under his arm, all of whom voted in favor of the assignats.

Among the newly elected to the Legislature, the caricature particularly charges the members of the clergy, because at that time the assembly debates the terrible decree against the refractory priests: Claude Fauchet (1744-1793), elected constitutional bishop of Calvados, then in the at the height of his influence, founded a democratic newspaper in 1790, The Iron Mouth, and transformed a Masonic lodge into a club, the Social Circle, where ideas of division of land were agitated, hence the mention of "agrarian law" on its miter and its snake-shaped butt; Father Mulot, decked out with a rope and the letter "P" for gallows, must then defend himself in the Assembly for the massacres perpetrated in Avignon while he was mediator of the Assembly in the war between Avignon and the Comtat; François Chabot (1756-1794), former Capuchin priest and author of a pamphlet on ecclesiastical property who joined the Jacobins. On the name of the journalist Jacques Brissot (1754-1793), a pamphleteer coined the term “brissoter”, the meaning of which is given by the winged feet of Mercury, the god of thieves. Pierre de Pastoret (1756-1840), current president of the Legislative Assembly, is also included, although he is one of the leaders of the monarchist party.

All comically hasten to tear assignats from Camus's clothing. Only an old soldier is rejected, a knight of Saint-Louis, pale and emaciated, who came to claim his modest pension, whom Camus harshly rejects after giving him a sign indicating "Go and dine with your friends".

On the curtain in the hall, the same Camus is burning banknotes: sales of national goods have brought in coupons on the Caisse de l'Extraordinaire which were delivered to the flames. But these receipts were reduced, and the total of assignats in circulation amounted to 1.6 billion at the end of 1791. The assignat was not controlled: alongside “La Folie”, “l'Occasion” le present in a cornucopia!

Assignat of one hundred pounds

Voted on September 29, 1790, the assignat of 100 pounds is decorated with the effigy of Louis XVI, engraved by Nicolas-Marie Gatteaux (1751-1832), medal artist, the most active in this field.

The assignat is authenticated by the dry stamp used for all denominations without exception, from the first issue of December 1789 to the last in January 1795, and by the watermark.

Assignat of five books


The issuance of this assignat - a hundred million denominations circulating as of July 1791 - was intended to make up for the lack of small change. The signature "Corsel" and the number are printed. The depreciation of this first assignat in an amount accessible to as many people as possible will be particularly unpopular.

Interpretation

The monarchist satire denounces the disorder of the monetary circulation, due to the repeated issuance of assignats, but does not stigmatize the economic and social consequences of the financial policy of the assemblies. The author seems especially concerned by the loss of importance of the position of the aristocracy, in favor of the deputies. This counter-revolutionary criticism looks for culprits in the financial situation, "traitors" to the monarchy and the clergy. The nobles are the losers, the winners are those MPs who prefer to leave it to chance and are out of control.

In reality, the assignat's policy was more the financial incompetence of this assembly of lawyers, which superbly ignored the worried warnings from Maury, Talleyrand and Dupont de Nemours.

  • Constituent Assembly
  • assignats
  • caricature
  • revolutionary figures
  • finances
  • Louis XVI
  • national property
  • Boyer of Nîmes (Jacques-Marie Boyer-Brun)
  • Camus (Armand Gaston)
  • social crisis
  • The Hatter (Isaac)
  • Barnave (Antoine)
  • Church
  • tax
  • Talleyrand-Périgord (Charles-Maurice de)
  • inflation
  • satire

Bibliography

Jacques-Marie [Boyer Brun, known as] BOYER DE NIMES, The History of the Caricature of the French Revolt, 2 vol., Paris, Impr. Du Journal du Peuple, 1792. Jean LAFAURIE, Assignats and paper money issued by the State in the 18th century, Paris, Golden Leopard, 1981.Claude LANGLOIS, The Counter-Revolutionary Caricature, Paris, Presses du CNRS, 1988. René SEDILLOT, History of the franc, Paris, Éditions Sirey, 1979.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, "From deficit to assignat"


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