Lastly, in matters of finance he showed his wisdom: he attacked Necker's "caisse d'escompte," which was to have the whole control of the taxes, as absorbing the Assembly's power of the purse; and he heartily approved of the system of assignats, but with the reservation that they should not be issued to the extent of more than one-half the value of the lands to be sold.
Dumont was a Genevese exile, and an old friend of Romilly's, who willingly prepared for him those famous addresses which Mirabeau used to make the Assembly pass by sudden bursts'of eloquent declamation; Claviere helped him in finance, and not only worked out his figures, but even wrote his financial discourses; Lamourette wrote the speeches on the civil constitution of the clergy; Reybaz not only wrote for him his famous speeches on the assignats, the organization of the national guard, and others, which Mirabeau read word for word at the tribune, but even the posthumous speech on succession to the estates of intestates, which Talleyrand read in the Assembly as the last work of his dead friend.
But for the appalling economic conditions produced by the fall in the value of assignats, Babeuf might have shared the fate of other agitators who were whipped into obscurity.
Not only the workmen and the large class of idlers attracted to Paris by the system, but rentiers and government officials, whose incomes were paid in assignats on a scale arbitrarily fixed by the government, saw themselves threatened with actual starvation.
Assignats were so termed, as representing land assigned to the holders.
In this emergency assignats were issued to provide a substitute for a metallic currency.
The assignats were first to be paid to the creditors of the state.
Those assignats which were returned to the state as purchase-money were to be cancelled, and the whole issue, it was argued, would consequently disappear as the national lands were distributed.
A first issue was made of 400,000,000 francs' worth of assignats, each note being of loo francs' value and bearing interest daily at a rate of 5%.
The success of the issue was undoubted, and, possibly, if the assignats had been restricted, as Mirabeau at first desired, to the extent of one-half the value of the lands sold, they would not have shared the usual fate of inconvertible paper money.
In 1790 the interest was reduced to 3%, and as the treasury had again become exhausted, a further issue was decided upon; it was also decreed that the assignats were to be accepted as legal tender, all public departments being instructed to receive them as the equivalent of metallic money.
The first step was to decree the penalty of six years' imprisonment against any person who should sell specie for a more considerable quantity of assignats, or who should stipulate a different price for commodities according as the payment was to be made in specie or in assignats.
Notwithstanding these precautions, the value of assignats still declined, till the proportion to specie had become that of six to one.
These measures were soon stultified by further issues, and by June 1794 the total number of assignats aggregated nearly 8,000,000,000, of which only 2,464,000,000 had returned to the treasury and been destroyed.
Attempts by the Convention to increase the value of the assignats were of no avail.
Even between the assignats themselves there were differences.
The royal assignats, which had been issued under Louis XVI., had depreciated less than the republican ones.
The assignats had now become totally valueless - the abolition of the "maximum" the previous year (1795) had produced no effect, and, though, by various payments into the treasury, the total number had been reduced to about 24,000,000,000 francs, their face-value was about 3 o to I of coin.
At this value they were converted into 800,000,000 francs of land-warrants, or mandats territoriaux, which were to constitute a mortgage on all the lands of the republic. These mandats were no more successful than the assignats, and even on the day of their issue were at a discount of 82%.
Thiers, Histoire de la revolution francaise, gives a full and graphic account of the assignats, the causes of their depreciation, &c.; J.
On the 3rd of February 1793 he had decreed the emission of Boo millions of assignats, for the expenses of the war.
The result of this measure was a rise in the face value of the assignats from 27% to 48% by the end of the year.
He was charged with being responsible for the discredit of the assignats, and even accused of malversations.
On the 21st of February 1795 the project which he presented to withdraw four milliards of assignats from circulation, was rejected, and on the 3rd of April he was excluded from the committee of finance.
In the Constituent Assembly he was a member of the committee of taxes (comité des contributions), prepared a scheme for a new system of taxation, drew up a law on patents, occupied himself with the laws relating to stamps and assignats, and was successful in opposing the introduction of an income tax.
He early displayed his mastery of the principles of finance by a Discours delivered in August 1790 before this society, in regard to the issue of assignats by the government.
Before its dissolution the Assembly had authorized the creation of 1 800 o00 000 livres of assignats and The g the depreciation of its paper had begun.
The finances remained in disorder, and assignats of the face value of 900,000,000 livres were issued by the Legislative Assembly in less than a year.
Assignats were issued with such reckless profusion that the total for the three years of the Convention has been estimated at 7250 millions of francs.
Little was done to improve the finances, and the assignats continued to fall in value.
Assignats, Con Vention, The National, Jacobins.
The scarcity of money due to the discrediting of the assignats, the cessation of commerce, abroad and on the sea, and the bad harvest of 1793, were added to all these dangers, and formed a serious menace to France and the Convention.
Roused by the collapse of the assignats, following upon the ruin of industry and the arrest of commerce, they were still further exasperated by the speculations of the financiers, by the jobbery which prevailed throughout the administration, and by the sale of national property which had profited hardly any but the bourgeoisie.
The successive issues of assignats, and the Financial multiplication of counterfeits made abroad, had so policy depreciated this paper money that an assignat of joo otflic francs was in February 1796 worth only 30 centimes; 01).
The destruction of the plate for printing assignats, on the 18th of February 1796, did not prevent the drop in the forty milliards still in circulation.
Financially he proved equally incapable for a time of crisis, and could not understand the need of such extreme measures as the establishment of assignats in order to keep the country quiet.