Assignats were paper money issued by the Constituent Assembly in France from 1789 to 1796, during the French Revolution, to address imminent bankruptcy. They were backed by the value of properties formerly held by the Catholic Church, which were confiscated, on the motion of Mirabeau, by the Assembly on 2 November 1789, and the crown lands, which had been taken over by the nation on 7 October. Credit was wrecked, according to Talleyrand; for Mirabeau "the deficit was the treasure of the nation". In September the treasury was empty. In November 1789 ecclesiastical possessions were confiscated. Talleyrand, the bishop of Autun proposed “national goods” should be given back to the nation. Necker proposed to borrow from "Caisse d'Escompte", but his intention to change the private bank into a national bank like the Bank of England failed. A general bankrupt seemed certain. On 21 December 1789 a first decree was voted through, ordering the issue (in April 1790) of 400 million assignats, certificates of indebtedness of 1,000 livres each, with an interest rate of 5%, secured and repayable based on the auctioning of the "Biens nationaux". The assignats were immediately a source of political controversy. Constitutional monarchists such as Maury, Cazalès, Bergasse and d'Eprémesnil opposed it. While their proponents, like other eighteenth-century advocates of "land banks," argued that land was a more stable source of value than was gold or silver, the assignats' opponents saw them as based on an illegitimate seizure of property.
The assignats were first to be paid to the creditors of the state. With these the creditors could purchase national land, the assignats having, for this purpose, the preference over other forms of money. If the creditor did not care to purchase land, it was supposed that he could obtain the face value for them from those who desired land. 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.
Originally meant as bonds, the assignats were re-defined as legal tender (assignats-monnaie) in April 1790 to address the liquidity crisis provoked by the political, social, and cultural instability of the Revolution.
Étienne Clavière lobbied for large issues of assignats representing national wealth and operating as legal tender. On April 17, 1790, the notes were declared legal tender but their interest was reduced to 3%. For daily life smaller denominations of 200 and 300 livres were needed. The assignats would compensate for the scarcity of coin and would revive industry and trade. Once the assignats were paid, they had to be burnt. A surety was prepared for future issues of paper money? As soon as the assignats started to circulate, their value decreased by 5 percent. Du Pont de Nemours feared the emission of assignats would double the price of bread.
Necker himself argued at the National Assembly on 27 August that the assignats were a paper money which would bankrupt France. Talleyrand had also attacked them on the grounds that they risked the same fate as Law's schemes. Camus stressed what he believed was the lesson of American experience of paper, which had undermined metal money and sent prices spiralling. Condorcet and Du Pont de Nemours argued that the assignats would drive out silver and other forms of coin, raise prices relative to paper, and thereby dangerously restrict commerce. All of these writers preferred the issue of treasury bills at interest through the Caisse d'Escompte, a revised tax-system, and increased loans.
On 27 August 1790 the Assembly decided another issue of 1,9 billion assignats which would become legal tender before the end of the year for all actions, c.q. banknotes, which could be acquired by anyone and used for ordinary business transactions. Necker, suspected of reactionary tendencies, resolutely against the transformation of the assignat into paper currency, handed in his resignation on 3 September. The massive and dangerous issue of 1,9 billion he succeeded to get down to 800 million, but the attacks may have influenced his resignation. Necker was not backed by Comte de Mirabeau, his strongest opponent who called for "national money".
By September 1790, all authorized assignats had been paid out by the government. Supporters of the paper money argued that since the assignats were secured by land, more notes could be safely issued as long as they were retired and burned at the same rate that the lands securing them were sold. On September 29, 1790, the National Assembly authorized a further issue of 800 million livres and abolished interest on the assignats altogether.)
Necker foretold that the paper money, with which the dividends were about to be paid, would soon be of no value. Since no one had truly the right to make assignats, everyone would soon begin to do so. Montesquiou-Fézensac, charged with the issue of assignats, feared stockjobbing and greed.
By September 1790, the assignat had become a true circulating paper currency, and 800 million livres worth of non-interest bearing notes were added to the initial issue, in denominations of 50, 60 70, 80, 90, 100, 500, and 2000 livres with legal-tender status. The lower denominations were produced in large numbers in order to ensure wide circulation. This change stimulated the economy but also increased inflationary pressures.
When the cost of reimbursing Old Regime venal office holders for their properties (judgeships, military ranks etc.) added yet more to the Revolution's inherited debts, the National Assembly voted by a narrow margin to issue additional assignats in September 1790, initially of an additional 800,000,000 francs. By September 1791, the value of the assignats had depreciated by 18-20 percent.
The properties backing the assignats were renamed biens nationaux (“national goods”) and auctioned by district-level authorities. On 10 March 1790, on the proposition Pétion, the administration of the church property was transferred to the municipalities. Through the sale of these properties, assignats were used to successfully retire a significant portion of the national debt. However, since these land sales were their original intent, the assignats were issued only in large denominations (50, 100, 200, and 1000 livres) that worked poorly as a daily medium of exchange. Moreover, the National Assembly never mandated that assignats and Old Regime coins (which remained in circulation) had to be exchanged on par. Already in fall 1790, the National Assembly itself was paying a 7.5% commission to exchange large denomination assignats for smaller coins. By the end of 1791, the discount rate was often 20% or more. These limits on the bills' practical use, and further issues eventually totalling 3.75 billion francs, coupled with the organized opposition of counter-revolutionaries, led to their losing value. Patriotic revolutionaries blamed the assignats' depreciation on foreign conspiracies. Dillaye wrote that the British, Belgian, and Swiss counterfeited the currency industrially: "Seventeen manufacturing establishments were in full operation in London, with a force of four hundred men devoted to the production of false and forged Assignats."
After the outbreak of war, the fall of the monarchy, and the declaration of a Republic, the National Convention mandated that bills and coins exchange on par, but this law could never be enforced. Instead, the assignats continued depreciating. Rising prices and food shortages exacerbated public unrest. Bills such as the Maximum Price Act of 1793 aimed to address this situation. The Thermidorian Convention lifted the Maximum Price Act in the name of "economic freedom" and the assignats lost almost all value over the next year. by June 1794 the total number of assignats aggregated nearly 8 billion, of which only 2,464 million had returned to the treasury and been destroyed. The extension of the "maximum" to all commodities only increased the confusion. Trade was paralysed and all manufacturing establishments were closed down. By 1796 the issues had reached 45.5 billion francs, excluding counterfeits, and the Directoire issued Mandats, a currency in the form of land warrants to replace the assignats, although these too quickly failed and were received back by the state at a steep discount. Napoleon opposed all forms of fiat currency. By the 1830s–1840s, the assignats and other papers issued during the Revolution had become collectors' items.
Between 1798 and 1799, the revolutionary French forces established the Roman Republic, which also issued assignats (Italian: assegnati). They were issued by the law of 23 Fructidor VI (14 Sept 1798). The currency used was paolo or giulio, the older currency of the Papal States. Roman Republic also issued coins denominated in baiocco and scudo.
The term assignat is similar to the Russian word assignatsia which means "banknote". Assignatsionny rubl (assignation ruble) was used in Russia from 1769 until 1 January 1849. This had no connection to the French Revolution.
Assignation ruble (Russian: ассигнационный рубль; assignatsionny rubl) was the first paper currency of Russia. It was used from 1769 until 1849. Assignation ruble had a parallel circulation with the silver ruble; there was an ongoing market exchange rate for these two currencies. In later period, the value of the Assignation ruble was considerably below that of the silver ruble.Biens nationaux
The biens nationaux were properties confiscated during the French Revolution from the Catholic Church, the monarchy, émigrés, and suspected counter-revolutionaries for "the good of the nation".
Biens means "goods", both in the sense of "objects" and in the sense of "benefits". Nationaux means "of the nation". The phrase is in middle French form, and is in the nominative case, so it literally means both "national things" and "benefits for the nation". This can be summarized as "things for the good of the nation", or simply "national goods".
The possessions of the Roman Catholic Church were declared national property by the decree of November 2, 1789. These were sold to resolve the financial crisis that caused the Revolution. Later, the properties of the Crown were given the same treatment.
The concept of national property was later extended to the property of the émigrés, and the suspected counter-revolutionaries, which were confiscated from March 30, 1792, and sold after the decree of July 27.Château de Madrid
The Château de Madrid was a Renaissance building in France. It was built in Neuilly, on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, near Paris in the early 16th century. It fell into disuse in the 17th and 18th centuries and was almost completely demolished in the 1790s.Consolidated Third
The Consolidated Third (French: le tiers consolidé) is the name given in France to the 1797 repudiation of public debt of which only one third was guaranteed.
In 1797, France faced a debt load of 4 billion francs, much higher than the previous peak in 1715, and a new record. Moreover, the country was experiencing a phase of hyperinflation due, in part, to Gresham's law thanks to the over-printing of Assignat, which lowered purchasing power.
Due to this, the French Directory and the Minister of Finance, Dominique-Vincent Ramel-Nogaret, on 30 September 1797, issued one-time only paper bonds that would be redeemable for national lands; similar to what the Assignat was originally before it became a paper currency The value of these bonds was only one third of the value of the national debt, thus being a form of Debt consolidation.
This would represent a repudiation of most of the state's debt, and a bankruptcy of two-thirds of the debt, leading to the euphemism of the remaining being a consolidated third.First White Terror
The White Terror was a period during the French Revolution in 1795, when a wave of violent attacks swept across much of France. The victims of this violence were people identified as being associated with the Reign of Terror – followers of Robespierre and Marat, and members of local Jacobin clubs. The violence was perpetrated primarily by those whose relatives or associates had been victims of the Great Terror, or whose lives and livelihoods had been threatened by the government and its supporters before the Thermidorean Reaction. Principally these were, in Paris, the Muscadins, and in the countryside, monarchists, supporters of the Girondins, those who opposed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and those otherwise hostile to the Jacobin political agenda. The Great Terror had been largely an organised political programme, based on laws such as the Law of 22 Prairial, and enacted through official institutions such as the Revolutionary Tribunal, but the White Terror was essentially a series of uncoordinated attacks by local activists who shared common perspectives but no central organisation. In particular locations, there were however more organised counter-revolutionary movements such as the Companions of Jehu in Lyon and the Companions of the Sun in Provence. The name 'White Terror' derives from the white cockades worn in the hats of royalists.Flight to Varennes
The royal Flight to Varennes (French: Fuite à Varennes) during the night of 20–21 June 1791 was a significant episode in the French Revolution in which King Louis XVI of France, his queen Marie Antoinette, and their immediate family unsuccessfully attempted to escape from Paris in order to initiate a counter-revolution at the head of loyal troops under royalist officers concentrated at Montmédy near the frontier. They escaped only as far as the small town of Varennes, where they were arrested after having been recognized at their previous stop in Sainte-Menehould.
This incident was a turning point after which popular hostility towards the French monarchy as an institution, as well as towards the king and queen as individuals, became much more pronounced. The king's attempted flight provoked charges of treason that ultimately led to his execution in 1793.
The failure of the escape plans was due to a series of misadventures, delays, misinterpretations, and poor judgments. Much was due to the King's indecision; he repeatedly postponed the schedule, allowing small problems to become big ones. Furthermore, he misjudged popular support for the traditional monarchy. He thought that only radicals in Paris were promoting a revolution that the people as a whole rejected. He believed, mistakenly, that he was beloved by the rural peasants and the common people.
The king's flight was traumatic for France, inciting a wave of emotions that ranged from anxiety to violence and panic. Everyone was aware that foreign intervention was imminent. The realization that the king had effectually repudiated the revolutionary reforms made up to that point came as a shock to people who, until then, had seen him as a fundamentally well-meaning monarch who governed as a manifestation of God's will. Republicanism, from being merely a subject of coffeehouse debate, suddenly became the dominant ideal of revolutionary leaders.French Directory
The Directory or Directorate (French: le Directoire) was a five-member committee which governed France from 2 November 1795, when it replaced the Committee of Public Safety, until 9 November 1799, when it was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Coup of 18 Brumaire, and replaced by the French Consulate. It gave its name to the final four years of the French Revolution.
The Directory was continually at war with foreign coalitions which at different times included Britain, Austria, Prussia, the Kingdom of Naples, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It annexed Belgium and the left bank of the Rhine, while Bonaparte conquered a large part of Italy. The Directory established 196 short-lived sister republics modelled after France, in Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The conquered cities and states were required to send to France huge amounts of money, as well as art treasures, which were used to fill the new Louvre museum in Paris. An army led by Bonaparte tried to conquer Egypt and marched as far as Saint-Jean-d'Acre in Syria. The Directory defeated a resurgence of the War in the Vendée, the royalist-led civil war in the Vendée region, but failed in its venture to support the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and create an Irish Republic.
The French economy was in continual crisis during the Directory. At the beginning, the treasury was empty; the paper money, the Assignat, had fallen to a fraction of its value, and prices soared. The Directory stopped printing assignats and restored the value of the money, but this caused a new crisis; prices and wages fell, and economic activity slowed to a standstill.
In its first two years, the Directory concentrated on ending the excesses of the Jacobin Reign of Terror; mass executions stopped, and measures taken against exiled priests and royalists were relaxed. The Jacobin political club was closed and the government crushed an armed uprising planned by the Jacobins and an early socialist revolutionary, François-Noël Babeuf, known as "Gracchus Babeuf". However, following the discovery of a royalist conspiracy including a prominent general, Jean-Charles Pichegru, the Jacobins took charge of the new Councils and hardened the measures against the Church and émigrés. The Jacobins took two additional seats in the Directory, hopelessly dividing it.
In 1799, after several defeats, French victories in the Netherlands and Switzerland restored the French military position, but the Directory had lost the support of all the political factions. Bonaparte returned from Egypt in October, and was engaged by the Abbé Sieyès and others to carry out a parliamentary coup d'état on 8–9 November 1799. The coup abolished the Directory, and replaced it with the French Consulate led by Bonaparte.French First Republic
In the history of France, the First Republic (French: Première République), officially the French Republic (République française), was founded on 22 September 1792 during the French Revolution. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First Empire in 1804 under Napoleon, although the form of the government changed several times. This period was characterized by the fall of the monarchy, the establishment of the National Convention and the Reign of Terror, the Thermidorian Reaction and the founding of the Directory, and, finally, the creation of the Consulate and Napoleon's rise to power.French franc
The franc (; French: [fʁɑ̃]; sign: F or Fr), also commonly distinguished as the French franc (FF), was a currency of France. Between 1360 and 1641, it was the name of coins worth 1 livre tournois and it remained in common parlance as a term for this amount of money. It was reintroduced (in decimal form) in 1795. It was revalued in 1960, with each new franc (NF) being worth 100 old francs. The NF designation was continued for a few years before the currency returned to being simply the franc; the French continued to reference and value items in terms of the old franc (equivalent to the new centime) until the introduction of the euro in 1999 (for accounting purposes) and 2002 (for coins and banknotes). The French franc was a commonly held international reserve currency of reference in the 19th and 20th centuries.French livre
The livre (English: pound) was the currency of Kingdom of France and its predecessor state of West Francia from 781 to 1794. Several different livres existed, some concurrently. The livre was the name of both units of account and coins.Jacques Necker
Jacques Necker (IPA: [ʒak nɛkɛʁ]; 30 September 1732 – 9 April 1804) was a banker of Genevan origin who became a finance minister for Louis XVI and a French statesman. Necker played a key role in French history before and during the first period of the French Revolution.Necker held the finance post between 1777-1781 and "is remembered today for taking the unprecedented step in 1781 of making public the country’s budget, a novelty in an absolute monarchy where the state of finances had always been kept a secret." Necker was dismissed within a few months. By 1788 the inexorable compounding of interest on the national debt brought France to a fiscal crisis. Necker was recalled to royal service. When he was dismissed on 11 July 1789 it caused the Storming of the Bastille. Within two days Necker was recalled by the king and the assembly. Necker entered France in triumph and tried to accelerate the tax reform process. Faced with the opposition of the Constituent Assembly he resigned in September 1790 to a reaction of general indifference.
Necker, apparently a constitutional monarchist, also a political economist and a moralist wrote a severe critique of the new principle of equality before the law. Necker fully embraced the label of moderate and the concept of the golden mean.Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI (French pronunciation: [lwi sɛːz]; 23 August 1754 – 21 January 1793), born Louis-Auguste, was the last King of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as Citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new Dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.
The first part of his reign was marked by attempts to reform the French government in accordance with Enlightenment ideas. These included efforts to abolish serfdom, remove the taille, and increase tolerance toward non-Catholics. The French nobility reacted to the proposed reforms with hostility, and successfully opposed their implementation. Louis implemented deregulation of the grain market, advocated by his economic liberal minister Turgot, but it resulted in an increase in bread prices. In periods of bad harvests, it would lead to food scarcity which would prompt the masses to revolt. From 1776, Louis XVI actively supported the North American colonists, who were seeking their independence from Great Britain, which was realised in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. The ensuing debt and financial crisis contributed to the unpopularity of the Ancien Régime. This led to the convening of the Estates-General of 1789. Discontent among the members of France's middle and lower classes resulted in strengthened opposition to the French aristocracy and to the absolute monarchy, of which Louis and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, were viewed as representatives. Increasing tensions and violence were marked by events such as the storming of the Bastille, during which riots in Paris forced Louis to definitively recognize the legislative authority of the National Assembly. Louis XVI was iniciated into masonic lodge Trois-Frères à l'Orient de la Cour.
Louis's indecisiveness and conservatism led some elements of the people of France to view him as a symbol of the perceived tyranny of the Ancien Régime, and his popularity deteriorated progressively. His disastrous flight to Varennes in June 1791, four months before the constitutional monarchy was declared, seemed to justify the rumors that the king tied his hopes of political salvation to the prospects of foreign intervention. The credibility of the king was deeply undermined, and the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic became an ever-increasing possibility. Despite his lack of popular approbation, Louis XVI did abolish the death penalty for deserters, as well as the labor tax, which had compelled the French lower classes to spend two weeks out of the year working on buildings and roads.In a context of civil and international war, Louis XVI was suspended and arrested at the time of the Insurrection of 10 August 1792; one month later, the absolute monarchy was abolished; the First French Republic was proclaimed on 21 September 1792. He was tried by the National Convention (self-instituted as a tribunal for the occasion), found guilty of high treason, and executed by guillotine on 21 January 1793, as a desacralized French citizen under the name of "Citizen Louis Capet," in reference to Hugh Capet, the founder of the Capetian dynasty – which the revolutionaries interpreted as Louis's family name. Louis XVI was the only King of France ever to be executed, and his death brought an end to more than a thousand years of continuous French monarchy. Both of his sons died in childhood, before the Bourbon Restoration; his only child to reach adulthood, Marie Therese, was given over to the Austrians in exchange for French prisoners of war, eventually dying childless in 1851.Mandats territoriaux
Mandats territoriaux were paper bank notes issued as currency by the French Directory in 1796 to replace the assignats which had become virtually worthless. They were land-warrants supposedly redeemable in the lands confiscated from royalty, the clergy and the church after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. In February 1796, 800,000,000 francs of mandats were issued as legal tender to replace the 24,000,000,000 francs of assignats then outstanding. In all about 2,500,000,000 francs of mandats were issued. They were heavily counterfeited and their value depreciated rapidly within six months. In February 1797, they lost their legal tender quality and by May were worth virtually nothing.Mont Orgueil
Mont Orgueil (Jerriais: 'Mount Pride' or 'Haughty Mount') is a castle in Jersey that overlooks the harbour of Gorey. It is also called Gorey Castle by English-speakers, and lé Vièr Châté (the Old Castle) by Jèrriais-speakers.Pierre Gaspard Chaumette
Pierre Gaspard Chaumette (24 May 1763 – 13 April 1794) was a French politician of the Revolutionary
The ruble or rouble (; Russian: рубль, IPA: [rublʲ]) is or was a currency unit of a number of countries in Eastern Europe closely associated with the economy of Russia. Originally, the ruble was the currency unit of Imperial Russia and then the Soviet Union (as the Soviet ruble), and it is currently the currency unit of Russia (as the Russian ruble) and Belarus (as the Belarussian ruble). The Russian ruble is also used in two regions of Georgia, which are considered by Russia as partially recognised states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In the past, several other countries influenced by Russia and the Soviet Union had currency units that were also named rubles. One ruble is divided into 100 kopeks (Russian: копейка, IPA: [kɐˈpʲejkə]).Southern Netherlands
The Southern Netherlands, also called the Catholic Netherlands, was the part of the Low Countries largely controlled by Spain (1556–1714), later Austria (1714–1794), and occupied then annexed by France (1794–1815). The region also included a number of smaller states that were never ruled by Spain or Austria: the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, the Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy, the County of Bouillon, the County of Horne and the Princely Abbey of Thorn. The Southern Netherlands were part of the Holy Roman Empire until the whole area was annexed by Revolutionary France.
The Southern Netherlands comprised most of modern-day Belgium and Luxembourg, some parts of the Netherlands and Germany (the region of Upper-Gueldres, now divided between Germany and the modern Dutch Province of Limburg and in 1713 largely ceded to Prussia and the Bitburg area in Germany, then part of Luxembourg) as well as, until 1678, most of the present Nord-Pas-de-Calais region and the Longwy area in northern France.Timeline of the French Revolution
The following is a timeline of the French Revolution.Varennes-en-Argonne
Varennes-en-Argonne or simply Varennes is a commune in the Meuse department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.