The bankers of Brumaire: the financiers behind Napoleon's ascent
Stokle, Mark (2020) The bankers of Brumaire: the financiers behind Napoleon's ascent. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow. Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.
Abstract Napoleon Bonaparte’s relation with bankers and military contractors is not the first aspect which springs to mind when one reflects on his rise to power. And yet, the support of the influential business lobby and its political allies played a determining role in his toppling of the Directory – the last French revolutionary government – on 18-19 Brumaire (9-10 Nov. 1799). Who then were these financiers who wielded such power? What was their relationship with Bonaparte and the directorial regime? And why did they forsake the Revolution and support the establishment of military dictatorship in France? By adopting a financial perspective and exploring the opaque networks connecting businessmen, politicians and military leaders during the directorial period, this thesis develops new interpretations of revolutionary events and assesses the influence exerted by leading magnates over the state’s political and economic policies. The thesis begins with Napoleon’s initiation in the business world by examining his financial apprenticeship with the Armée d’Italie’s civilian commissioners and private financiers during the 1796-1797 Italian Campaign. It then moves on to look at how elite banking circles reacted to moments of political crisis by conducting a detailed evaluation of the Caisse des Comptes Courants’s activities – the leading Parisian discount bank under the Directory. This analysis draws on a wide range of previously unpublished material from the Banque de France’s archives and relies on little known records the Treasury was forced to publish following the outbreak of the notorious Compagnie Dijon scandal. A case study of Neuchâtel banker Jean-Frédéric Perregaux is provided to illustrate how financiers remained at the heart of power from the Terror to the advent of the Napoleonic regime. The second part of the thesis presents an extensive review of the military contracting system under the Directory, which is followed by five case studies of army suppliers (the Michel brothers, Michel Simons, Pierre-Louis Hanet-Cléry, Armand Seguin and the Compagnie Bodin). These demonstrate how corrupt business practices, exploitation of foreign territories and aggressive speculations on currency and real estate corrupted the Directory from within and left it at the mercy of a looming military takeover. All these various facets of the activities of financiers converge in a final section which analyses Brumaire from a financial angle and traces the role of bankers in keeping Napoleon’s regime afloat with cash advances and establishing the Banque de France as their reward. Extensive supporting information is provided in the Biographical Index, the appendices and a set of maps.