1902 Encyclopedia > France > France: Finance; Army and Navy.

(Part 4)


Finance. Army and Navy.


All the agents who have the charge of collecting taxes are under the minister of finance, who, besides, distributes to the other departments the sums necessary for their expenses. In each department a tresorier payeur general receives the taxes raised in his district, and is accountable for them to the central office of the treasury at Paris. These tresoriers payeurs generauz have a salary of 6000 francs a year, but they also get a percentage on the amount of taxes collected, and are allowed to transact private banking business with the funds of the state, as well as with their own. As security they have, before entering on their duties, to deposit with the treasury a sum, which varies with the importance of their situation, but on an average amounts to 800,000 francs. A part of their business is to pay the creditors of the state in their respective departments. They are assisted in their work by receveurs particuliers in each arrondissement, except that in which the tresorier payeur general resides. These officials have a salary of 2400 francs a year, and a percentage on the amount that they collect. The security which they are bound to give is five times their total income.

The taxes that pass through the hands first of the receveurs particuliers, then of the tresoriers payeurs generaux, and finally into the treasury, are of two kinds, direct and indirect. The land tax, the poll and rent-tax, the tax on doors and windows, the licence tax, and the tax on money invested in public funds or in bonds of private companies (valeurs mobilieres) are now the chief sources of the direct revenue of the French treasury. The land-tax or contribution fonciere is assessed on the net revenue of landed property. In order to obtain as correct a variation as possible, a land register book was commenced in 1821, in which every piece of ground has to be described, with its extent and value, and the name of the owner. This work is not yet quite completed, and the continual changes which occur in the ownership of holdings, as well as in value or size, will always prevent it from being perfect. As it is, this gives the average net revenue of assessed land in France as amounting to 1,053,907,113 francs 56 centimes. In 1874 this yield to the treasury a revenue of 169,905,814 francs. Each citizen owes to the state the value of three days’ work; this is the contribution personnelle (poll tax). The value of a day’s work varies with the districts; but it cannot exceed 1 franc 50 centimes (1s. 2 _ d.) or be less than 50 centimes (5d.) Every proprietor or tenant, except paupers, soldiers in service, and foreign diplomatic or consular agents, is assessed in proportion to the rent of the house he lives in. This tax, which is collected along with the preceding one, is distinctively called contribution mobiliere. In 1875 the contribution personnelle mobiliere gave a return of about 56 millions of francs.

The tax on doors and windows rises in proportion to the population of the communes or towns, the average being 30 centimes (3d.) for one aperture in communes having under 5000 inhabitants, and I franc (10d.) in those of 100,000 inhabitants and upwards. In 1871 the 8,467,483 houses in France were divided thus:


The value of the assessment was 43,275,000 francs in 1875; but the enormous number of houses having only one door, and of those having two doors without a window, or one door and one window, tells strongly against the wisdom of such a tax.

The licence tax is imposed on every person carrying on any business whatever; physicians, bankers, and manufacturers are subject to this tax, as well as the humblest shopkeeper. On the 1st January 1873, 1,529,363 names were on the rolls as patentes, and the amount produced by the tax was for the same year 73,726,331 francs.

A law of the 29th June 1872 has established a tax of 3per cent. on the income derived from money invested in the public funds and from bonds and shares in commercial or industrial companies. This tax, added to other duties previously established, as the stamp and the duty of transmission, raises to 7 _ per cent. the charges that this kind of properly has to bear.

These various taxes are collected by agents called percepteurs, under the orders of the receveurs particuliers or tresoriers payeurs generaux. Their number is 7000,- hardly enough for the amount and intricacy of the work they have to do. They are paid, not by a salary, but by a percentage on the money they raise. The collecting of other less important taxes, as the tax on mortmain, on mines, on weights and measures, on houses and carriages, on billiards and clubs, is also entrusted to them.

The excise revenue, or contributions indirectes, is managed by a central office at Paris, with a directeur general, three administrateurs, and 94 other officials and clerks of various ranks. Each department has a directeur, assisted by inspecteurs, sous-directeurs, and controleurs. Under this head are comprised the taxes on intoxicating drinks, salt, tobacco, gunpowder, on public coaches and railways, on gold and silver work, on sugar, paper, matches, soap, stearine, salad oil, receipt stamps; also the navigation dues, bridge tolls, and a few other special taxes of little importance. The excise appears on the budget of 1877 for a sum of 1,039,293,800 francs. The taxes on paper, soap, stearine, oil, matches, &c., have been established in consequence of the war of 1870-71. A numerous staff is employed to collect these duties. Besides the highfunctionaries mentioned above and their clerks, there are 1795 receveurs ambulants, with 4637 commis; alcohol, matches, paper, salt, &c., require 218 officials; 200 are employed to collect the navigation tax; 2038 are attached to the manufactures of sugar, &c. The total number is above 19,000.

For a long time the customs (douane) were only a branch of the administration of the contributions indirectes, but since 1869 they have formed a special office, at the head of which is a directeur general, with a salary of 25,000 francs, assisted by two administrateurs and 93 clerks. As far as this office is concerned, France is divided into 26 districts, administered by 26 directeurs, residing at Dunkirk, Lille, Valenciennes, Charleville, Nancy, Epinal, Besancon, Bourg, Lyons, Chamnbery, Nice, marceilles, Montpellier, Perpignan, Bayonne, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nantes, Vannes, Brest, St Brieuc, Caen, Le havre, Boulogne, and Bastia. These directors have under them 81 imspectros, 71 sub- inspectors, and 130 clerks of all ranks. An armed force, composed of 245 captains, 469 lieutenants, 4056 non-commissioned officers, and 14,207 privates (preposes), is distributed along the frontiers to prevent smuggling; for the same purpose 1257 sailors, commanded by 371 patrons and sous-patrons, keep guard along the coasts. The customs contributed to the budget of 1877 a sum of 268, 355,800 francs, and their collection cost 30,362,105 francs.

There are still other sources from which money flows into the treasury. The administration of the enregistrement, timbre, et domains yielded 634,605,451 francs in 1877. This sum is made up – (1) by the fees charged for the registration of all legal documents and deeds; (2) by shooting and hunting licences; (3) by the sale of stamps; (4) by the revenues and sales of state property; and (5) by fines of various sorts and the cost to the public of legal proceedings. From this amount 19,038,400 francs must be deducted, being the expenditure required to pay the expense of collection. The public forests and those managed by the state gave a return of 38,548,680 francs, and cost 12,995,732 francs. For all purposes connected with these taxes the country is divided into 32 districts, administered by as many conservateurs, whose residences are Paris, Rouen, Dijon, Nancy, Amiens, Troyes, Epinal, Chalons-sur-Marne, Besancon, Lons-le-Saulnier, Grenoble, Alencon, Bar-le-Duc, macon, Toulouse,, tours, Bourges, Moulins, Pau, Rennes, Niort, Carcassonne, Aix, Nimes, Aurilac, Bordeaux, Ajaccio, Chaumont, Vesoul, Chambery, Nice, and Valence. The post office department employs about 32,000 officials, at a cost of about 71,500,000 francs, and yielded 116,126,000 francs in 1877. The telegraphs service is under the minister of the interior. In 1872, 123,000 kilometers (76,430 miles) of wires were laid along distances of 44,965 kilometers (27,940 miles). In 1877 the total income from this source amounted to 16,600,000 francs. The income from other less important resources, which cannot here be noticed in detail, may be estimated at not much less than 2 millions of francs.

The total income of the public treasury in France, including the revenues of the departments and communes, is above 3,000,000,000 francs (120,000,000 pounds) , which is more than any other nation has to pay for the expenses of its government; and yet this enormous sum has not been sufficient to meet the wants of the state, for repeated loans have constantly increased the public debt. Not taking into account the petty payments of all sorts that Government has always to make, the public debt is divided into funded (dette consolidee) and floating debt (dette flottante). The funded debt is not subject to reimbursement, but only to payment of a certain interest fixed by law. This debt, which was arranged by the law of the 9th Vendemiaire, year VI. (27th September 1797), to liquidate the old debts of the monarchy, then amounted to 40,216,000 francs of interest to be paid yearly to the creditors. From 1800 to 1814 it increased by 23,091,635 francs; and the Government of the Restoration added 101,260,463 francs, making a total of 164,568,100 francs in interest. Louis Philippe carried it to 176,845,367 francs, and at the time of the coup d’etat, it amounted to 230,768,863 francs. The second empire, during a period of eighteen years, created 168,187,663 francs of consols, thus charging France with an annual payment of 298,956,526 francs. As an unavoidable consequence of the Prussian war, the funded debt has been still further increased, so that the interest was 748,593,642 francs in 1874, and 747,571,030 francs in 1877, which gives an average of about 21 francs per head of the population.

The floating debt, which the Government contracts either by receiving private deposits and using them for its needs or by issuing bills of exchange called bons du tresor, amounted in 1872 to 761,000,000 francs. This part of the public debt, including some other items under the name of capitaux remboursables a divers titres, appears in the budget of 1877 for the much lower figure of 300,226,686 francs.

The following table gives a summary of the budget proposed for 1877: -


Army and Navy

The principle that every citizen is a soldier is the foundation of the military system of France; but it has received a new force and a more complete application from the law of the 27th July 1872. According to this law, every young man of twenty years of age, free from bodily defects owes to the country five years of active service, five years in the territorial army, and six years in the reserve of the territorial army. The chief causes of exemption are physical infirmities and diminutive stature (the standard of height being 1 meter 54 centimeters of 60-631 inches). In a family of orphans, or of a widow, or of a septuagenarian, or of blind parents, the eldest son is also exempt. If the eldest son is himself blind or invalid, the next one enjoys the privilege. Exemptions are likewise granted to brothers of soldiers on active service, or that have died when so engaged, or that have been pensioned, and to the elder of two brothers who should, on account of their age, be included in the same levy. Men serving in the navy, students of the Polytechnic school, of the Ecole forestiere, Ecole des Langues orientales vivantes, and Ecole des Charles, public teaches, and ministers of any of the religions recognized by the state are not called upon, but must serve the public in their respective capacities during a period which varies from five to ten years. In 1875, out of a total number of 283,768, 72,065 were exempted, 29,797 of them because of unfitness to serve, and 30,073 were deducted from the contingent as serving the state in some of the ways mentioned above. The law authorize young men who hold the diploma of bachelier, or a certificate bearing that their studies have been carried on at a public school to a certain fixed standard (certificat d’etudes), and those who pass a special examination held for the purpose, to engage for one year as voluntary recruits, at the end of which, they are sent home, provided they can give evidence of having received a good military training; but they are always, as long as they have not served for the time fixed by law, subject to be called out again in case of need. In 1875, 9804 men took advantage of this partial exemption. Voluntary enlistments are also permitted in the French army, which are binding for a period of not less than two years and not more than five. Many soldiers who have completed their legal time of service contract a re-engagement. Such engages volontaires receive extra pay, but no bounty as formerly. They numbered 24,091 in 1875.

The minister of wart is assisted at Paris by 2 general directors, a brigade major (chef d’etat major), a historiographer, a law-agent, and 434 other functionaries of various ranks, attended by 108 servants; the whole costs 1,895,350 francs a year.

Under the control of this central office, the army is divided into 19 corps, quartered in 19 territorial districts, Algeria being one of them. The infantry is composed of 144 regiments (three battalions of six companies each forming a regiment), numbering in all 225,111 men; 30 battalions of chasseurs a pied (light infantry), with 7 companies in each battalion, giving a total of 18,889 men; 4 regiments of zouaves, 12,000 men; 3 African battalions of light infantry, 3000 men; 5 compagnies de discipline, 1000 men; 1 foreign regiment, 3000 men; and 3 regiments of natives (Algerians), 9000 men. The cavalry consists of 75 regiments, viz., 12 cuirassiers, 26dragoons, 19 chasseurs and 11 hussars, - numbering 47,498 men; 4 regiments of chasseurs d’Afrique, 3812 men; and 3 regiments of spahis, 2134 men. The ordnance comprises 38 regiments, each of them having 3 batteries served by foot soldiers, and 6 mounted batteries, - in all 42,500 men; 1 regiments of pontoon soldiers, 1877 men; 15 companies of workmen (ouvriers) and pyrotechnists (artificiers), in all 2215 men;50compagnies du train, 3870 men. There are 3 regiments of engineers, numbering 9000 men. Finally, 8000 men, distributed into 64 companies, are specially charged with the equipages militaries. The gendarmerie and the republican guard of Paris (mounted police) are also, for all military duties, under the orders of the minister of war, and now form a corps of about 40,000 men. France has thus in time of peace an effective force of about 440,000 men.

The French army is commanded by a staff of 5 marshals, 121 generals of divisions, and 200 generals of brigade. There are besides 81generals of division and 197 generals of brigade on the rolls of the reserve.

The following table shows the division of France into 19 military districts: -


The national guard no longer exists; one of the first measures of the Government of M. Thiers, after crushing the Parisian insurrection of 1871, was to suppress it.

Some institutions must be mentioned here as attached to the war department, and completing the military organization of France. The Hotel des Invalides was founded by Louis XIV. as a house of refuge for old infirm soldiers of all grades; but the number of the inmates is always decreasing, as old soldiers now generally prefer to live at home on their pensions and private resources, rather than to live in common apart from their families and under military discipline. In 1875 the Invalides numbered only 642; but the same year the maintenance of the Hotel cost the state 1,123,053 francs. The order of the Legion of Honor, founded by Bonaparte in 1802, embraces both soldiers and civilians among its members. It is composed of nightys (chevaliers), officers, commanders, grand-officers, and grand-crosses. The chief of the government of France has the title of grand master, and is the head of the order, which is managed by a grand chancellor and a council, the members of which are appointed by the president of the republic, as well as all the legionnaires, whose number is now about 38,500. a military medal, with a yearly pension of 100 francs, has been awarded, since 1852, to private soldiers and non-commissioned officers who have distinguished themselves in the service or on the field.

Under the minister of the navy and the control office at Paris, which employs 260 officials, there are five maritime prefects, one in each of the maritime arrondissements of France. These are – Cherbourg, with the subdivisions of Dunkirk and Le Havre; Brest, with St Servan; Lorient, with nantes; Rochefort, with Bordeaux; and Toulon, with Marseilles, Nice, and Bastia.

The naval officers in active service are – 2 admirals, 18 vice-admirals, 30 rear-admirals, 343 captains of ships or frigates, and about 1377 lieutenants and officers of inferior rank. There are besides 14 vice-admirals and 20 rear-admirals on the rolls of the reserve.

The recruiting of sailors for the navy is secured by the inscription maritime, estabvlished by Colbert in 1681, and regulated since by various decrees and laws. According to the law as it now stands, all fishermen and men employed on board merchant ships must have their names inscribed in a special register, and are bound to give, whenever required, a minimum of three years’ service in the navy. In 1873 this register contained 151,830 names. A special body of ordnance, called artillerie de marine, is composed of 243 officers and 4216 soldiers, part of whom are in garrison in the colonies. The general staff of the naval ordnance at Paris is composed of a general of division, 2 generals of brigade in active service and 2 in the reserve, 1 colonel, 2 lieutenant-colonels, and a few subaltern officers. The administration is divided into 6directions, the seats of which are Cherbourg, Brest, Rochefort, Toulon, Lorient, and La Villenueve.

The marines in the fleet number about 15,000, divided into 4 regiments with 780 officers, and a staff consisting of 2 generals of division, 4 generals of brigade, 1 chief of battalion, and 3 aides-de-camp.

The fleet consisted in 1876 of 110 vessels of all sizes (10 of them iron-clads of first and second rank), armed with 529 guns, and of a reserve comprising 18 ironclads and 60 other vessels.

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