by Nikitin, Marc
University of Orleans - UFR DEG
Institut d'Administration des Entreprises
Under the Ancien Regime France, the collection of taxes was a matter entrusted by the King to businessmen. After several unfruitful attempts to exercise greater control over his revenue streams, the King finally introduced reforms in 1788 to both centralise the Treasury and to use double-entry bookkeeping. The Revolution confirmed this orientation and, after 1815, a modern public sector accounting system was progressively established in order to service the nascent nation. Soon later, Britain also started to rebuild its public sector accounting system and, as will be shown, a mutual French-British influence existed in the building of the national financial systems. Behind these modern public sector accounting systems lies the influential role played by Count Mollien, both in France and Britain.
Keywords: public sector accounting; nineteenth century; France; Britain.
Public sector accounting is a system that enables the representatives of the Nation (i.e. Parliament) to control public revenue and spending.' A fully transparent working of the system is an illusion, if only on account of the huge size and economic weight of the States. All it takes to be convinced is an examination of the regular reports published by the various bodies in charge of investigations in this field. Such reports repeatedly complain of the waste of public money and some popular TV programmes even specialise in blowing the whistle because this everrenewing topic is of interest to all citizens. However, there is no denying that government and administration accountability has undergone tremendous changes throughout the decades and centuries.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the circumstances under which double-entry bookkeeping was introduced in the public sector in France and Britain in 1815 and 1829 respectively,2 so as to ensure the exercise of better control by Parliament over public finance.3 Certainly, the introduction of a new accounting technique came after reforms whose roots can be found in the previous century. These reforms were about the centralisation and "nationalisation" of the various bodies that collected and distributed public funds.
When the two big nation-states in Europe came into being, they carried out extensive reforms of their public accounting systems. It even seems likely that such systems spread to many other European nations.4 This leads one to write about "the birth of a modern public sector accounting system". Moreover, the French example shows that such were particularly robust since their general framework was retained for over a century.
Up to now, legal historians have not dealt a great deal with the introduction of mercantile accounting in public finance. Although, around the period of time studied, debates on accounting techniques were numerous and bitter. Many of those involved in such accounting changes discussed at length the advantages of doubleentry bookkeeping over all other recording techniques.
Concerning public finance, the mutual influence of France and Britain cannot be overlooked while one individual played a key role, namely Count NicolasFranqois Mollien (1758-1850). As a young civil servant in Ancien Regime France, he took part in the drafting of the French-English free trade treaty in 1786 and was still consulted 45 years later by John Bowring when the latter was asked by the British Parliament to draft a report on the French public sector accounting system. France
The history of public sector accounting in France has been addressed by a number of authors. For example, Marion (1927) issued a comprehensive Histoirefinanci&e de la France (A History of French Finances), Claude M6riot (1954) wrote a report on Histoire de la comptabilite publique au XVIlleme siecle (the History of Public Sector Accounting in 18th Century France), Bosher (1970) described how public finance went From Business to Bureaucracy between 1770 and 1795 and PierreFrancois Pinaud (1990) concerned himself with the Receveurs generaux des finances (Receivers General). Each of these historians mention the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping in public finance but owing to their own particular interests, none of them place this event in the limelight. Yet, this change in accounting technique is a symbol of major change in the relationship between public power, citizens and their representatives. To better understand this change, an examination of the correspondence and the memoirs of Mollien and d'Audiffret has occurred.5 These men were, respectively, the ones who gave the decisive start and the drafter of the laws which stem from it.
Three different periods can be distinguished to describe the introduction of double-entry accounting in French public finance. The first period, stretching approximately over the Ancien Regime, is characterised by intentions and attempts. The second period embraces the scene of decisive battles and is much shorter and takes in the Revolution and Empire periods. The last period starts with the Restoration6 (of monarchy in 1815) and witnesses the birth of a modern public sector accounting system, formally completed with the law of 31 May 1838.
The Ancient Regime: intentions and endeavours
Throughout this timespan, tax collection was a private matter. The Royal State trusted financiers with the collection of the funds that were necessary to its smooth running. These financiers were very powerful and the handling of public funds rendered them indispensible fundraisers for the different kings. It is therefore easy to understand why the successive kings tried to control their activity, particularly with a regard to improving tax yield and to giving back to the government the free hand it needed on its undertakings.
Double-entry bookkeeping was one of the means to this control. It was the cornerstone of the accounting systems of many merchants insofar as it enabled, on the one hand, to account for the results (profit or loss) of a period and, on the other hand, to check the validity of accounts. Of course, only the second aspect was interesting to those who wanted to introduce double-entry bookkeeping in public finance. Attempts at introducing double-entry in public finance were found as early as 1592 in Spain (Hernandez-Esteve, 1986), in 1604 in the United Provinces on the advice of Simon Stevin (Vlaemminck, 1956, pp.122-4), in Sweden in 1623 (Forrester, 1990, p.310) and in France between 1716 and 1726 (Lemarchand, 1999).
Colbert, Turgot and Necker7 were reported to have views on the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping in public finance, but no evidence of its use has been traced. From the 1770s onward, bigger efforts were made to introduce more coherence in the management of public finance. Of course, it is not a perfectly linear evolution; Bosher (1970) draws a line between two periods: first a decade of reforms (1771-1781), then six years of backlash (1781-1787). Indeed, after the 1771 reforms and the daring steps taken during the first ministerial term of Necker (reform of 1779), the moves of ministers such as Joly de Fleury and Calonne can be considered a regression. The reforms aimed first and foremost at reducing the number of caisses, that is the number of autonomous tax-collection centres, in order to put as many as possible under the direct control of the Royal Treasury officers. Conversely, after the demise of Necker and Joly de Fleury in October 1781 went back to the traditional policy of creating public offices. He thus gave into facility; the more numerous the offices, the easier to obtain advances. However, by so giving back power to all these officers, he reduced the efficiency of tax-collection and public power with it.
In the background of the debates over accounting techniques and caisse organisation, there were different social conflicts, whose ebbing and flowing reflect the showdowns that were still hazy until the last years of the ancien regime. Finally, Cardinal Etienne-Charles Lomenie de Brienne - who in May 1787 replaced Calonne as the General Comptroller of Finances - had the last word in "The general regulation of the King for the handling of the Royal Treasury" issued in Versailles on 30 March 1788.8 Louis XVI ratified the suppression of many caisses and the transfer of their old prerogatives to the Royal Treasury gave some hope of a system operating more in keeping with the interests of the State. He ordered that "the Royal Treasury will be in charge of all receipts and expenditures, and its different departments will be headed by five administrators" (art. 1). The first of these departments, called "caisse generate", dealt with all revenues and the payment of all expenses. The four others were in charge of pensions, refunding royal property, colonies and war expenses, etc. "The caisse generate will have four auxiliary caisses to serve the four other departments to which it will give the necessary funds which will be accounted for every night" (art.4). Lastly, "The books of the caisse generate will be kept by double-entry, and on 31 December of each year, the accounts will be added and stopped to work out the balance of the books, which will have to be done before a deadline of three months at the latest..." (art. 13). Without doubt these steps received the approval of Necker, called back to the affairs as the General Director of Finances on 25 August of the same year.
The Revolution and the Empire: the decisive battles
This section deals with changes made during the Revolution and the implementation of the new system on a progressive basis after the Restoration.
The "nationalisation" of the Treasury during the Revolution
The steps taken by Lomenie de Brienne were confirmed three years later to the day in the decret (decree) of 30 March 1791. This decree trusted the running of the public treasury to a treasury committee. The committee, made up of six commissioners, was divided into six departments whose outlines are close to those defined on 30 March 1788. Each of the four main parts of expenditure was allocated to an auxiliary caisse. Article 12 planned the creation of a central bureau of accounting, headed by one of the six treasury commissioners. The statement of all income and payments was to be prepared through the adoption of double-entry bookkeeping. To this end, the cashier of receipts and the four payers were to give a corresponding statement each day to the commissioner. The procedures seem very close and it is difficult to imagine that in the three-year interval between the two texts a major political revolution occurred and, in addition, the Farm General and indirect taxes were cancelled.
Although the year 1789 is always presented as a major turning point in French history, it seems that in the field of public finance, the wide and sometimes unstable reforms carried out during the Revolution were nothing more than the continuation of a trend which had started much earlier. According to Bosher (1970), between 1770 and 1795 the management of public finances shifted "from business to bureaucracy". The Revolution represented the triumph of bureaucracy as a controlling method. Bosher (1970, p.276) points out a strong steadiness existed in the leaders of the country in their will to organise their control over the financial means that enabled them to strengthen the burgeoning nation. There is indeed a turning point, but it takes a further 25 years to come into play.
Historical accounts of the last decade of the eighteenth century leave the impression of the existence of a great deal of energy and troubles, which only resulted in a return to old solutions. Indirect taxes, restored in 1804, make up about a quarter of the State revenue. The "new" Receivers General aspire to regain the functions of their predecessors;
but the Receivers General, many of whom came from Ancien Regime families of financiers, wanted to rebuild a body of accountants prerevolutionary-style. Their aim was to be money-handlers, like in the past. The more regulations the State tried to impose on their function, the more like wheeler-dealers they became. They had forgotten that they no longer were royal officers, but civil servants (Pinaud, 1990, p.9).
This "back to square one" theory which understates the financial achievements of the French revolution has been challenged by Bosher, 1970. According to Bosher (1970, p.197), the French Revolution was, on the contrary, the scene of the strengthening of the Treasury and of the centralisation of all financial power in the hands of its leaders which had eluded the Ancien Regime monarchs.
In the background of the apparent disorder, all tried to carry out the huge task of rationalisation and "nationalisation" of the financial institutions of the state. When the Directoire came into office in the autumn of 1795, the financial administration of the Republique was largely independent from the private interests and from companies which had maintained the financial disorders and lived at the expense of the general interest under the Ancien Regime (Bosher, 1970, p.231). As stated by Bosher (1970, p.231):
The Treasury was the centre of the system and ordered it. With the disappearance in the French Revolution of independent caisses, of venal offices, of tax farms and of Chambers of Accounts, the Treasury gradually gained strength and its longer payroll testifies to that; 264 clerks in 1789, 490 in 1793, 1090 in 1785, 1246 in April 1796.
Step by step, the Treasury gained control of the whole system so that public fund could be clearly identified and protected from private exploitation.
Nevertheless, at the dawn of the nineteenth century, it could not be argued convincingly that the "nationalisation" of the Treasury gave it the means to fully master all the State's revenue. Many standing accounts waited for their settlement, the '!faiseurs de services" (service providers) and various intermediaries were still a heavy burden on tax yield. Some receivers could still disguise the actual state of their finances to the Treasury because of the absence of an efficient accounting system.
From that time onwards, the influence of Nicolas-Frangois Mollien, was felt. He was one of the technicians Bonaparte took into his team after the "18 Brumaire year VIII" coup d'Etat (1799) to redress the weak and drained public funds. First appointed as one of the managers of the caisse d'amortissement'9 (sinking fund), then the only one in charge a few months later, he introduced double-entry bookkeeping within this body. In 1806 Napoleon made him a Treasury Minister and a Count of Empire in 1808.
One of Mollien's first tasks was to improve the speed and efficiency of the tax collection processes of the State. Upon his arrival in office, the system was such that adipartement (a county) could perfectly have three million francs of receipts and the equivalent amount of expenditure in a given year without being able to compensate both easily. While the Receivers General could invest part of the money they had recovered for their own profit, the Treasury had to advance big sums, since it could not use the ones it already owned in theory. Sometimes, Receivers General attracted by high-income investments were even involved in shady business and squandered part of the public funds.
In July 1806, Mollien prepared a decret to put an end to that. The decret (called theemancipation of the Treasury by Napoleon) stated that from then on, the money recovered through taxes could be used immediately, in the place where it had been collected to pay the regular public expenses. To this end, taxes had to be put in a caisse called caisse de service, which opened a mutual interest account to each accountant (Receiver General). As to the Receivers, they were allowed to benefit from this interest on all the sums they had recovered and handed over to the Treasury before the compulsory deadline. Conversely, they had to pay interest on any tax income that was not used for the public service after this deadline. This clever solution satisfied the Receivers since it provided them with a much safer investment of their advances than ever before. It also satisfied the creditors of the State by ensuring them shorter paying delays and a more fixed term.
In a letter to Roederer,10 Mollien set out his views on relations with receivers:
... To fight the disloyalty and negligence of accountants (that is, receivers), I would also use an approach which is much more efficient than the best methods: in addition to the inescapable sanctions they would receive for the smallest fraud, I would offer them the prospect of a greater benefit from their royalty to me than from any other possible combination ...
It doesn't escape your wisdom nor your judicious analysis that by this simple means, that is, putting part of the public revenue at the disposal of local expenditure, and making the sums left over payable to Paris we manage to distribute locally the full amount of taxes ...
and this pattern of balance, which is so much to the benefit of taxation and trade, in so many ways that it is needless to explain to you, is no longer a problem. It was solved more than six months ago. This combination makes a first equality between public receipts and expenditure in every place, and a second equation between the excess revenue of all of them.
To make the system work, the accounting procedures of the Treasury had to be in line with those of the sinking fund and the newly created caisse de service. The decret prepared in 1807 and enforced after January 1808 dealt with that harmonisation.11 First, the decret set out its main objective:
We want the order of the Treasury's postings to be such that the convenance to the Treasury of each portion of public revenue recovered with the help of tax collectors or r6gie officers, district receivers and Receivers General, be operated everywhere without loss or delay, and that the assistance of these various agents and their relations be accounted for in the Treasury's books, by results able to provide efficient checks on the accuracy of their operations".
Article 18 (Title V) stated that:
Receivers General will keep a detailed general ledger with double-entry bookkeeping in which they will record all their operations day by day, article by article, whatever the nature of those operations, be they for the Treasury or any other public administration.
To ensure the proper working of the new procedures, Mollien set up a central bureau of accounting in his ministry, which he trusted to MM. de St-Didier and d'Audiffret. From what Mollien wrote in his memoirs, Clement (1855, p.483) drew a somewhat hasty conclusion:
after a month, this small administrative revolution was achieved and the new accounting worked smoothly. As a consequence, the receivers' accounts of the public funds were handed out and assessed in the space of a year, whereas it sometimes took over ten years beforehand.
Even though the improvement was substantial, especially compared to the chaos which existed before the Revolution, the enthusiasm of the reformer must be qualified by the remarks of an observer of the way public sector accounting worked. P.A. Godard (1821a, p.v)12 expressed a much more reserved assessment:
Each year, in the Chambre des deputes (the lower chamber) we heard committee spokesmen, and various orators expressing regrets on the presentation of the accounts given by the ministers and about the difficulties faced by those who wanted to examine them closely. The successive finance ministers acknowledged that the accounts had not reached the desirable clarity and simplicity, and in the own words of one of them, it took more than a moment to make the accounting of a great country understandable by all deputes.
The same author (Godard 1821b, p.5), less discreet following his dismissal from the civil service, quoted a circular which stated:
because the general direction of warfood supplies, abolished on 1 September 1814, had never given any account to the Ministry of War for its eight years of service, Sir, a liquidation department was created to work out these accounts. That work which should have been over for a long time, was successively delayed until 1821, for the various reasons already explained in the circulars of the liquidation directors.
However, this did not stop Godard from pointing out in his preface (1821 a, pJj) the progress achieved since the Ancien R6gime.
Whatever the difficulties, the system was functioning and allowed Napol6on to have a clear view on public monies. But there was one improvement left to carry out:
It is all very well to have clarified the management of public funds, and the imperial system can be rightly proud of that. However, it seems that the light was made only for the master. Is that sufficient for the nation? Although the general results of budgets and accounts were given to the Emperor and his ministers, they were kept away from the eyes and judgements of political assemblies".13
The next stage was to be that of publicity.14 The principle had been set up in article 14 of the 1791 Constitution 15 in which "all citizens have the right to see - for themselves or through their representatives - the necessity of the public contribution, the right to consent to it freely and to check on the use made of it". This principle had to wait until 1814, when the deputes were allowed to discuss receipts and expenditure freely.
The progressive implementation of the system after the Restoration
After the Restoration, the return to peace made matters easier for the working of finances. Moreover, beyond the change of political regime, the continuity of direction of public expenditure was ensured by the Marquess Charles-Louis Gaston d'Audiffret, who was hired by Mollien himself in 1806, and who was an inspiring force for the development of public sector accounting regulations in the period to the passing of the law of 1862.
Contrary to Mollien, d'Audiffret*6 was born into a noble family from Dauphin&, on 10 October 1787. After the revolution, his father was banned and had to emigrate. During the revolutionary turmoil, the rest of the family were imprisoned during 1793 to 1794, and Charles was put in a boarding school, where he was given a literary education. In 1805, aged 18, he wished to interrupt his studies and find a paid job to put an end to the sacrifices his mother endured during the period of his education. He tells how Count Mollien took him on (pp.81-2):
A small family meeting consisting of my mother, my grandmother le Seneschal and my dear Desfaucherets, discussed my choice of careers. Our paternal friend offered to introduce me to Count Mollien, general director of the sinking fund, so as to give me an opening into his administration. This good thought, which was unanimously agreed on, was rightly based on the memory this benevolent administrator must have kept of the warm welcome he once received from my whole family when he was still a young and gracious beginner, in my grandfather's study where he was as secretary of our cousin de Villebau, the former intendant of the India Company. The helpful hand of this loyal guide of my youth thus took me to the excellent leader who was to inaugurate my career in civil service. His first words, upon our entry to his office, was to say there was no vacancy in his offices, but his second answer on hearing my name was that he would always have a position to give to the grandson of Mrs le Seneschal. In November 1805, I thus obtained from his good will both the title and functions of "commis surnum*raire" (extra clerk) and a salary of 600 francs.
This wage must have seemed particularly modest to him, having little in common with his position and abilities. He kept a very detailed record of the growth of his salary, until 12 June 1814, the year when he was promoted to director of postings of the central accounting, "with a salary of 10,000 francs". Thanks to the intervention of his brother, he managed to follow Mollien to the Treasury Ministry. On this occasion, he pointed out that his background was not that of a "manager" (p.98):
Mr Bricogne, first clerk of the general bureau close to the Minister, wanted an employee who would be able to do exchange and arbitrage calculations needed for the fund transfers from France to the foreign places occupied by our grand armies. I then did not have any notion of these banking operations, but a fortnight of evening classes with a German teacher named Pfeiffer was enough to acquire a perfect mastery and even an easy practice of it.
He passed the test and was allowed to enter the Treasury Ministry on 18 August 1808 on an initial salary of 1,600 francs. If, on arrival at the ministry, he knew nothing of exchange and arbitrage calculations, he admitted that he did not have any notion of accounting (p.113).
My third occupation, as regards the accounting of the use of the funds granted to ministers by the yearly budget laws and by the imperial decrees of monthly allotment, required the knowledge of the clever and safe method of doubleentry bookkeeping, that I had not yet studied nor used. But by a very careful reading of articles passed on to me by my predecessor, on the journal and the Ledger that I had to carry on after him, I soon managed to grasp the infallible logic of these self-controlling formulas, to apply them with ease, to use them successfully later, so that I was able to organise all the other accounting systems of public monies.
On the fall of the Empire, both Count Mollien and the Duke of Gaete retired from public business. This did not hinder d'Audiffret's career since he was appointed Director of the postings of central accounting on 12 June 1814, with a salary of 10,000 francs. He was not yet 27 years of age. The next year he was awarded the Legionl d'honneur medal. From that time onwards, he was the instigator of the main laws and decrets organising public sector accounting; for example, the law of 25 March 1817 which calls on ministers, for each parliamentary session to present the accounts of their operations of the past year, the order of 14 September 1822 concerning accounting and the justification of public expenditure as well as that of 9 July 1826 on the control of ministers' accounts. The order of 31 May 1838 giving a general regulation for public sector accounting later crowned the whole system. "A committee was set up by ministerial orders on 4 August 1836 and July 1837 to organise the laws, orders and regulations ... so as to obtain an orderly series of the general rules of public sector accounting".18
The honour of presiding over the committee and to lead its work until the drafting of the 1838 law went to d'Audiffret who, in the previous twenty years, had been in charge of the implementation of this modem public sector accounting. The general regulation of 31 May 1862, "only brought a few changes to the order of 31 May 1838. These changes stemmed from the new situation which had arisen since its implementation and aimed at harmonising the rules of public sector accounting with the new organisation of public authorities" (Lanjalley, 1887, p.xxj).
The move towards greater transparency was not as simple to implement as the wording of the laws might have suggested. A few rear-guard battles were still raging. Such skirmishes were described in Le Moniteur universel (an official newspaper) about the accounts ministers had to give. The ministers' positions had to be made clearer. Indeed, the latter were the organisers of public expenditure, and a more transparent system would obviously entail questions on their administration of public funds. In 1817, article 150 of the budget law forced ministers to show their accounts to the two chambers.19
On 10 July 1822, Le Moniteur universel gave a brief account of a newly published book entitled On the Accounting of Public Expenditure but did not mention its author.20 The book began by laying down a principle which appeared to be simple: those in charge of the common interest must be accountable. This is of course the case for the management of public finances. The book dealt with three key issues. Firstly, how the books for public finances must be kept in ministries, secondly, the way they must be presented to parliament each year and, thirdly, by whom and how the books must be justified and examined. After repeating the terms of the law of 25 March 1817, which stated the accountability of ministers, and after recommending double-entry bookkeeping for its efficiency to provide clear and faultless accounts, the author classified the various operations carried out by the department of public expenditure on the following basis:
Creation of a debt by the State by the passing of budget laws: Expenses Decided.
* The spending minister issues orders passed on the Treasury: Expenses Ordered.
* The Treasury actually makes the payments: Expenses Paid.
When considering the control of each of the three operations, the author points out that the first one was under the scrutiny of the parliament and the third one was checked by the Court of Accounts (Cour des comptes). However, an administrative commission remained to be established for the second operation, as the Court of Accounts was not in charge of judging the ministers who gave orders for payment.
It is clear - if we accept the division suggested by the author - that expenditure vouchers should be kept by the ministers to be shown in case of an inquiry on any aspect of their service. Vouchers for the ordering should be forwarded to the commission of enquiry in charge of that part, and last, the documentary evidence of payment is the only one which should be submitted to the Court of accounts. (emphasis added)
Shortly after this, the order of 14 September 1822 confirmed the way ministers must keep the books.21
Our ministers will keep their accounts according to the same principles, the same procedures and the same patterns.
To that end, a general register and a Ledger will be kept by double-entry, with all the operations of credit setting, spending, orders to pay and payments written summarily at their date. The results of this bookkeeping will be successively attached to the entries/accounts and the general balance of finances, which must in turn serve the definite calculating of budgets.
Such measures, combined with the points put forward by the anonymous author of the book led to a controversy that was promptly reported by Le Moniteur universel. Indeed, a highly critical story was found in the 3 October 1822 issue.22 It was written by someone who at least seemed to know the book's author and stated that the book "flows from the pen of a member of the Conseil d'etat (maitre des requetes) ... 11.23 The author of the article, who wrote using initials only (L.A.P.), asserts that "the accounting officers of the Treasury must be the only ones to give accounts supported by documentary evidence, whereas the givers of orders (that is, Ministers) who are not and cannot be accountable, must give only charts and statements". The overall line of arguments is fairly poor, and avoids the topic of ministerial accountability. The article denies, in simple terms, the ministers' duty to keep records. The argument falls into two points. Firstly: for centuries, the laws which have been organising public sector accounting, and have never been repealed, ruled that the vouchers for expenditure were shown to the accounting officer who pays the spending orders.
the intention of the law of 25 March 1817 and of the Charter requires that ministers be accountable. However, no law forces them to keep documentary' evidence.
The article then concludes in obvious bad faith that the law is not in agreement with the author of the book.
It seems therefore from the speed of the reply and the length of the article in a newspaper with a wide readership that the supporters of tradition and routine were still active and influencial.24 However, they proved to be unable to stand in the way of the modernisation of public sector accounting.
This section comprises three parts: (1) the parliamentary system since the 1688 Revolution; (2) the introduction of double-entry in the Public Accounts from 1828 onwards and (3) the French influence.
The parliamentary system since the 1688 Revolution
In 1688, the English Revolution created a parliamentary Regime one century before the French Revolution. In eighteenth century France (The French "Siecle des Lumieres"), many intellectuals much admired this Regime: Voltaire magnified the English freedoms in his Lettres philosophiques in 1738, and English people were envied for all their comparative liberties and rights. Taxes in Britain were appreciably less iniquitous than under the French Ancien Regime, newspapers had the freedom of speech and literature was marvelous. But a frank portrayal of the situation should also mention some deficiencies. According to Roland Marx (1993, p.327):
the separation of powers was a vain expression: as he had the right to appoint the new Lords and to dissolve the Commons, the King controlled partly the Legislature; the Parliament may usurp a judicial function when it summoned according to its privileges, anyone suspect of having insulted it ...
The system of accountability of all financiers handling public monies seemed also to confirm such a contrasted vision of the British parliamentary system of that period: according to a brief historical notice written in 186926 public accounts had been kept with some care and accuracy for some time after the Revolution. But since the Reign of Queen Anne (1701-1714), no complete statement had ever been made up of the total Income and Expenditure of the country.
In 1783, when William Pitt the Young became the head of the Executive, the regime progressively took the appearance of a parliamentary system, insofar as the Prime Minister succeeded in building his own majority in the Commons. But nothing permanent was done when he died in 1806 (Marx, 1993, p.328). At the same time, reforms of government accountancy had been a political issue since the "economic reform" movement of the 1780s (Parker, 1993, p.73).
At the head of the State, the absence of a rigid constitution gave way to family clans for an alternative control over decisions. Everywhere money corrupted, particularly the elections in the Commons, in which five seats out of six were in fact bought to a few Electors. At the end of the century, electoral funds were created so that candidates could be comparable: the poorer could withdraw for fear of too expensive a failure. In eighteenth century Britain, even the Commons cannot really be considered as the representation of the Nation. Protest movements arose, some of them radical, among some members of the new elite. Many were fascinated by new ideas coming from America after 1776, or from France in the last decade of the century. However those in power had, since the French Revolution, adopted a reactive stance, fearing any concession to the would-be reformers would bring about fully fledged revolution. Consequently, repression of freedom of speech and of the press aroused such opposition that during 1815-1820 a revolution did indeed seem imminent. After 1820 however, the aura of reaction began to lift somewhat:26 some notable reforms were carried out towards more freedom for trade unionists inside Britain and nationalist aspirations abroad. Nevertheless, agitation for a parliamentary Reform Bill did not fade away and finally resulted in the passing of the great Reform Act of 183227 creating a new and more democratic distribution of the parliamentary constituencies. The aspiration for democracy went hand in hand with the need for information: new MPs, supported by many progressive industrialists,28 initiated a reform of the Public Accounts, as we will see hereafter.
One may see in this evolution the will of the British ruling class to develop a more democratic functioning of the State, in tune with the image of an industrial and powerful Nation. The need for more rationality may also come from financial concerns: the industrial State must act thriftly.
The introduction of double-entry in the Public Accounts from 1828 onwards
The will for more rationality and improved control led to a change in the accounting technique.
On 20 Anil - 182:.29
two persons of experience in the mode of keeping the Public Accounts,30 together with an individual well acquainted with the system of keeping and stating Mercantile Accounts,31 were appointed jointly to inquire into and to state the manner in which the Public accounts are kept in the several Principal departments connected with the receipt and expenditure of the money granted by Parliament for the Public Service. The Commissioners were asked to 11 suggest such alterations as may appear to be necessary, with a view to establishing a more uniform system of keeping the Public Accounts, and to consider how far it may appear to be - practicable and advantageous to employ the Mercantile System of Double-Entry in Keeping the Public Accounts".
One may wonder: "why at this very moment?" This question remains unanswered, and we are only able to ascertain the date, according to British Parliament Papers. The previous report of a select committee on the Public Accounts had been presented in 1822.32 It stated that the Public Accounts were kept according to an Act of 180133 in forms which "gave a much more clear, detailed and comprehensive view of the national resources, than was ever before presented to the public eye." The system of accounts was qualified as a "first attempt to arrange and methodise so large a mass of multifarious and complicated details ... . But that was sufficiently complementary, and the authors of the Report turned rapidly to some harsh criticism. According to them: "The principal and most prominent defect in the present form of the Accounts is that they neither do, nor can exhibit any Balance between the Income and Expenditure of the year". However, no mention of any special technique for keeping the accounts or reference to double-entry could be found. Although some progress had been made, the system of rendering accounts to the Nation was far from perfect. A decisive step was taken in the 1829 Report.
What were the reasons put forward for such a change? A uniform system of Accounts was required to replace "the various, complicated and expansive modes now in use". The new system had to bring "accuracy, simplicity and perspicuity". It also had to facilitate examination, to afford information on every transaction, to ease the substitution of a clerk who had resigned or been promoted, and be understood by every man of account. Moreover, the use of double-entry would ascertain the correctness of every other book by a general balance of the Ledger, and the correct balancing of books kept by double-entry must include, not only the money actually spent, but also the liabilities of the establishment.
On several occasions, the three commissioners vindicated, justified and defended the double-entry system. However, they also had disagreements. The first two commissioners (Brooksbank & Beltz) proposed to adapt double-entry to the particular needs of the public service, while the third one (Abbott) wanted a more radical change. A technical debate on the different books and forms to be used was undertaken between the three commissioners. Finally, the Board of Treasury of 14 July 1829, under the consideration of the two reports and some memorandums issued by the commissioners, decided to approve the report of Brooksbank & Beltz,34 though they recommend that a new system cannot usefully take place otherwise than gradually.
In fact, a 1844 "Statement of the changes which have been introduced in the System of Book-Keeping since the Report on the Exchequer, made by the Commissioners of Public Accounts in 1832" confirms that the new system was set up gradually in the different administrations: the accounts of the Treasury were kept by double-entry "many years prior to that (1831) report", the home department, the colonial office and the board of control had been using double-entry since 1832, the war office switched to it in 1840, the Royal Chelsea hospital in 1841, etc.35
Most of the comments produced by the accountants were in praise of the new method. One of the criticisms found in that concert was a report36 of a committee appointed by the Master-General and Board of Ordnance: the authors pointed out that the new method would "occasion a great increase of documents, and would throw much additional labour on every storekeeper and barrack-master ... without obtaining useful result, as they (the sub-accountants) could perceive ..... Moreover, a copy of Treasury minute, dated 17 December 1830, indicated that "the application of the new system of accounts as recommended by Messrs. Brooksbank and Beltz, to any public department in which it is not already introduced in practice, be suspended till further orders". However, another report on public accounts was ordered by William the Fourth37 and it confirmed the orientations proposed by Brooksbank and Beltz. They stressed the necessity to record postings in a "business-like form, on the double-entry plan".
The French influence
The influence of the French public sector accounting system, created from 1808 onwards, may have first been noted in 1831 when the House of Commons appointed Sir John Bowring to prepare a report on the public accounts of France.38 The tone of the report is rather flattering, as shown in the general statement (p.3):
The character of the French system is one of uniformity; and the Public Accounts are moulded, up to their completion and final extinction, to the forms they received at their first conception. It is only by the presentation of tables, resembling one another, and in facts emanating all from a common original model, that the completeness and efficiency of the machinery can be shown. The course is made inevitable at every step, every one recorded fact has an immediate and necessary connection with every other, and an unbroken reference to a general result; and the object of this report is to show, at different stages of its progress the characters which the Accounts present.
The recent history of French finances is very well documented, and a list is put up with the principal laws, ordnances and decrees by which the system of public accounts has been established from 1808 onwards. In the second report, the history is told from Sully onwards, with a mention of the experiment under the Regency (1716).
Who was Bowring? Dr John Bowring (1792-1872), who was Sir John Bowring from 1854 onwards, was an author, linguist, diplomat and the literary executor of Jeremy Bentham.39 He was an MP during 1835-1837 and 1841-1849. He was originally appointed as a commissioner of the public accounts in 1828, but "his appointment was cancelled by the Tory prime minister, the Duke of Wellington, who objected to Bowring's radical opinion" (Parker, 1993, p.72). Why was he chosen to report on the Public Accounts of France? Was he a friend of Mollien or other finance ministers in France? We do not know, but Bowring's life and career seem to have been very well documented and he is very likely to have benefited from the benevolent co-operation of the French administration. This appears in the documents that he was able to publish in his reports and in his apparently very good relations with the former and current finance ministers.
In his first report, p. 144, he begins the section headed "Note on Centralisation of Accounts" with an acknowledgement:
To the Marquis d'Audiffret, now President of the Cour des comptes, whose unwearied zeal while at the head of the Account department was the immediate instrument of introducing many of the improvements pointed out, I am indebted for the materials out of which the following results have been deduced.
In his second report (p.9, footnote), he explains:
Having been honoured by the Count (Mollien) with a statement of the progress of this great financial improvement, I have ventured to append this Letter to this Report, deeming the communication both interesting and instructive, and trusting that by Your Lordship it will not be considered misplaced.40
His knowledge of the history of French finances seems to be drawn from a book written by Bailly.41 He even wrote that "The double-entry system was introduced in the Public Accounts of Austria more than forty years ago".42
Further evidence of the foreign influence is given in the report of October 1831.43 The commissioners argue that the double-entry system has gradually but peremptorily forced its way into every well-regulated manufacture, into every extensive mercantile establishment in every part of the civilised world. The report stated:
The Revenues of no Government has been safely administered, the Accounts of no Government have been intelligibly kept, the Business of no Government has been promptly and satisfactorily dispatched, until the commercial system has been introduced, with its order and uniformity, into the different departments. Several of the Governments of Europe have adopted this method after repeated and vain attempts to accommodate by other means the dissimilar usages of their various public offices to one general system; and there is no instance of any Government having abandoned the mercantile practice, after having once employed it. On the contrary, every Government that has introduced it has borne testimony to its adaptation to National concerns, and its complete efficiency for all fiscal and financial operations and records.
The commissioners continue with the French example:
... and we need only to refer to Mr. Bowring's reports on the Public Accounts of France, for irresistible proof of its value, practicability, comprehensiveness, clearness and efficiency. Indeed, it appears from his statement, that a succession of Ministers of Finance have borne unanimous and cordial testimony to the excellent workings of the Commercial system of Accounts, in all the departments of Government - that the objections originally suggested against it, by persons who have not attentively considered its bearings, on the grounds of its being not adapted to public official accounts, have all given way before the evidence of its sufficiency and superiority. The system of accounts as adopted in France has afforded perfect security against default and dilapidation; it has brought with it savings of expense to the amount of several Millions sterling per annum; it has diminished the labour and anxieties of the Public Servants, and has again and again been eulogised, after elaborate and detailed examination, by Statesmen of all parties in both Houses of the French Legislature. Opposed to such facts, and to the admitted experience of the whole Commercial world, we do not conceive the opinions hostile to this system of accounts have any considerable weight.
We have seen that Mollien went to Britain in 1797-1798, to study the finance system in place there. He drew from that experience to create the Banque de France and the Franc Germinal in 1802-1803. The influences run both ways and the adoption of the French model of accounting was based on the British model in the fields of banking and money. That is what appears in the Baron Louis discourse to the Chamber of deputies (18 August 1831): "Our system of Accounts has reached a high degree of perfection. A striking testimony has been given to it, in a neighbouring Country, long referred to as a model in financial matters".
Finally, the last word is afforded to Count Mollien and is taken from his letter to Bowring:45
Public improvement cannot march everywhere with equal pace; but it is evidently progressive where the productions of reason and intelligence begin to be considered as objects not less worthy of exchange among great nations than the material productions of industry - and this emulation is decidedly more advantageous to nations than hostile rivalry.
The important role played by Mollien in the exchange among these nations, prompts a closer examination of his life and career.
The Life and Career of Nicolas-Fran;ois Moltien (-1758-1850)
Detailed accounts are available on Mollien's life, based on the memoirs he published.46 Moreover, several historians47 were evidently interested in a character whose long public life, starting under the Ancien Regime and reaching its peak under Napoleon, had extended to public service under the Restoration. Such an interest is all the more legitimate as it is recognised that this distinguished state official was acknowledged as the financial mentor of Napoleon at the time of the setting up of the basis of modern accounting, the franc germinal, the Banque de France and the Lourdes Comptes.
Nicolas-Franqois Mollien was born in Rouen on 28 February 1758 into a haberdashery family of at least two generations. His father, Jacques-Robert, born in 1713 and master merchant, manufacturer since the age of 24, had married the daughter of a canvasser in a second marriage. Nicolas-Francois was born the year following this union. The family was wealthy, but the discipline required from the children was similar to that of the workshops. A surprising detail is related by Nicolas-Francois in his memoirs;48 his father had advised him to read the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, praising the scientific qualities of a work in which the author unveils the mechanism of society "as Newton explained the working of the world: by proving it". Paradoxically, the father derived most of his privileges as a master merchant from the corporatist and highly regulated system criticised by Adam Smith. The same father took a very active part in the life of his corporation. It is known that the efficiency of the machines operating in his company had been praised by an inspector of manufacture49 even comparing his looms to those of the British Royal Manufacture. It can be guessed that his craftsmanship and taste for innovation had put him ahead of contemporary manufacturers, so that he had more to gain than to fear from a more liberal system. Young Nicolas-Francois was thus from a very early age familiar with the debates raging between the "regime reglementaire" (regulated system) and the liberal movement of the time.
Until the age of 12, Nicolas was taught by a teacher who was financed by his father. He was then sent to one of the colleges of the University of Paris. He spent four years there and obtained an award in the concours general. This award allowed him to apply for a position in the finance administration. However, he was required to wait for a while, so his father took him back to Rouen to attend law classes. Working for a lawyer, he soon had the opportunity to meet the Marechal de Richelieu, who gave him definitive access to the Finance Ministry, at the age of 17.
Nicolas-Francois Mollien quickly reached the enviable level of premier commis (senior assistant). As such, he was in charge, under the authority of a finance intendant, of supervising the company of the Farm General,50 a private body which was trusted with the collection of taxes on salt, tobacco, and a few other items of public revenue. In these circumstances, he could fully appreciate the inefficiency of the tax-collection system. He also discovered how difficult it was for ministers to find solutions or even to stay in office: in a 17-year career, he saw fifteen of them come and go. This did not stop him from showing his ability as a reformer, presenting or encouraging some projects, such as the setting up of a free port in Bayonne or the building of a round wall around Paris in order to fight smuggling. He also sided with Vergennes (Foreign Affairs Minister and President du Conseil)51 against Calonne (Finance minister) to excuse customs duties from the Farm General. Because he was able to use these customs duties, the Foreign Affairs Minister had a free hand to negotiate the free-trade treaty with England in 1786, with Mollien taking an active part in the talks. Although Mollien considered himself to be born into the social class he would have freely chosen,52 Mollien did not opt for his father's trade. He favoured the less hazardous path of the administration. Within it however, Mollien did not choose the wide and welltrodden way since he defended liberal views, contributing both to the withdrawal and to the strengthening of the State whose funds he managed.
In 1789, in spite of holding liberal views and being willing to change old routines (Clement, 1855, p.456), Mollien fled from Paris and its riots. The administration of the National Estate and of the Register was reorganised and so he asked successfully to be appointed director in the Eure area, as he was attracted by the lack of enthusiasm of its inhabitants for the revolution. A few days after 10 August, 1792, his intimate friend, the Duke of la Rochefoucauld, was killed in Gisors. Summoned the very same day in Paris as a suspect, Mollien lost his position of director.
A first marriage had made him an ally of the Periers"53 an influential family in banking and industry, particularly in the Dauphine region. Alexandre, Casimir Perier's brother, offered him a partnership in the setting up of a cotton mill in St Remy sur Avre, in Eure-et-Loir. Henry Sykes, an English industrialist, was also associated with the project of creation. On the occasion, Mollien reported: "Because I was born in a mill myself, I found there my traditional heritage and it seemed normal that I should end my life just as my father had started his".54
Mollien was caught up by his past as an administrator: in May 1793 Claviere, then Finance Minister, requested him to come to Paris and work for him. Mollien turned down the offer but was accused of being an accomplice to the General Farmers by judges in February 1794 and was held in custody. In May of the same year, he was released and went back to the Eure region.
Mollien's reading of Adam Smith in his youth conducted on the advice of his father, his participation in the negotiations for the Franco-English treaty, the association with a British industrialist in 1793, as well as a background of admiration for the English industrial and financial model55 contributed to his decisions to travel around England. In 1798, he went there to understand the financial crisis56 which was raging and published his Sketches and Results of the French and English Doctrines on Finance.
He stayed in the Eure until 1799 and went back to Paris only to serve as a "preceptor in finance" for Bonaparte. After Brumaire 18 (Bonaparte's coup d'etat), the First Consul had appointed Gaudin as his Finance Minister. Mollien's career took a new turn when Gaudin, who knew Mollien since they were commis (clerks) together before the Revolution, offered him the job of Director of the new caisse d'amortissement (sinking fund).
One of his first steps on appointment to this position was to put some order by changing the type of postings, from then by double-entry. Mollien did not only head the Caisse d'amortissement. Bonaparte ordered several reports, which resulted in Mollien returning on 5 July, 1 October, 2 December 1802 and on 13 February 1803. Mollien set out his theory on banking institutions (Vaudour, 1963, p.61). These ideas had a wide influence on the creation of the Franc Germinal (17 Germinal an XI, 7 April 1803) and on the law granting the Banque de France its monopoly on issuing banknotes.
Mollien's career took up a new important turn in January 1806. Just back from his victory in Austerlitz, Napoleon heard how his Treasury minister, BarbeMarbois, had been conned by suppliers to the Army. Barbe-Marbois resigned and Mollien was immediately appointed Treasury minister in his place. The management of public finance was thus in the hands of two men: Mollien, the Treasury minister, was in charge of public expenditure and Martin-Michel Charles Gaudin, Duke of Gaete (1756-1841), finance minister in charge of receipts, headed the tax authorities. The two men worked co-operatively until 1815. Mollien's ministerial term of office thus spanned nine years, covering a territory spreading over most of continental Europe.
These conquests are likely to be the vectors of the extension of the French public sector accounting system, as shown through the example of the Kingdom of Naples between 1806 and 1815. A first conquest of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies had been achieved by French troops in January 1799. Handed back to its former rulers six months later, it was invaded again in 1806 and attributed to Joseph, Napoleon's elder brother. A former lawyer, "a learned young man, soft and polite, peaceful looking", the new King of Naples started by reforming the institutions, abolishing the feudal system (in August 1806), promulgating the French Code civil and setting up a liberal constitution he did not have the time to enforce. After becoming King of Spain in 1808, Joseph was replaced in Naples by Murat. More a soldier than an administrator, the latter trusted his helpers, such as Zurlo, Ricciardi and Delfico to implement the civil reforms decided upon by Joseph.
On coming to power, Joseph Bonaparte had chosen Count Pierre-Louis Roederer as his Finance Minister. He stayed in this position until 23 September 1810. Around one year after his appointment as Finance Minister, he called on Mollien to send his directions to organise the finances of the Kingdom of Naples according to the pattern in force in Paris. Mollien's letters and directions are kept in the Archives Nationales.17
In addition to these letters, dated between 20 and 24 February 1807, the file includes passages of French law about the public treasury, as well as postings patterns. It also comprises the detailed description of the accounting of ministries. At the time, Mollien was implementing the Receivers' accounting system, issued in the decree of 4 January 1808. Roederer asked him to comment on a bill for the finances of Naples. After trying to sum up what has been done in France since 1799 and even 1791, Mollien changed his mind "considering the mistakes we made and the small number of cases in which we still can be imitated". He preferred to give a detailed account of the advantages of double-entry bookkeeping for public finances, in order to prove the superiority of "commercial accounting" over "charge and discharge accounting".
What happened after Murat left Naples in 1815? Presently, the answer to this question is unknown. However, an examination of the Italian archives may assist in answering the question. However, according to Couder (1888, p.89), "a new accounting method was adopted, resting on double-entry bookkeeping, but which provides more coherent and more comprehensive recording and control procedures. Mr Cerboni, who called it Logismography, devised this slightly complex accounting system. Its implementation in postings of the Italian kingdom was prescribed in the decree of 15 June, 1977 and confirmed58 in the law of 17 February 1884 and the regulation of 14 May 1885.
As we have seen, public sector accounting systems have been reformed in the first half of the nineteenth century in France and Britain. One may pose the question: "Has double-entry played a central role in those reforms"? At almost every stage, it has been observed, on one hand, that the debate about those reforms included a discussion on the introduction of double-entry. Its specific advantages over other techniques were addressed at length in many quotations as shown. Moreover, since it was implemented in the first half of the nineteenth century, double-entry has never been seriously challenged by another technique. On the other hand, we also observed that double-entry was only one means of assessing the economic and political power of the Crown or the nation-states, beside the centralisation and the nationalisation of the Treasury, and beside the creation of new institutions and new audit procedures,59 and so on. Double-entry only proved to be the best fitted accounting technique to assess a certain functioning of the State, according to the wills of the triumphant "bourgeoisie". Such a vision may explain why most of the non accounting historians studying developments during this period only mentioned it in an allusive manner.60
1. In France, the phrase "comptabilite publique" (public sector accounting) appeared in official documents from 1817 only, that is when there arose the political will to use it as a tool of accountability to the Parliament.
2. In France before 1815, the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping aimed only at introducing a more efficient monitoring of cash-flows and a better control of the Treasury over the "accountants".
3. For some accounting historians, a full double-entry bookkeeping system requires the use of a capital account. This is not the case in public finance. In this paper, as was the case during the period studied, double-entry only implies that every operation be inscribed at the debit of one account and a credit of another.
4. As explained in BPP, 1831, x, i. Report by Parnell, Russel, Graham, et al. See full quotation at the end of part II.
5. In particular, this study embraced an examination of the correspondence of Mollien with Count Roederer (Archives Nationales 29AP/25) and the unpublished memoirs of the marquess of Audiffret (Archives Nationales, 142 Mi).
6. In France, the Restoration is at once a moment (1815) and a period (1815-1830). 7. These three men were all served periods as ministers of finance.
8. See Isambert, Collection of Ancient Laws, Vol.28, No.2452, p.521-4.
9. This important body acted, among other things, as an insurance company to the Receivers General. The latter paid a warranty deposit and the Caisse d'amortissement answered for the bankrupt Receivers General. The former purpose of this Caisse was the reimbursement of the public debt.
10. Archives Nationales 29AP25, p.46-7. Roederer was a politician who became Joseph Bonaparte's finance minister in the Kingdom of Naples (see below).
11. Edmond Degrange, as early as 1809, published a book explaining how to keep the books of Receivers General and of arrondissements (districts). He also offered private tuition and classes (in groups of four) and pointed out in the warning preface: "In March 1807 (A striking example of reactivity and ability to anticipate!), I started classes on double-entry bookkeeping applied to any public sector accounting, in particular taking that of Receivers General as an example. Thus, I devised a book for my students in which I tried to generalise the principles I had already stated in my Bookkeeping Made Easy, (first edition published in 1795), in which the art of bookkeeping is applied to merchants only". The accounting system he put forward took up his distinction between general and nominal accounts.
12. On the character of this accountant turned director of the Cristalleries de Baccarat, see Nikitin, 1996.
13. La grande Encyclopedie by Berthelot et al., 1890, Vol. 12, p.242.
14. Charles Ganilh (1817, p.125) elected representative for the Cantal constituency emphatically praised this publicity: "the publicity of financial accounts is the greatest monument of modem civilisation. How solemn and august it is to submit the taxes levied on the people to the nations representatives, leading to their supervision of their use and making the detection of potential abuses as well as the prosecution of the culprits easier".
15. The point was to enforce a principle already stated in the Declaration of the rights of men and citizens of 26 August 1789: "The society is entitled to hold any public officer accountable for his administration".
16. These memoirs can be found in the Archives Nationales, microfilm 142 Mi. They consist in a hand-written notebook of nearly 500 pages.
17. The Legion d'honneur was an Order created by Napoleon in 1802 to reward military and civil services to the nation.
18. Introduction to the article issued in the Annales maritimes (1838, p.1074) by the marquess of Audiffret.
19. This article itself was inspired from the Charter proclaimed by Louis XVIII in June 1814.
20. A book with this title was published in 1822 and its author is V. Masson.
21. Title IV, article 18, copied in the 17 September 1822 issue of the Moniteur universel.
22. This article covered three out of the four pages of the issue of 3 October 1822.
23. D'Audiffret was also a maitre des requ&es for the Conseil d'etat since 19 April 1817.
24. The same controversy was raised through other publications. Charles Ganilh, elected representative for the Cantal constituency had praised the law which forced ministers to be accountable, in a first book published in 1817. In 1818 he published a "Refutation of two anonymous papers" as a reply to two opponents who were apparently harsh but discreet.
25. BPP, 1868-1869, xxxv, Appendix No.13. Reproduced in Coombs et al., 1997, p.326-49.
26. See The Hutchinson Encyclopedia.
http://ukdb.web.aol.com/hutchinson/encyclopedia/15/M0064215.htm 27. That Reform Act meant, for the aristocracy of the time, the beginning of the end of all things.
28. Many of those industrialists were the followers of the utilitarian reformer Jeremy Bentham. Sir John Bowring, committed by the Parliament to present a report on the Public Accounts, was Bentham's friend and his literary executor.
29. BPP, 1829, vi, Appendix No.1 to the reports of the commissioners, reproduced in Coombs et al. (1997, p.95).
30. Thomas Constantine Brooksbank and Samuel Beltz, Treasury officers. 31. Peter Harriss Abbott, public accountant.
32. BPP, 1822, vi, 293, Report from the select committee on the public accounts of the United Kingdom, annually laid before Parliament, 31 July 1822. Coombs et al., 1997, p.2-10.
33. According to recommandations of the Committee of 1797.
34. "My Lords, therefore, are of opinion that it would be expedient to introduce into each of the following departments, the principal books as described in the Report of Messrs. Brooksbank and Beltz, viz.: BPP, 1831, xiv, Appendix No.1 (Coombs et al., 1997, p. 135).
35. BPP, 1844, xxxii, Returns from 27 public departments.
36. BPP, 1831, xiv, Appendix No.6, in Coombs et al. (1997, p.140).
37. BPP, 1831, x, i, reproduced in Coombs et al., p.167. "The commissioners were: Sir Henry Parnell (baronet), Lord John Russel, Sir James Graham (baronet), Sir James Kempt (Grand Cross of the military order of the Bath), Charles Poulett Thomas, Francis Thornhill Baring and Edward Ellice".
38. BPP, 1831, xiv, not reproduced in Coombs et al. Bowring made also reports on the public accounts of the Netherlands and Belgium (BPP, 1831, xxviii).
39. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1961, Chicago, London & Toronto.
40. Reproduced in the second report, Appendix A, p.169-71, the letter was dated 28 August 1831.
41. Quoted in the second report, p.5 (see Bailly, 1830).
42. Second report, p.5. In his report on the Public Accounts of the Netherlands, Bowring gives no historical notice. However, we learn that (p.3) "The Royal Decree of the 24 October 1824, contains a general r*glement for the Administration of the Finances in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which develops the fundamental principles on which the Public Accounts are constructed". We also learn (p.143) that "The books are admirably kept, according to commercial usage, and by doubleentry".
43. BPP, 1831, x, i. Report by Parnell, Russell, Graham, etc.
44. French finance minister. The quotation is given by Bowring in his second report (p.10).
45. Dated 28 August, 1831, reproduced as an appendix in Bowring's second report. 46. Memoirs of a minister to the Treasury (1898).
47. Clement (1855), Lanzac de Laborie (1905-1913), Vaudour (1959 and 1963). These books are heavily in debt to Mollien's memoirs.
48. Volume 1, p.58.
49. Report quoted in Vaudour (1959, p.57).
50. In 1784, he was in charge of drafting the lease of the Farm General and of the 1786 Franco-British Treaty on Free Trade (Memoirs, Vol. 1, p.204).
51. Vaudour, 1959, p.59. 52. Memoirs, Vol. 1, p.47. 53. Vaudour, (1959, p.63). 54. Memoirs, Vol. 1, p. 148.
55. Charles Ganilh, the deputy for the Cantal region was particularly knowledgeable in financial matters and was the author of several books on economics. In 1817 he stated "for almost a century, financial science followed the same progressive pace as other sciences in England (...) Through its writers, France was aware fairly early of the breakthroughs of financial science in England and might have been tempted to take advantage of them" (pp.2-4).
56. In 1797, the Bank of England had to interrupt the conversion of banknotes into gold. The English public had nevertheless kept on trusting these banknotes.
57. Code 29AP25 (Personal archives series). 58. See Cerboni, 1877.
59. On the renewal of audit procedures in the British army towards the 1830s, see Funnel, 1997.
60. Concerning French speaking accounting historians, they did not seem to be aware of the important changes in public sector accounting. Stevelinck (1970, p. 140) and Fourastie (1980, p.25) explain that public sector accounting had not been subject to much change since the middle ages.
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This paper has been improved through the helpful comments of the participants at the first Accounting History International Conference held in Melbourne in August 1999 as well as the helpful comments of two anonymous reviewers. I am also grateful to Beatrice Monglon (University of Orleans) for her translation into English and to Andrea Ferguson for her assistance in rereading the paper.
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Bibliography for "birth of a modern public sector accounting system in France and Britian and in the influence of Count Mollien, The"
Nikitin, Marc "birth of a modern public sector accounting system in France and Britian and in the influence of Count Mollien, The". Accounting History. May 2001.
09 November 2008
The Accounting History: A BIRTH OF A MODERN PUBLIC SECTOR ACCOUNTING SYSTEM IN FRANCE AND BRITAIN and in the influence of Count Mollien
by Nikitin, Marc