Revolutionary Expense Reports

On 21 nivose an III (10 January 1795), not long after the end of the Reign of Terror, the Convention nationale passed a law dictating that all the représentants en mission furnish a report of their activities, appropriations and expenditures while on mission to the Convention, and to have that report published.

There are around 150 of these expense reports in the collection (so far), and they range from the extensive (30 pages or more, with elaborate tables) to the relatively minimal.

The sheer number of these pamphlets, which were nearly all cataloged fairly early on in the project, made them fairly easy to catalog. Because the décret was passed with a time limit, virtually all of the reports were published in 1795. As they are all on the same topic, published by the same entity, and involved the same government bodies, assigning subject headings and other cataloging paraphernalia was exceedingly simple. The great number of fields that stayed the same between pamphlets enabled us to automate the vast majority of the cataloging process – all that remains to be done is giving the author, the title (nearly every expense report starts with the phrase Compte rendu, but the remaining portion of the title varies considerably between pamphlets), entering the page count and any other physical details, and recording the call number.

As simple as most of the expense reports are, from time to time there comes an oddity – a report filed in the early months of 1796, a pamphlet that includes a narrative of the time spent, or a catalog of “patriotic gifts” received by the representative… or, as in the case of Case FRC 11727, something altogether unexpected, an ephemeral quirk of mandatory publishing.

Case FRC 11727 is only one page long. It has a 37 word title, which takes up most of that page.  The text is only one sentence long: it states that Pierre-Anselme Garrau neither received nor spent any government funds.

In a way, this seemingly superfluous document represents one of the greatest triumphs of the French Revolution – a strong federal government where laws were applied equally to all. Other common themes of the collection reflect the conscious efforts to this end – standardizing the gabelle salt tax, abolishing the lettres de cachet, inherited privileges, and implementing allodial land tenure. Case FRC 11727 shows that these reforms proceeded throughout all levels of government, and resulted in the extra government spending frequently associated with increased bureaucracy.