It's all in the Title. Where did the funds come from for Napoleon's weaponry, uniforms, food, horses, etc.? Did Rome/The Pope/The Catholic Church fund the excursions?

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    Why do you think the Roman Catholic church was involved? You should include any research have you already done in the question (to avoid people repeating the same information).
    – Steve Bird
    Oct 10 at 23:19
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    Burke on his book about the French Revolution cites a book from the French finance minister at the beginning of the revolution. He claims the finances of the ancien regime were bad, but not catastrophically bad as the revolutionaries propagandized. i.e., much of the black legend was propaganda, or temporary setbacks due to bad crops.
    – Luiz
    Oct 10 at 23:33
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    So the people who were in control before the revolution were back in control after the revolution? So where's the revolution? Seems to me, only the figurehead changed and the sub or superstructure or the matrix remained the same; actually, what seems to have happened is that the power structure got tired of Louis XVI's misuse of their funds and installed a more controllable/reliable dupe for their purposes. Oct 10 at 23:50
  • @HenrikManoochehri, ooooh, yes, I believe you've hit on one of the permanent facts of real-politick. Sad, but, ... yeah. Dang. Oct 11 at 0:43
  • @HenrikManoochehri There was a revolution in a very real Marxist sense: complete overhaul of social and economic relatiinships - a feudal country was transformed into liberal capitalism, the aristocratic priveliges became meaningless, all classes and religious confessions received the same rights. The actual individuals in power remained the same, especially after the restoration - not counting those who were killed and the upstarts like Napoleon. Oct 11 at 6:30

From 1799 (when Napoleon became First Consul of France) to 1805, the French treasury was most dependent on taxes from France and its empire. After 1805, conquered territories in Europe such as Spain, Italy, Austria and Prussia made increasingly large contributions to French military costs through (1) taxes, (2) peace settlements, (3) the seizure of property etc., (4) the supplying soldiers at their own expense, and (5) paying for the cost of French soldiers stationed in their territories. In 1813, after the disastrous retreat from Moscow, some money was also obtained by selling communal land.

Throughout the Napoleonic era, borrowing was - out of necessity as much as design - kept to a minimum, though it did contribute to the state's financial resources. I can find no evidence that the Catholic Church made any significant contributions, though money did come from Italy as a result of conquest. Napoleon also shied away from simply printing more paper money as the Directorate had done. Instead, the focus was increasing tax revenue:

Napoleon's coup of November 1799 began sweeping changes in government finances that built on the tough measures taken by the Directory. The system of taxation was reorganized, new taxes were imposed, payment on the debt in specie was resumed and institutions - the Banque de France and a sinking fund - were established...

Source: M. Bordo & E. White, 'British and French finance during the Napoleonic war'. In The Journal of Economic History Vol. 51, No. 2 (Jun., 1991)

Also, "proper incentives for effective tax collection" were introduced. However,

Although collection of direct taxes improved with these measures..., the government did not rely on direct taxes to cover its expenditures....during the Empire, indirect taxes were gradually re-introduced....New taxes, similar to those of the ancien regime were imposed on tobacco, alcohol, salt and the prices of government monopolies, such as the post were increased.

Source: Bordo & White

Consequently, taxation became much higher than during the revolution and public debt grew very little up until 1814. Although the data is incomplete, Bordo and White cite figures which show that tax receipts as a percentage of Commodity output were around 5% for the years 1791 to 1796; between 1806 and 1814, this number ranged from 14% to 20%. Some borrowing occurred through long-term bonds and from the banque de France but, even when this peaked in 1805, the latter was less than 10% of expenditure. In part, the limited borrowing was due to France's lack of credibility in the markets.

From 1805, conquered territories began to make increasing contributions to French finances. For example, Austrian taxation rose from 75 million francs in 1805 to 164 million in 1809, while Prussia contributed between 470 and 514 million francs in the years 1806 to 1812. Further,

The theory expounded by Napoleon was that his campaigns abroad should be self-financing. The three methods used to achieve this goal were: the seizure of money and property (so-called ‘ordinary contributions’ or saisies ordinaires); the financial gain derived from peace treaties; and the amounts saved via the policy of using allied troops or by having French soldiers maintained by the allied states in which they were stationed.

Source: Pierre Branda, 'Did the war pay for the war? An assessment of napoleon's attempts to make his campaigns self-financing'. In Napoleonica. La Revue 2008/3 (N° 3).

In reality, the wars were not self-financing despite Napoleon's insistence on a comprehensive accounting system, but the contributions from the conquered territories were nonetheless significant; Branda has calculated that these contributions amounted to around 42% of the cost of the wars.

Finally, some money (but much less than projected) was raised by selling communal lands. This desperate measure was brought about by the failure of the Russia campaign, the consequences of which were dire:

The Russian campaign alone had a price tag of 700 million francs. With this tremendous strain on the nation’s finances it is not surprising that the deficit increased each year. In 1811 the shortfall was a modest 6.5 million francs; by 1813 France had a 149 million franc deficit.

Thus, a law was enacted in March 1813:

...the state would seize all communally held lands that were leased to individuals; these lands would then be sold at auction with a guide price of 20 times their annual revenue. Villages would receive a fixed sum of five per cent of the ceded lands’ value from the government in return for their lost assets.

However, of the anticipated 370 million franc 'windfall', only something in the region of 60 to 90 million was realised.

  • Great answer, thanks. I have read (Niall Ferguson? I don't remember) that the British had a much more robust way of issuing bonds and that led, indirectly, to them winning the war. True? Oct 11 at 17:03
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    @ChiTownBob1 The issue was credibility. The British were able to borrow because they had credibility in the markets (as Britain had a good track record of debt servicing after previous wars). France didn't have this credibility. Nonetheless, the cost of the Napoleonic wars was so great that the British govt. could not cover it with borrowing alone and had to introduce income and property taxes. Oct 12 at 1:48

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