The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 652 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.

[50] “Compte-général des revenus et dépenses fixes au 1er Mai, 1789 (Imprimerie Royale, 1789). — De Luynes, XVI. 49. — Roux and Buchez, I. 206, 374. (This relates only to the countries of election; in the provinces, with assemblies, the increase is no less great).  Archives nationales, H2, 1610 (the parish of Bourget, in Anjou).  Extracts from the taille rolls of three métayer- farms belonging to M. de Ruillé.  The taxes in 1762 are 334 livres, 3 sous; in 1783, 372 livres, 15 sous.


I. Extortion.

Direct taxes. — State of different domains at the end of the reign of Louis XV. — Levies of the tithe and the owner. — What remains to the proprietor.

Let us closely examine the extortions he has to endure, which are very great, much beyond any that we can imagine.  Economists had long prepared the budget of a farm and shown by statistics the excess of charges with which the cultivator is overwhelmed.  If he continues to cultivate, they say, he must have his share in the crops, an inviolable portion, equal to one-half of the entire production, and from which nothing can be deducted without ruining him.  This portion, in short, accurately represents, and not a sou too much, in the first place, the interest of the capital first expended on the farm in cattle, furniture, and implements of husbandry; in the second place, the maintenance of this capital, every year depreciated by wear and tear; in the third place, the advances made during the current year for seed, wages, and food for men and animals; and, in the last place, the compensation due him for the risks he takes and his losses.  Here is a first lien which must be satisfied beforehand, taking precedence of all others, superior to that of the seignior, to that of the tithe-owner (décimateur), to even that of the king, for it is an indebtedness due to the soil.[1] After this is paid back, then, and only then, that which remains, the net product, can be touched.  Now, in the then state of agriculture, the tithe-owner and the king appropriate one-half of this net product, when the estate is large, and the whole, if the estate is a small one[2].  A certain large farm in Picardy, worth to its owner 3,600 livres, pays 1,800 livres to the king, and 1,311 livres to the tithe owner; another, in the Soissonnais, rented for 4,500 livres, pays 2,200 livres taxes and more than 1,000 livres to the tithes.  An ordinary métayer-farm near Nevers pays into the treasury 138 livres, 121 livres to the church, and 114 livres to the proprietor.  On another, in Poitou, the fisc (tax authorities) absorbs 348 livres, and the proprietor receives only 238.  In general, in the regions of large farms, the proprietor obtains ten livres the arpent if the cultivation is very good, and three livres when ordinary.  In the regions of small farms, and of the métayer system, he gets fifteen sous the arpent, eight sous and even six sous.  The entire net profit may be said to go to the church and into the State treasury.

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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