The Ancient Regime eBook

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

Hired labor, meantime, is no less costly.  On this métayer-farm in Poitou, which brings in eight sous the arpent, thirty-six laborers consume each twenty-six francs per annum in rye, two francs respectively in vegetables, oil and milk preparations, and two francs ten sous in pork, amounting to a sum total, each year, for each person, of sixteen pounds of meat at an expense of thirty-six francs.  In fact they drink water only, use rape-seed oil for soup and for light, never taste butter, and dress themselves in materials made of the wool and hair of the sheep and goats they raise.  They purchase nothing save the tools necessary to make the fabrics of which these provide the material.  On another metayer-farm, on the confines of la Marche and Berry, forty-six laborers cost a smaller sum, each one consuming only the value of twenty-five francs per annum.  We can judge by this of the exorbitant share appropriated to themselves by the Church and State, since, at so small a cost of cultivation, the proprietor finds in his pocket, at the end of the year, six or eight sous per arpent out of which, if plebeian, he must still pay the dues to his seignior, contribute to the common purse for the militia, buy his taxed salt and work out his corvée and the rest.  Towards the end of the reign of Louis XV in Limousin, says Turgot,[3] the king derives for himself alone “about as much from the soil as the proprietor.”  In a certain election-district, that of Tulle, where he abstracts fifty-six and one-half per cent. of the product, there remains to the latter forty-three and one-half per cent. thus accounting for “a multitude of domains being abandoned.”

It must not be supposed that time renders the tax less onerous or that, in other provinces, the cultivator is better treated.  In this respect the documents are authentic and almost up to the latest hour.  We have only to take up the official statements of the provincial assemblies held in 1787, to learn by official figures to what extent the fisc may abuse the men who labor, and take bread out of the mouths of those who have earned it by the sweat of their brows.


State of certain provinces on the outbreak of the Revolution. — The taille, and other taxes.- The proportion of these taxes in relation to income.- The sum total immense.

Direct taxation alone is here concerned, the tailles, collateral taxes, poll-tax, vingtièmes, and the pecuniary tax substituted for the corvée[4] In Champagne, the tax-payer pays on 100 livres income fifty-four livres fifteen sous, on the average, and in many parishes,[5] seventy-one livres thirteen sous.  In the Ile-de-France, “if a taxable inhabitant of a village, the proprietor of twenty arpents of land which he himself works, and the income of which is estimated at ten livres per arpent it is supposed that he is likewise the owner of the house he occupies, the site being valued at

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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