The Ancient Regime eBook

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


Observe the system actually at work.  It is a sort of shearing machine, clumsy and badly put together, of which the action is about as mischievous as it is serviceable.  The worst feature is that, with its creaking gear, the taxable, those employed as its final instruments, are equally shorn and flayed.  Each parish contains two, three, five, or seven individuals who, under the title of collectors, and under the authority of the election tribunal, apportion and assess the taxes.  “No duty is more onerous;"[16] everybody, through patronage or favor, tries to get rid of it.  The communities are constantly pleading against the refractory, and, that nobody may escape under the pretext of ignorance, the table of future collectors is made up for ten and fifteen years in advance.  In parishes of the second class these consist of “small proprietors, each of whom becomes a collector about every six years.”  In many of the villages the artisans, day-laborers, and métayer-farmers perform the service, although requiring all their time to earn their own living.  In Auvergne, where the able-bodied men expatriate themselves in winter to find work, the women are taken;[17] in the election-district of Saint-Flour, a certain village has four collectors in petticoats. — They are responsible for all claims entrusted to them, their property, their furniture and their persons; and, up to the time of Turgot, each is bound for the others.  We can judge of their risks and sufferings.  In 1785,[18] in one single district in Champagne, eighty-five are imprisoned and two hundred of them are on the road every year.  “The collector, says the provincial assembly of Berry,[19] usually passes one-half of the day for two years running from door to door to see delinquent tax-payers.”  “This service,” writes Turgot,[20] “is the despair and almost always the ruin of those obliged to perform it; all families in easy circumstances in a village are thus successively reduced to want.”  In short, there is no collector who is not forced to act and who has not each year “eight or ten writs” served on him[21].  Sometimes he is imprisoned at the expense of the parish.  Sometimes proceedings are instituted against him and the tax-contributors by the installation of " ‘blue men’ and seizures, seizures under arrest, seizures in execution and sales of furniture.”  “In the single district of Villefranche,” says the provincial Assembly of Haute-Guyenne, “a hundred and six warrant officers and other agents of the bailiff are counted always on the road.”

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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