The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 548 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
and who act accordingly.  “Whatever orders may be given them not to take anything, not to make the inhabitants feed them, or to enter taverns with collectors,” habit is too strong “and the abuse continues."[25] But, burdensome as the bailiff’s men may be, care is taken not to evade them.  In this respect, writes an intendant, " their obduracy is strange.” " No person,” a receiver reports,[26] “pays the collector until he sees the bailiff’s man in his house.”  The peasant resembles his ass, refusing to go without being beaten, and, although in this he may appear stupid, he is clever.  For the collector, being responsible, “naturally inclines to an increase of the assessment on prompt payers to the advantage of the negligent.  Hence the prompt payer becomes, in his turn, negligent and, although with money in his chest, he allows the process to go on."[27] Summing all up, he calculates that the process, even if expensive, costs less than extra taxation, and of the two evils he chooses the least.  He has but one resource against the collector and receiver, his simulated or actual poverty, voluntary or involuntary.  “Every one subject to the taille,” says, again, the provincial assembly of Berry, “dreads to expose his resources; he avoids any display of these in his furniture, in his dress, in his food, and in everything open to another’s observation.” — “M. de Choiseul-Gouffier,[28] willing to roof his peasants’ houses, liable to take fire, with tiles, they thanked him for his kindness but begged him to leave them as they were, telling him that if these were covered with tiles, instead of with thatch, the subdelegates would increase their taxation.” — “People work, but merely to satisfy their prime necessities. . . .  The fear of paying an extra crown makes an average man neglect a profit of four times the amount."[29] — “. . .  Accordingly, lean cattle, poor implements, and bad manure-heaps even among those who might have been better off."[30] — " If I earned any more,” says a peasant, “it would be for the collector.”  Annual and illimitable spoliation “takes away even the desire for comforts.”  The majority, pusillanimous, distrustful, stupefied, “debased,” “differing little from the old serfs,[31]” resemble Egyptian fellahs and Hindoo pariahs.  The fisc, indeed, through the absolutism and enormity of its claims, renders property of all kinds precarious, every acquisition vain, every accumulation delusive; in fact, proprietors are owners only of that which they can hide.

V. INDIRECT TAXES.

The salt-tax and the excise.

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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