The Ancient Regime eBook

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

Accordingly, among the small growers, he is the most to be pitied; according to the testimony of Arthur Young, wine-grower and misery are two synonymous terms.  The crop often fails, “every doubtful crop ruining the man without capital.”  In Burgundy, in Berry, in Soisonnais, in the Trois-Evêche’s, in Champagne,[40] I find in every report that he lacks bread and lives on alms.  In Champagne, the syndics of Bar-sur-Aube write[41] that the inhabitants, to escape duties, have more than once emptied their wine into the river, the provincial assembly declaring that “in the greater portion of the province the slightest augmentation of duties would cause the cultivators to desert the soil.” — Such is the history of wine under the ancient regime.  From the producer who grows to the tapster who sells, what extortions and what vexations!  As to the salt-tax, according to the comptroller-general,[42] this annually produces 4,000 domiciliary seizures, 3,400 imprisonments, 500 sentences to flogging, exile and the galleys. —

If ever two taxes were well combined, not only to despoil, but also to irritate the peasantry, the poor and the people, here they were.


Why taxation is so burdensome. — Exemptions and privileges.

Evidently the burden of taxation forms the chief cause of misery; hence an accumulated, deep-seated hatred against the fisc and its agents, receivers, store-house keepers, excise officials, customs officers and clerks. — But why is taxation so burdensome?  As far as the communes which annually plead in detail against certain gentlemen to subject them to the taille are concerned, there is no doubt.  What renders the charge oppressive is the fact that the strongest and those best able to bear taxation succeed in evading it, the prime cause of misery being the vastness of the exemptions[43].

Let us look at each of these exemptions, one tax after another. — In the first place, not only are nobles and ecclesiastics exempt from the personal taille but again, as we have already seen, they are exempt from the cultivator’s taille, through cultivating their domains themselves or by a steward.  In Auvergne,[44] in the single election-district of Clermont, fifty parishes are enumerated in which, owing to this arrangement, every estate of a privileged person is exempt, the taille falling wholly on those subject to it.  Furthermore, it suffices for a privileged person to maintain that his farmer is only a steward, which is the case in Poitou in several parishes, the subdelegate and the élu not daring to look into the matter too closely.  In this way the privileged classes escape the taille, they and their property, including their farms. — Now, the taille, ever augmenting, is that which provides, through its special delegations, such a vast number of new offices.  A man of the Third-Estate has merely to run through the history of its periodical

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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