The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 652 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
year, might be mistaken for real beggars; there is hardly any small village whose tax collectors are solvent, since the tenant farmers (métayers) have had to be appointed.”  At Angers, “independent of presents and candles, which annually consume 2,172 livres, the public pence are employed and wasted in clandestine outlays according to the fancy of the municipal officers.”  In Provence, where the communities are free to tax themselves and where they might be expected to show some consideration for the poor, “most of the towns, and notably Aix, Marseilles and Toulon,[71] pay their impositions,” local and general, “exclusively by the tax called the “piquet.”  This is a tax “on all species of flour belonging to and consumed on the territory;” for example, of 254,897 livres, which Toulon expends, the piquet furnishes 233,405.  Thus the taxation falls wholly on the people, while the bishop, the marquis, the president, the merchant of importance pay less on their dinner of delicate fish and becaficos than the caulker or porter on his two pounds of bread rubbed with a piece of garlic!  Bread in this country is already too dear!  And the quality is so poor that Malouet, the intendant of the marine, refuses to let his workmen eat it!

“Sire,” said M. de la Fare, bishop of Nancy, from his pulpit, May 4th, 1789, “Sire, the people over which you reign has given unmistakable proofs of its patience. . . .  They are martyrs in whom life seems to have been allowed to remain to enable them to suffer the longer.”


“I am miserable because too much is taken from me.  Too much is taken from me because not enough is taken from the privileged.  Not only do the privileged force me to pay in their place, but, again, they previously deduct from my earnings their ecclesiastic and feudal dues.  When, out of my income of 100 francs, I have parted with fifty-three francs, and more, to the collector, I am obliged again to give fourteen francs to the seignior, also more than fourteen for tithes,[73] and, out of the remaining eighteen or nineteen francs, I have additionally to satisfy the excise men.  I alone, a poor man, pay two governments, one the old government, local and now absent, useless, inconvenient and humiliating, and active only through annoyances, exemptions and taxes; and the other, recent, centralized, everywhere present, which, taking upon itself all functions, has vast needs, and makes my meager shoulders support its enormous weight.”

These, in precise terms, are the vague ideas beginning to ferment in the popular brain and encountered on every page of the records of the States-General.

“Would to God,” says a Normandy village,[74] “the monarch might take into his own hands the defense of the miserable citizen pelted and oppressed by clerks, seigniors, justiciary and clergy!”

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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