The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 652 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
forests where they have created a fortified and guarded area and paying exactly for what they take to live on.”  In 1777[22], at Sens in Burgundy, the public attorney, M. Terray, hunting on his own property with two officers, meets a gang of poachers who fire on the game under their eyes, and soon afterwards fire on them.  Terray is wounded and one of the officers has his coat pierced; guards arrive, but the poachers stand firm and repel them; dragoons are sent for and the poachers kill of these, along with three horses, and are attacked with sabers; four of them are brought to the ground and seven are captured.-Reports of the States-General show that every year, in each extensive forest, murders occur, sometimes at the hands of a poacher, and again, and the most frequently, by the shot of a gamekeeper. — It is a continuous warfare at home; every vast domain thus harbors its rebels, provided with powder and ball and knowing how to use them.

Other recruits for rioting are found among smugglers and in dealers in contraband salt[23].  A tax, as soon as it becomes exorbitant, invites fraud, and raises up a population of delinquents against its army of clerks.  The number of such defrauders may be seen when we consider the number of custom officers:  twelve hundred leagues of interior custom districts are guarded by 50,000 men, of which 23,000 are soldiers in civilian dress[24].  “In the principal provinces of the salt-tax and in the provinces of the five great tax leasing administrations (fermes), for four leagues (ten miles) on either side of the prohibited line,” cultivation is abandoned; everybody is either a customs official or a smuggler[25].  The more excessive the tax the higher the premium offered to the violators of the law; at every place on the boundaries of Brittany with Normandy, Maine and Anjou, four pence per pound added to the salt-tax multiplies beyond any conception the already enormous number of contraband dealers.  “Numerous bands of men,[26] armed with frettes, or long sticks pointed with iron, and often with pistols or guns, attempt to force a passage.  “A multitude of women and of children, quite young, cross the brigades boundaries or, on the other side, troops of dogs are brought there, kept closed up for a certain time without food or drink, then loaded with salt and now turned loose so that they, driven by hunger, immediately bring their cargo back to their masters."-Vagabonds, outlaws, the famished, sniff this lucrative occupation from afar and run to it like so many packs of hounds.  “The outskirts of Brittany are filled with a population of emigrants, mostly outcast from their own districts, who, after a year’s registered stay, may enjoy the privileges of the Bretons:  their occupation is limited to collecting piles of salt to re-sell to the contraband dealers.”  We might imagine them, as in a flash of lightening, as a long line of restless nomads, nocturnal and pursued, an entire tribe, male and female, of unsociable prowlers,

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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