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they are forbidden to do it out of any ill will or malice, yet they will ease their friends, though they crush others; and this is the cause of a great many mischiefs, and of divers families being absolutely ruined by these unjust stewards.
The kingdom of France being so very great, it is not forty or fifty millions that would ruin its inhabitants, were that sum but equally shared; but, as I have already observed, some being eased, when others are overcharged, and this misfortune coming upon every man in his turn, the collectors being changed so every year, it happens that at last all become poor and miserable. Well, we have now seen how that tax is imposed ; let us, in the next place, see how it is levied. Should I say that the manner of collecting the taille is very near as grievous as the taille itself, I should say nothing but what is very true, though at first it seems almost incredible. To clear therefore this point, I shall observe to you only, that the people being grown very poor, they cannot exactly pay all that they are assessed; and upon failure thereof, which must be quarterly, the general receiver or treasurer of each election immediately sends an officer, called Porteur de contrainte, or commissary, to quarter upon the collectors or inhabitants of such a parish, which is so in arrear, with two or three men, whose pay amounts to thirteen or fourteen shillings a day, where they remain till they have other orders from the receiver, which he never grants but upon full payment. And, though this way of levying is rude and severe, yet it is very gentle, if compared with what they do in some provinces of France, where the receivers, instead of commissaries, make use of soldiers, whom they quarter at discretion upon those who make the least default in payment. And this is nothing less than dragooning. It is also worth our remark to observe, that when an inhabitant is become so poor, as he is utterly unable to pay his tax, or suppose that the collector should prove a rogue, and play away the king's money, the other inhabitants are bound to answer for each of these disasters.
There are some provinces in France that are not liable to the taille; for those of Burgundy, Britanny, and Languedoc are free from it, at least as to the name: for truly, at the bottom, they pay too as well as the rest; but with this only difference, that, instead of taille, their subsidy is called don gratuit, a free gift of the estates of those provinces. What those of Burgundy give, I cannot tell at present; but the free gifts of Britanny and Languedoc amount every year to above six hundred thousand pounds of our English money. Those who are not thoroughly acquainted with the state of France, will likely fall into a great mistake at the first reading of this, and fancy to themselves, that the states of those provinces are like the parliament of England; but, lest I should give any occasion for so great an error, I think it necessary to explain myself. The truth is, that the states of Languedoc and Britanny were formerly like those of England, but now they are only a shadow of what they have been. They meet every year, and, upon their meeting, the governor of the provinces, or some other great
lord, demands from them, in the name of the king, three or four millions of livres, more or less, as the king pleaseth. His speech, for the formality sake, is indeed taken into consideration; but the sum must be granted, with this only shadow or remain of authority, that they grant somewhat less, perhaps, by fifty crowns, than the king hath demanded, This is all; for they have no power to meddle with any other affairs. After such a digression, which I have thought necessary for my reader's information, give me leave to resume the thread of my discourse.
Some towns also are free from the taille; but instead of that they pay some other duties, more than an equivalent with that horrid tax. Those duties are called entries; but they deserve to be considered apart by themselves in another article, which will be no less curious, or useful to be knowo. Where the taille is personal, the noblemen and chief magistrates, as counsellors in parliament, are also free from it, at least as to their personal estate; but their lands are assessed, as well as those of other men, except seven or eight acres, and provided they plough them themselves, that, as the king is resolved to lose nothing, it happens that their farmers are a great deal more taxed than other men; and I remember thereupon, that a farmer of a manor at Villeneuve St. George, called les Bergeres, about four leagues from Paris, was assessed every year,* nine hundred livres, though he paid but five hundred to his landlord, Monsieur de Commartin, counsellor of state.
These are the observations I have thought fit to make upon the taille, which, I hope, will give a pretty clear idea of it. I will now proceed to consider the consequences of it: for it is not of this monster, like that of the naturals, that those die without any issue, but this has a numerous posterity. The first is the taillon, which is an additional tax, and that was raised at first by Henry the Second, anno 1549, towards the increase of the pay of his gens.. d'armes, who then lay billetted in villages, and to enable them to pay their hosts whatever they had from them. The poor countrymen thought then to have got a little ease ; but soon after they became as much oppressed by their unruly guests as ever: so that whatever had been pretended to them, for their ease, proved only a trick to drain their purses the more. Now every body knows, that the custom of billeting the gens d'armes, in villages, has been Jaid aside ; but, for all that, the taillon is still continued, and so the people are bound to pay it, wbich amounts to above the third part of the taille.
The other children of that monster are the contributions which the French king raises upon bis subjects, and a subsidy for the winter quarters of his soldiers. To explain this, it must be observed, that, in time of war, the French king is obliged to quarter his troops upon the frontiers, as also, or at least the greatest part of them, in time of peace, because of the numerous garisons he is
• Sixty-nine pounds four shillings and six-pence sterling.
forced to have. Now, to keep them in pay, there is a general agsessment laid upon most of the towns of the kingdom, whereby they are forced to pay the subsidy called the winter quarters, at the rate of five-pence a day for each private centinel ; and because, the country people are bound to contribute oats and bay for the maintenance of the borse that are garisoned in the towns, when the troops are in Flanders, or in other frontiers, they are likewise forced to convert those oats and hay into money; and this is called contribution, wbich brings to the king a great sum of money; those commodities being valued at the discretion of those officers who are appointed for that purpose. Now, wbat sum that subsidy or contributions produce, it is impossible to determine ; but it cannot but be very great, considering the vast number of soldiers that the French king bas in pay, and tbe nambers of the towns he bas in France.
And yet, how chargeable soever that subsidy is, the French soldiers are such insulting and sawcy gaests, that the people would pay twice as much more, if they could but free themselves from those troublesome visits. And this insolence is countenanced by the government so much the more, because of the great advantage the king receiveth by it, many towns paying more to be free from their winter quarters, than they do for the taille; which they should not do, were these soldiers kept under as severe a discipline as they are in England, and only quartered in publick houses.
ARTICLE IL of the Gabelle. THIS is not so much a tax laid by the French king upon ple, as it is the engrossing of a trade to himself, whereby his subjects are forced to buy the salt from him at his granaries, and at his own price. How great a profit he maketh of that commodity, few people know; and, I am afraid, that few will believe what I am going to say upon thát, subject: For though we are used to hear of the great and advantageous retarns, that our merchants receive from the East and West Indies, yet they are not to be compared to what the French king gets upon his subjects by this gabelle.
How common salt is in France, those that have travelled in the Pays d'Aunix, or Xaintonge, cannot be ignorant of; but, for those who have not seen the salt-marshes of that country, I hope, it will be sufficient to let them know, that a certain measure, called Msuyds de bosse, weighing five thousand two hundred pounds, is bought there, at some times, for three shillings and six pence, and never dearer than four shillings and six pence of English money. It is there that the French king buys that commodity, to sell it again to his subjects, in all the provinces of his kingdom, except Poictou, Xaintonge, Guienne, and Britanny, where the gabelle is not as yet imposed. There may be also soine other tracts of land free from that tax, but they are very inconsiderable.
Now, to understand what profit he maketh upon that merchandise, it ought to be observed, that the muyds de bosse contains fifty
two other measures, called minots, that is, one-hundred pounds weight; and that each minot is sold, at this time, in Paris, at the king's granaries, for sixty-four livres: so that, there being fifty-two minots in eacb muyds de bosse, as I have said, it follows, that the same quantity of salt that the French king buys for four shillings and six pence, at utmost, is sold to bis subjects, at his granaries in Paris, for three-thousand three-hundred and twenty eight livres ; that is, two-hundred and fifty-six pounds sterling. It is true, it is not sold at that rate in all the provinces where the gabelle is imposed; but there is a very inconsiderable difference; and now every where near Paris, as in Normandy, &c. it bears the same price.
I do not question, but that, at the first sight of so extravagant a price, many people will be apt to think, that I impose upon their credulity; but there are so many considerable witnesses of what I say, in this kingdom, it is very easy for any man to enquire into the truth of this matter. I must only give you this caution, that, in time of peace, the minot, which is now sold for sixty four livres, was then bought for forty-four pounds, but, with this difference alone, the whole account is but pure matter of fact,
How necessary soever the commodity of salt be, that high price would discourage many people from making use of it; but, to prevent that, there are such good orders made that it is impossible to avoid it. First,
First, The importing of foreign salt is forbidden, upon pain of death: so that, let the salt of the king's granaries be never so dear, yet, because it is absolutely necessary, the French are forced to buy it. Secondly, Salt is imposed upon the people there, as the taille; so that each family must take every year a certain quantity of it, proportioned to the number of their family and estate; and so, let them be never so willing to eat their bread and meat without salt, yet the king will lose nothing by it.
This is the reason that some provinces are said to be liable to the salt of granaries, and others to the salt of imposition. To understand this distinction, it must be observed, than in Paris, and some other cities and carmtries, salt is not imposed upon the inhabitants as the taille; and that, if they buy any, it is out of necessity, and not from any other violence. But in Normandy, Picardy, Champaigne, Anjou, and other places, there are officers appointed to examine
each family, and to assess them a minot more or less, according to their number and estate. Let people say what they will, as, that they are so poor, as that they are unable to pay it, they must take the quantity assessed; and, if they do not pay it within six months after, they must expeet a military execution; and God knows how severe that is
A man so compelled to buy a commodity, which is a great deal too dear for his purse, would gladly sell it again, could he find a favoura able opportunity. And there is nothing in this, but what is very natural; but there are such penalties, both for the buyer and seller, that it is very dangerous for either of them to drive on such a trade. The first offence is punished with a fine; but, in case the offender be unable to pay it, he is condemned to the penalty of the second
offence, which is corporal; viz. To be branded with a red flowerde-lis upon
the cheek, or the shoulder. And so hard a punishment ought, one would think, to deter any man from offending twice. Yet there are some who offend a third time, and those, upon conviction, are sent slaves to the gallies, were it only for a pound of salt, given, sold, lent, or bartered. The same punishment is inflicted upon the Faux Sauniers; that is, á sort of people, who, invited by the high price of salt, convey'it secretly from Poictou and Britanny, into the provinces liable to the gabelle.
The fishermen, and other inhabitants of the sea-coasts, would have a very 'officious neighbour, were they but suffered to make use of salt-water: but, to hinder it, there are watches appointed; and, were a man once convicted for having made use of it, he would be no less severely punished than a Faux Saunier.
How heavy that cursed gabelle is upon the French nation, will appear, I hope, by what I have already said. But yet, were it fairly managed, it would not however be intolerable; for it is certain, that the cheats and knaveries, committed on that account, are more to be feared than the imposition itself. This tax robs a man but of his money; but the managers of it can deprive him both of bis reputation, life, and estate: for the tools of slavery and arbitary power be. ing always, and every where alike, I mean covetous, base, unmerciful, and treacherous, it happens, many times, that, under colour of searching a man's house upon pretence of forbidden salt, they will hide some themselves in a corner, where they are sure to find it again upon a second visit; and this is sufficient to fine a man, perhaps, more than he is worth in the world. But, if a man should have an enemy, who is so base as to bribe the officers of the salt into his interests, and oblige them to serve that trick thrice upon him, which he can do for a little sum of money, that man shall be sent a slave to the gallies, which is a punishment worse a thousand times than death itself. This observation is not grounded only upon a bare peradventure, but there are many examples of it; and, were it not for fear of bringing a disgrace upon some families that are now in England, I could produce very good authorities.
I have said, that the provinces of Poictou, Xaintonge, Britanny, and Guienne, are free from the gabelle; and, perhaps, some will wonder at it; and, should I omit to say what I know upon that point, likely enough I should be blamed, That distinction, in my opinion, is grounded upon three reasons :
First, Britanny being united to the crown of France but since Charles the eighth, who married the heiress of that fine duchy, it is no wonder that the inhabitants of that province have greater privileges than others. And so I may say the same thing as to Poictou and Guienne, those countries being formerly subjected to the crown of England. But as for Xaintonge, or Pays d'Aunix, truly there is another particular reason: for,
First, Would it not be too severe, nay, and inconsistent too with the French king's interests, to impose the gabelle in that very place where the salt is made?