The Eve of the French Revolution
Edward J. Lowell

Part 4 out of 7

old custom, was still the living-room of the family. Sometimes the
lord's house was modern, elegant, and symmetrical; it was flanked with
pavilions and in front of it was a stone terrace, with a balustrade, on
which stood vases for growing plants. Inside the house were high-studded
rooms with white walls and gilded mouldings. High-backed, crooked-legged
chairs, in the style of the last reign, were ranged against the walls;
and near the middle of the dark, slippery, well-waxed floor, were
lighter seats and stools. The grandmother's armchair with its footstool
stood at the chimney corner, where the fire was religiously lighted on
All Saints and put out at Easter, regardless of weather. Through the
tall windows that opened down to the ground might be seen the long
straight garden-walks, none too well kept, and clipped shrubs, with here
and them a marble nymph, moss-grown and broken, or a fountain out of
repair. The family did not spend much money in the place. There was
little to do except in the season for shooting.[Footnote: Taine,
_L'ancien régime_, 17. Mme. de Montagu, 59.]

In order that this last occupation may be left to the lord and his
friends, game is strictly preserved, to the great detriment of the
crops. Poachers are sharply dealt with, and the peasant may not have a
gun to protect him from wolves. There are laws enough against the
wrongs wrought by landlords and gamekeepers, against the trampling
down of young wheat, against vexatious complaints and fines, but the
country people say that such laws are not fairly enforced. Especially
is the case hard of those who live near the _capitaineries_ or royal
hunting-grounds. Here rural proprietors may not raise a new wall
without permission, lest the hares be restrained of their liberty of
eating cabbages. No crops can be cut until the appointed day, that the
young partridges be not disturbed. Deer and rabbits live at free
quarters in the cultivated fields. They are the peasants' personal
enemies, and among the first unlawful acts of the Revolution will be
their wholesale destruction.[Footnote: Olivier, 78, mentions the laws
protecting the crops. The universal complaint of the _cahiers_ proves
the grievance. See the chapter on the _cahiers_. The _capitainerie_ of
Chantilly was said to be over 100 miles in circumference. A. Young,
i. 8 (May 25, 1787).]

In every village there is a church, sometimes even in small places a
beautiful gothic building, oftener modest in size and of plain
architecture. Once or twice in a day's ride the red roofs and high
walls of a convent come in sight, not very different in appearance
from a group of farm buildings,--were it not for the chapel and its
belfry;--for here in France the farms are surrounded by high
walls. The interminable straight roads, fine pieces of engineering,
but little traveled, stretch out between the ploughed fields, with
rows of Lombardy poplars on either hand, that tantalize the sun-baked
traveler with a suggestion of shade.

The peasants live in villages oftener than in detached farms, and the
village itself is apt to have a rudely fortified appearance. The fields
that stretch about it belong to the peasants, but with a modified
ownership. Over them the lords exercise their feudal rights. There is
the _cens_, a fixed rent, annual, perpetual, inseparably attached
to the soil. It is paid sometimes in money, sometimes in grain, fruits,
or chickens, according to deed, or to long established custom. There is
the _champart_, a rent proportional to the crop, also payable to
the lord; and there is the tithe which must be given to the clergy.
Should the peasant wish to sell his holding, a fine called _lods et
ventes_, amounting in some cases to one sixth of the price, must be
paid to the lord by the purchaser, and on some estates the lord has also
the right to refuse to accept the new tenant, and to take the bargain on
his own account.[Footnote: Prudhomme, 37, 137, 515.]

These are the common incidents of feudal tenure. Rights analogous to
them may be found in England or in Germany, wherever that system has
existed. And the vestiges of a state of things far older than feudalism
have not entirely disappeared. The commons of wood and of pasturage yet
recall the time when agricultural lands were held by a common tenure.
Even that tenure itself, with its annual redistribution of the fields,
may be found in Lorraine.[Footnote: Mathieu, 322.]

There were, moreover, many irksome restrictions on the peasant. In the
lord's mill he must grind his corn; in the lord's oven he must bake his
bread; to the lord's bull his cow must be taken. Days of labor on the
lord's land might be demanded of him. Ridiculous customs, offensive to
his dignity or his vanity, might be enforced. Newly married couples were
in some parishes made to jump over the churchyard wall. In other places,
on certain nights in the year, the peasants were obliged to beat the
water in the castle ditch to keep the frogs quiet. These customs have
been considered very grievous by democratic writers, nor were they so
indifferent to the peasants themselves as the lovers of the good old
times would have us believe.[Footnote: See the rural _cahiers,
passim_. Mathieu gives the text of a customary right of
_banalité_. The fee of the _four banal_ was 1/24 of the bread
by weight; the _moulin banal_, 1/12 of the flour; the _pressoir
banal_, 1/10 to 1/12 of the wine; but the fees varied in different
places even in one province. It was complained that presses enough for
the work were not furnished, and that grapes spoiled in consequence.
Mathieu, 285.]

It was not always the lord of the soil who enjoyed and exercised the
feudal rights. He had sometimes sold them to strangers, in whose hands
they were merely revenue, and who demanded them harshly.

The origin of these customs lay in a form of civilization that had long
passed away. To understand the conditions on which the French peasants
held their lands little more than a hundred years ago, we must glance
back over many centuries. Feudalism began in military conquest. When the
barbarians overran the Roman Empire, the victorious chiefs divided the
land among their principal followers; and the titles thus conferred,
although personal at first, soon became hereditary. The man who received
or inherited land was expected to appear in the field with his followers
at the call of his chief. The tenant, in his turn, distributed the land
among his friends on conditions similar to those on which he had himself
received it; and the process might be indefinitely repeated. Thus there
came to be a hierarchy in the state, in which every member was
responsible to his immediate superiors and obliged within certain limits
to obey the man next above him, rather than the king who was supposed to
rule them all. The obligations were various, according to the conditions
on which the lands had been granted, but they always involved military
service on the part of the grantee, and protection on the part of the
grantor. The services being mutual, and the tenure the usual, or
fashionable one, most persons who held land in any other way saw fit to
conform to the feudal method; and absolute, or allodial owners, where
the tide of conquest had left any, generally, in the course of time,
surrendered their lands to some neighboring lord, and received them back
again on feudal conditions.

But the tenure here described existed only among the comparatively rich
and great. When the last feudal division had been accomplished, when the
chief had made his last grant to his captains and the soil was divided
among them, there still remained by far the larger part of the
population which owed no feudal duty and held no feudal estate. The
common soldiers of the invading army, the native people of the conquered
country and their descendants, inextricably mixed together, remained
upon the soil and cultivated it as free tenants, or as serfs. They paid
for the use of the land on which they lived in money or in a share of
the crops, or in services. They acknowledged the title of the feudal
lords over them, and while struggling to make good bargains with their
masters, they seldom set up a claim to equality, or to independence. The
peasants came to think it the natural and divinely appointed order of
things that they should obey and serve their lords, with a partial
obedience and a limited service. To ask why they were content so to
serve, would be to open one of the greatest problems of history.
Whatever the reason, over a large part of the world, and through the
greater part of historical time, men have consented to obey other men
whom they have not selected, and have generally preferred the hereditary
principle to any other in determining to whom they would look up as
their rulers.

So the French peasants and their lords went on for centuries, living
side by side, rendering each other mutual services, sometimes quarreling
and sometimes making bargains. The peasants were called on for military
service, but they and their families took refuge in the lord's castle
when the frequent wars swept over the land. The mill, whose rough
machinery was still an improvement on the rude hand-mill, or on the yet
more primitive mortar and pestle; the oven where the peasant could bake
his bread without lighting a fire on his own hearth, after the toil of
the long summer's day; the bull of famous breed in all the country-side,
were the lord's, and all his tenants must use them and pay for them, at
rates fixed by immemorial custom, or perhaps by some long forgotten
bargain, made when these conveniences were first furnished to the
dwellers in the land. The lord led his peasants to battle, he protected
them from the inhabitants of the next valley, he decided their
differences in his court, where the more considerable of his tenants sat
beside him; he governed his people, well or ill, according to his
character, but on the whole to their reasonable satisfaction. His
government, such as it might be, was their only refuge from anarchy. The
lord was governed, not very strictly, by a greater lord, who in his turn
owed duty to a greater than he; until, after one or more steps, came the
king, or overlord of the land.

The long struggle by which the kings of France had transformed this
loose chain of allegiance into the tightened band of almost absolute
monarchy, is not to be told here. From the tenth century to the
seventeenth the combat was waged with varied success. The feudal lords
lost much of their power, but kept much of their wealth and many of
their privileges. The dukes and counts, whose fathers, in their own
domains, had been as powerful as the king himself, retained their
titles, and drew their incomes, but they spent their time in attendance
on their sovereign. The petty lord still held his court of justice, over
which his bailiff usually presided, but its functions had been gradually
usurped by the royal judges. The castle, no longer needed for
protection, was transformed into a country house. But many old customs
and old rights were maintained, although their origin was forgotten. The
peasants still worked for several days in the year on the lands of their
lord, or paid a part of their crops in rent for their farms, although
these had been in the possession of their forefathers for a thousand

This rent, or some rent, the peasants under Louis XVI. believed to be
just, for they did not claim absolute ownership, but they considered the
services onerous and degrading. Their ideas on these subjects were not
very definite, but of late years a general sense of wrong had been
growing in their minds. The long-lived quarrels which ever exist in the
country-side were envenomed by stronger suspicions of injustice. It was
a common complaint that the last survey and apportionment of rent had
been unfair. The lords were no longer so far removed from their poorer
neighbors as to be above envy. They were no longer so useful as to be
considered necessary evils, as a large part of the community everywhere
is prone to think of its governors.

Let us look at the life of the peasant. His cottage is not attractive; a
low thatched building, perhaps without a floor. The barn is close
against it, and the family is not averse to seeking the warmth of the
cattle and of the dunghill. The windows are without glass, and pigs and
chickens wander in and out at the open door. But the house belongs to
the peasant, and is his home. He dares not improve it for fear of
increased taxes. He cares not much to do so. It keeps him warm at night
and dry when it rains; daylight and fine weather will find him out of
doors. If he can hide away a few pieces of silver in an old stocking, he
will more readily bring them out to buy another bit of ground, than
waste them in useless comforts and luxuries of building.

The furniture was generally better than the house. A great bedstead,
with curtains of green serge, was the principal piece, the centre of
family life, the birthplace of the children, the death-bed of the
parents. It was made as high as possible, to lift the sleepers above the
damp ground. A feather-bed helped to keep them warm. A few cupboards and
chests stood about the walls of the room, dark with age and grime. They
were made of oak, or pear wood, and sometimes rudely carved. In the
eighteenth century comfort had much increased in the towns, but the
country had seen little change.

The dress, again, was generally better than the furniture. The costumes
of the provinces are often the copy of some long-forgotten fashion of
the court, simplified or changed to adapt it to rural skill and country
needs. To be well dressed is a sign of respectability; to be modestly
housed may pass for a sign of thrift. On Sundays, bright coats, blue,
gray, or olive, made their appearance. The women came out in good gowns
and clean caps. There were flowered damask waists, sleeves of white
serge, wine-colored petticoats. A gold cross was a sign of comparative
wealth, but silver jewelry was common. Leather shoes were worn by both
sexes. On week days there were wooden shoes, or bare feet in the
southern provinces, and overalls of gray linen. Under Louis XVI., cotton
began to drive out the linen and woolen cloths of former years. Being
cheaper and less strong, clothes were oftener renewed. The change was
contrary to beauty, but favorable to cleanliness.

The food of the peasant depended much on his harvest. In good years and
on good soils he was well fed; in bad years and in poor districts, ill.
Bread, the chief article of his diet, was cheaper and less good than in
England, the wheat flour being mixed with rye, barley, oats, chestnuts
or pease. The women made a soup, or porridge, by boiling this bread in
water, adding milk perhaps, or a little bit of pork for a relish. Cheese
and butter were fairly plenty, for common lands were extensive. Beef and
mutton would be eaten at Easter-tide or at the festival of the patron
saint, and most at wedding-feasts. Wine appears to have been considered
a luxury, but a common one. It would seem that a peasant who did not
taste it several times a week was accounted poor; one who drank it
freely but temperately twice a day would have been called rich. Tobacco,
the comforter of the poor, was in common use. This description of the
food of the country people applies rather to the poorer peasants, or to
those whose condition was not above the average, than to those who were
best off. In Normandy, good bread, meat, eggs, vegetables, and fruit,
with plenty of cider, formed the daily fare in prosperous farm-houses.
[Footnote: This description of the condition of the peasants is taken
chiefly from Babeau, _La vie rurale._]

The peasants were not cut off from all social and political activity.
Every rural parish formed a separate little community, very restricted
in its rights and functions, yet not without valuable corporate
powers. [Footnote: The parish and the community were generally
coterminous, but were not always so. Ibid., _Le Village_, 97.] It
could hold property, both real and personal; it could sue and be sued;
it could elect its own officers and manage its own affairs. In the
eighteenth century it became the fashion in France, as in many other
countries, to divide the common lands, but many parishes still held
large tracts in the reign of Louis XVI. The sale of their woods, the
letting of their pastures, of fishing rights, or of the office of
wine-taster in grape-growing districts, formed the revenues of the
rural community. Its expenses were many and various. It repaired the
nave of the church, the choir being kept in order at the cost of the
priest. The parsonage and the wall round the churchyard were
maintained by the parish. The drawing for the militia was at the
expense of the community. So were some of the roads. It paid the
schoolmaster and the syndic. Then there were incidental expenses, such
as the annual mass, the carriage of letters, the keeping in order of
the church clock. Sometimes the accounts of a community show a charge
for a present to some influential person, capable of helping in a
lawsuit, or of effecting a reduction of the taxes assessed on the
parish. It was a notable feature of the communal expenses, that the
lord of the village shared them with his poorer neighbors. Into these
rural matters privilege did not extend.[Footnote: But this was not
always the case. See the _cahier_ of the Artignose in Provence,
_Archives parlementaires_, vi. 249. "Clochers et autres batiments
généraux. (Les seigneurs n'en payent rien, même pour leurs biens
roturiers, pour les différentes charges des communautés)."]

The public meetings of these little communities were held on certain
Sundays of the year after mass, or after vespers. Sometimes the meeting
took place in the church itself, oftener in front of it, on the green.
There the men of the village, streaming from the porch, stood or sat in
groups on the grass, under the trees. Their own elected syndic presided.
Ten was a quorum for ordinary business, but two thirds of the whole
number was necessary to confirm a loan. A fine could be imposed for
absence, or for leaving the assembly before adjournment.

In these town meetings the affairs of the community were discussed and
decided. Sales were made, land was let, repairs of public buildings or
of roads were voted. The syndic was elected. A record of the proceedings
was kept, and was afterwards submitted to the royal intendant for his
approval, without which no action was valid. This system lasted to the
eve of the Revolution, but was at that time giving way to another. Under
pretense that the public meetings were disorderly, they were gradually
obliged to surrender their functions to boards partly or wholly elected.
But certain important matters, such as the election of a schoolmaster,
were still left to the general assembly. At the same time the right of
suffrage was somewhat curtailed. Voters were required to be twenty-five
years old and to pay certain taxes.

The village had its elected head, the syndic,[Footnote: So called in
the north of France. In the south, _consul_. Babeau, _Le
Village_, 45.] whose functions were not unlike those of an American

He was the executive officer of the community, who conducted its
business and had charge of its papers. The central government of the
country also laid tasks upon him. He had to attend to the drawing of the
militia, to report epidemics among the cattle, to enforce the laws for
the destruction of caterpillars. Beside him were other officers, also
elected by the inhabitants, but more directly the servants of the
central power than he. These were the collectors of taxes. The syndics
and collectors had much work and responsibility, with little pay and no
chance of promotion. Honest and capable men were much averse to taking
such places and often tried to escape it. The dishonest acquired illicit
gain in them, at the expense of their fellow-subjects. Serving the
community was considered less an honor than a duty, and service could be
forced on the unwilling citizen; but the inhabitants in easy
circumstances often found means to avoid the task, and the syndics and
collectors were then chosen from among the poorer and less educated
peasants. Some of them could neither read nor write.[Footnote: The
above description of the political life of the village is taken chiefly
from Babeau, _Le Village_. See also the _cahier_ of the
village of Pin (_Paris extra muros, Archives parlementaires_, v.
22, Section 1).] A public body that wishes to be well-served must not
make public service too disagreeable. France suffered at once from
overpaid courtiers, and from ill-treated syndics and collectors.

The chief layman of the village was the lord's steward (_bailli_),
who exercised the judicial functions of his master. He held himself
above the common peasants and his wife was called "Madame." Her kitchen
showed a greater array of pots and pans than that of her neighbors; her
linen and her jewelry were more abundant than theirs. The steward and
the parish priest were the most important persons in the hamlet.
[Footnote: Babeau, _La vie rurale_, 156.]

The schoolmaster came far below the priest, who had over him a right
of supervision. The main control of the schools, however, was in the
hands of the communities, which elected the masters from candidates
approved by the clergy. The latter insisted more strongly on orthodoxy
than on competence. The position of the village schoolmaster was not
brilliant. His house usually consisted of two rooms, one for the
school and one for the family; his books were few, his clothes shabby.
He was paid in part by the scholars, at the rate of three or five sous
a month for reading, higher for writing and arithmetic. In some cases
a tax of a hundred and fifty livres was laid on the parish for his
benefit. But school was not held during the whole year; the scholars
would desert in a body early in Lent, and be kept busy in the fields
until November. The master might act as surgeon, or attorney, or
surveyor; he might cultivate a plot of ground. He was expected to
assist the priest at divine service, to lead the choir, or even to
ring the bells. Simple primary schools were abundant in the country,
especially in some of the northern provinces. In some villages the
boys and girls went together, but the higher civil and ecclesiastical
authorities, the king and the bishops, more familiar with the manners
of the court than with those of the village, looked on these mixed
schools with disfavor. In general it was harder for girls to get an
education than for boys.[Footnote: Babeau, _La vie rurale_, 143.
Ibid., _Le Village_, 277. Ibid., _L'Ecole de village_, 17, 18.
Mathieu, 262. _Cahier_ of the "_Instituteurs des petites villes,
bourgs, et villages de Bourgogne," Rev. des deux Mondes_, April 15,
1881, 874. Statistics are imperfect, but from an examination of
marriage registers, Babeau gathers that the proportion of persons
married who could sign their names varied from nearly 89 per cent. of
the men and nearly 65 per cent. of the women in Lorraine, to 13 per
cent. of the men and nearly 6 per cent. of the women in the Nivernois.
The central provinces and Brittany were the most illiterate parts of
the country. _L'Ecole_, 3 _n_. 187. _Le Village_, 282 _n_. 3.]

The ambitious lad found means by which to rise. In spite of the heavy
and badly levied taxes, he might grow rich, add new fields to his
father's farm, attain in some degree to comfort and to that
consideration in his neighborhood which is perhaps the most legitimately
dear to the heart of all the worldly consequences of success. Nor was it
necessary to confine himself entirely to agriculture. The lower walks of
the law and of medicine might be attained by the son of a peasant, and
if one generation of labor were hardly long enough to reach the higher,
no career, except the few reserved for the upper nobility, was beyond
the aspiration of the rising man for his children or his children's
children. There was more modest promotion nearer at hand. The blacksmith
and the innkeeper stood in the eyes of their poorer neighbors as
instances of prosperity. The studious boy, with good luck, might become
a schoolmaster, even a parish priest. The active and pushing might, with
favor, aspire to some petty place under the central government; or to
stewardship for the lord. To what eminence of fortune might not these
prove the paths.[Footnote: Babeau, La vie rurale, 128, etc.]

Meanwhile for the unambitious, for the mass of rural mankind, there were
simpler pleasures, the dance on the green of a Sunday afternoon, the
weddings with their feasts and merry-makings, the fairs and the festival
of the patron saint of the village. There were games, ploughing matches,
grinning matches. Holidays were frequent,--too frequent, said the
learned; but probably they did not often come amiss to the peasants. On
those days they could throw off their cares and play as heartily as they
had worked. It is generally believed that the Frenchman, and especially
the French peasant, was livelier before the Revolution than he has ever
been since.[Footnote: Ibid, 187. See Goldsmith's Traveller, the lines

"To kinder skies, where gentler manners reign,
I turn; and France displays her bright domain." ]

There was much that was hard in the condition of the rural classes, but
it was better than that of the greater part of mankind. On the continent
of Europe only the inhabitants of some small states equaled in
prosperity those of the more fortunate of the French provinces.
[Footnote: Holland and Lombardy were the richest countries in Europe.
Tuscany was especially well governed just then. A. Young, i. 480.
Serfdom still existed in some remote French provinces, especially in the
Jura mountains. Its principal characteristic was the escheating to the
lord of the property of all serfs dying childless.] And in France
prosperity was growing. The peasant's taxes were constantly getting
heavier, but his means of bearing them increased faster yet. The rising
tide of material prosperity, the great change of modern times, could be
felt, though feebly as yet, in the provinces of France.


TAXATION.[Footnote: "I must again remark that clear accounts are not to
be looked for in the complex mountain of French finances." A. Young, i.
578. Young reckons the revenue at the entire command of Louis XVI. at
680,664,943 livres, i. 575. See also Stourm, ii. 182.]

The gross amount paid in taxes by the French nation before the
Revolution will never be accurately known; the subject is too vast and
complicated, and the accounts were too loosely kept. Necker in his work
on the "Administration of the Finances" reckons the sum annually paid by
the people at five hundred and eighty-five million livres. Bailly (whose
book appeared in 1830 and has not been superseded) makes the gross
amount eight hundred and eighty millions. But from this should be
deducted feudal dues and fees for membership of trade guilds, which
Bailly includes in his estimate, and which were certainly private
property, however objectionable in their character. There will remain
less than eight hundred and thirty-seven million livres as the amount
paid by about twenty-six million Frenchmen, in general and local
taxation, including tithes; an average of about thirty-two livres a
head. Was this amount excessive? Probably not, if the load had been
rightly distributed. If we allow the franc of to-day one half of the
purchasing power of the livre of 1789, the modern Frenchman yet pays
more than his great-grandfather did. But there can be little doubt that
he pays it more easily to himself. In the eighteenth century the
Englishman was probably better off than his French neighbor, but his
advantage was not undoubted. Grenville, in 1769, speaks of the
comparative lightness of taxes and cheapness of living which, he says,
must make France an asylum for British manufacturers and artificers.
Young, twenty years later, asserts that the taxes in England are much
more than double those in France, but more easily borne. Necker says
that England bears as large a burden of taxation as France, in spite of
a smaller number of inhabitants and a less amount of money in
circulation; but bears it more readily because it is better distributed.
And Chastellux, while arriving at a similar conclusion, remarks that
after all the French is, of all nations, the one that suffers most from
taxation.[Footnote: Necker, _De l'Administration_, i. 35, 51.
Bailly, ii. 275. Grenville, _The Present State of the Nation_, 35;
but this statement is made in a political pamphlet, answered and
apparently refuted by Burke, _Observations on a Late State of the
Nation._ A. Young, i. 596. Chastellux, ii. 169. For 1891 the average
taxation per head amounts to 86 francs, for 1789 to 34 livres,
_Statesman's Year Book_, 1891, p. 472, and Bailly.]

Under the old monarchy the taxes were unequally assessed in two ways.
There were differences of places and differences of persons. This is
pretty sure to be true of all countries, but in France the differences
were very large and were not sanctioned by the popular conscience. In a
country which had become strongly conscious of its unity, and which was
full of national feeling, some provinces were taxed much more heavily
than others, not for their own local purposes, but for the support of
the central government. In the first place came those provinces which
were included in the general assessment of taxes. These were divided
into twenty-four districts (_generalités_), over each of which was
an intendant. Twenty of these districts formed the heart of old France,
extending irregularly from Amiens on the north to Bordeaux on the south,
and from Grenoble on the east to the sea. To these were added the
conquered or ceded provinces: Alsace, Lorraine, Bar, the Three
Bishoprics, Franche Comté, Flanders, and Hainault, forming among them
four districts and enjoying privileges superior to those of old France.
All these formed the Lands of Election (_pays d'Election_). On the
other hand were the Lands of Estates (_pays d'États_), provinces
which had retained their assemblies, and with them some of their ancient
rights of taxing themselves, or at least of levying in their own way
those taxes which the central government imposed. This was a privilege
highly prized by the provinces which possessed it. These provinces
formed a fringe round France, and included Languedoc, Provence, the
duchy of Burgundy, Artois, Brittany, and some others. The central
administration was so oppressive, at the same time that it was clumsy
and inefficient, that every province and city was anxious to compound
for its taxes, and to settle them at a fixed rate, though a high one.
This was accomplished on the largest scale by the Lands of Estates, but
similar privileges, to a greater or less extent, were maintained by most
of the cities. We must remember, here as elsewhere, that France had not
sprung into being as a homogeneous nation with her modern boundaries.
From the accession of the House of Capet in the tenth century, province
after province had been added to the dominions of the crown. Many of
them had preserved ancient rights. Customs and tolls differed among
them, duties were exacted in passing from one to the other. Privileges,
the prizes of old wars, rights assured in some cases by solemn treaties,
had to be regarded. The wars of the Middle Ages were waged chiefly
concerning legal claims. The end of the period found all Europe full of
privileged territories, persons, or corporations. Privileges and rights
were regarded as property. Modern struggles have been for ideas, and
among the most cherished of these have been equality and uniformity. The
sacredness of property and of contract have in a measure gone down
before them.[Footnote: Necker, _De l'Administration_, i. ix.
Bailly, ii. 276. Horn, 258. Bois-Guillebert, 207. _(La détail de la
France Partie_, ii. c. vii.); Stubbs _Lectures_, 217. Walloon
Flanders was in the anomalous position of forming part of a
_généralité_, but possessing Estates. _Bailly_, ii. 327.]

Although the Provincial Estates differed in the various provinces which
possessed them, they included in almost every case members of the three
orders. The Clergy were usually represented by bishops, abbots, and
persons deputed by chapters; the Nobility either by all nobles whose
title was not less than a hundred years old, or by the possessors of
certain fiefs; the third estate, or Commons, by the mayors and deputies
of the towns. The three Orders sometimes sat apart, sometimes together.
In the intervals between their sessions their powers were delegated to
intermediate commissions, small boards for the regulation of current
affairs. There was nothing democratic in such a constitution. Even the
representatives of the commonalty were taken from among the most
privileged members of their order. Nor were the powers of the Estates
extensive. They bargained with the royal intendants for the gross amount
of the taxes to be assessed on their provinces. They divided this sum
and charged it to the various subdivisions of their territory. They
levied it by taxes similar to those of the general government.
[Footnote: Lucay, _Les assemblées provinciales_, 111. Necker,
_Mémoire au roi sur l'établissement des administrations provinciales,

But in spite of all drawbacks the Provincial Estates were much valued by
the provinces which possessed them. They were at least a guarantee that
some local knowledge and local patriotism would be applied to local
affairs. Moreover, they had the right of petition, a right essential to
good government, both for the information of rulers and for giving vent
to the feelings of subjects. This right is, and has long been, so nearly
free in English-speaking countries, that it is hard to realize that
there are civilized lands where men may not quietly and respectfully
express their wishes. Yet in old France, as in a large part of
Continental Europe to-day, the citizen who publicly gave an opinion on
public matters, or who pointed out a well-known public grievance, was
considered a disturber of the peace. Under such circumstances, a body of
men who were allowed to discuss and recommend might render a great
service to their country by simply using that freedom. The complaints of
the Estates of each province were transmitted to the king in council, by
a document known as a _cahier_, and the wishes thus expressed often
formed a basis of legislation, or of administrative orders.

Among the spasmodic efforts at reform made under Louis XVI. were two
attempts to extend the system of local self-government. The first was
made by Necker in 1778 and 1779. Provincial assemblies were established
in those years by way of experiment in two provinces, Berry and Haute
Guyenne. These assemblies were composed of forty-eight and fifty-two
members respectively, one half being taken from among the clergy and
nobility, one half from the Third Estate of the towns and the country. A
third of the members of the Assembly of Berry were appointed by the
king, and these elected their fellow-members, care being taken to
preserve the equality of classes. One third of the members were to be
renewed by the assembly itself once in three years. The body was,
therefore, in no way dependent on popular election. The assembly met and
voted as one chamber. Its functions were almost purely administrative,
the assessment of taxes, the care of roads and the management of
charitable institutions. All this was done under close supervision of
the intendant and, through him, of the minister. The assembly sat only
once in two years, for a time not exceeding one month, but an
intermediate commission carried on its work between its sessions. The
general plan of the Assembly of Haute Guyenne was similar to that of the
Assembly of Berry.

Eight years passed between the establishment of these experimental
assemblies and the convocation of the first Assembly of Notables at
Versailles,--eight important years in French history. Necker was driven
from power, but the two new bodies survived the reactionary policy of
his successors, and did some good service. The fallen minister kept his
popularity and his influence with the public at large. His great book on
the "Administration of the Finances" was in all hands, eighty thousand
copies having been rapidly sold. In it he expounds his favorite scheme
of Provincial Assemblies, and praises the working of the two that have
been established. He points out that they are not representative bodies,
empowered to make bargains with the king and to impede the government,
but administrative boards, entrusted by the sovereign with the duty of
watching over the interests of the people of their districts. The
Assembly of Notables of 1787 and the minister Brienne adopted Necker's
views, but not completely. They established provincial assemblies
throughout France on a plan of their own. One half of the members of
these new bodies were to be chosen in the first place by the king; the
second half being elected by the first. But at the end of three years
one quarter part of the assembly was to retire, and its place was to be
filled by a true election. This, however, was not to be direct, but in
three stages. A parochial board was to be created in every village,
composed of the lord and the priest ex officio, and of several elected
members. These parochial boards were to elect the district boards,
(_assemblées d'élection_) and the latter were to elect the new
members of the Provincial Assembly. The march of events after 1787
prevented these elections from taking place. But the nominated
assemblies met twice, once for organization and once for business. They
came too late to prevent a catastrophe, but lasted long enough to give
well-founded hopes of usefulness. The great National Assembly of 1789
and its successors might have had a far less stormy history, had all
France been accustomed, though only for one generation, to political
bodies restrained by law.[Footnote: Necker, _Compte rendu_, 74.
Ibid., _De l'Administration_, ii. 225, 292. Lavergne, _Les
Assemblées provinciales sous Louis XVI_. Lucay, _Les Assemblées
provinciales sous Louis XVI_., 163.]

Within a given province or district, there was no proportional equality
among persons in the matter of taxation. It was sometimes said that the
noble paid with his blood, the villein with his money. But the order of
the Nobility had come to include many persons who never thought of
shedding their blood for their country; to include, in fact, the rich
and prosperous generally. These were not (as they are sometimes
represented to have been), quite free from taxation. Something like one
half of the taxes were indirect, and might be supposed to be paid by all
classes in proportion to their consumption. Yet even for the indirect
taxes, privileged persons managed to find ways partially to escape. Some
of the direct taxes were deducted from salaries, or imposed on incomes,
but it was said that the rich and powerful often succeeded in having
their incomes lightly assessed. By way of increasing the inequality of
taxation, the government had a habit, when in need of more money than
usual, of adding a percentage to some old tax, instead of devising a new
one, thus bearing most heavily with the new impost on those classes
which were most severely taxed already.

First among French taxes, both in blundering unfairness and in evil
fame, came the Land Tax or _Taille_, producing for the twenty-four
districts a revenue of about forty-five million livres, or with its
accessory taxes, of about seventy-five millions.[Footnote: Bailly, ii.
307. Necker, _De l'Administration_, i. 6, 35, puts the taille at 91
millions, but I think he includes the tailles abonnées, paid by the Pays
d'états, although not those paid by cities.]

The taille was of feudal origin, and in the Middle Ages was paid to the
lord by his tenants. In the fifteenth century, however, it had already
been diverted to the royal treasury, and its product was employed in the
maintenance of troops. It was therefore paid only by villeins, for the
nobles served in person, and the clergy by substitute, if at all.

The exemption of the upper orders from liability to the taille clung
to that tax after the reason for such freedom had ceased to exist. The
tax itself early grew to be of two kinds, real and personal. The
_taille réele_, common in the southern provinces of France, was a true
land-tax, assessed according to a survey and valuation on all lands
not accounted noble, nor belonging to the church, nor to the
public. The distinction between noble and peasant lands was an old
one; and the peasant lands paid the tax even when owned by privileged
persons. [Footnote: Turgot, iv. 74.]

Over the greater part of France, however, the _taille réele_ did
not exist, and only the _taille personelle_ was in force. This bore
on the profits of the land and on all forms of industry; but the
churchmen and the nobles were exempt, at least in part.[Footnote: There
appears to have been a limit to the exemption of nobles cultivating
their own lands.] Owing to its personal nature, the tax was payable at
the residence of the person taxed. If a peasant lived in one parish and
derived most of his income from land situated in another, he was taxable
at the place of his residence, at a rate perhaps entirely different from
that of the parish in which his farm was situated. It might happen that
a large part of the lands of a parish were owned by non-residents, and
that the ability of the parish to pay its taxes was thus reduced. But
there were exceptions to the rule by which the tax followed the person,
and the whole matter was so complicated as to be a fertile cause of
dispute and of double taxation.[Footnote: Turgot, iv. 76.]

The method of assessment and levy was peculiar. The gross amount of the
taille was determined twice a year by the royal council, and apportioned
arbitrarily among the twenty-four districts (generalités) of France, and
then subdivided by various officials among the sub-districts (élections)
and the parishes. The divisions thus made were very unequal; some
provinces, sub-districts, and parishes being treated much more severely
than others, apparently rather by accident or custom than for any
equitable reason. An influential person could often obtain a diminution
of the tax of his village. When the work of subdivision was completed,
the syndics and other parish officers were notified of the tax laid on
their parishes, which were thenceforth liable for the amount. But the
taille had still to be apportioned among the inhabitants. For this
purpose from three to seven collectors were elected in every rural
community by popular vote. The collectors assessed their neighbors at
their own discretion, and were personally responsible to the government
for the whole amount assessed on the parish. In consideration of this,
and of their labor, they were allowed to collect a percentage in
addition to the taille, for their own pay.[Footnote: "Six deniers par
livre" = 2 1/2 per cent. Turgot, vii. 125. Sometimes 5 per cent. Babeau,
Le Village, 225.] The whole process was the cause of endless bickerings
and disputes, lawsuits and appeals, and the collectors were frequently
ruined in spite of all their efforts. They were ignorant peasants,
unused to accounts, sometimes unable to read. In some of the mountain
parishes of the Pyrenees their accounts were kept on notched sticks to a
period not very long before the Revolution.[Footnote: Bailly, ii. 159.
Horn, 224 Babeau, Le Village, 222, 224. Turgot, vii. 122, iv. 51.
_Encyclopédie_, xv. 841 (_Taille_). A similar practice existed
in the English Court of Exchequer, to a later date.]

The liability to the taille was joint. A gross sum was laid on the
parish, and if one person escaped, or was unable to pay, his share had
to be borne by the rest. On the other hand, if one man were
overcharged, the burden of his neighbors was lightened. Thus it was
every one's interest to seem poor. And the taxes were so important a
matter, taking so large a part of the yearly income, that they
modified the whole conduct of life. People dared not appear at their
ease, lest their shares should be increased. They hid their wealth and
took their luxuries in secret. One day, Jean Jacques Rousseau,
traveling on foot, as was his wont, entered a solitary farm-house, and
asked for a meal. A pot of skimmed milk and some coarse barley bread
were set before him, the peasant who lived in the house saying that
this was all he had. After a while, however, the man took courage on
observing the manners and the appetite of his guest. Telling Rousseau
that he was sure he was a good, honest fellow, and no spy, he
disappeared through a trap-door, and presently came back with good
wheaten bread, a little dark with bran, a ham, and a bottle of wine.
An omelet was soon sizzling in the dish. When the time came for
Rousseau to pay and depart, the peasant's fears returned. He refused
money, he was evidently distressed. Rousseau made out that the bread
and the wine were hidden for fear of the tax-gatherer; that the man
believed he would be ruined, if he were known to have anything.
[Footnote: Rousseau, xvii. 281 (_Confessions_, Part i. liv. iv.).
Vauban, 51, and _passim_. Bois-Guillebert, 191.]

As it was for the advantage of individuals to be thought poor, so it was
best for villages to appear squalid. The Marquis of Argenson writes in
his journal: "An officer of the _élection_ has come into the
village where my country-house is, and has said that the taille of the
parish would be much raised this year; he had noticed that the peasants
looked fatter than elsewhere, had seen hens' feathers lying about the
doors, that people were living well and were comfortable, that I spent a
great deal of money in the village for my household expenses, etc. This
is what discourages the peasants. This is what causes the misfortunes of
the kingdom. This is what Henry IV. would weep over were he living now."
[Footnote: D'Argenson, vi. 256 (Sept. 12, 1750). See also vi. 425, vii.
55, viii. 8, 35, 53.]

The country people had grown to be very distrustful and suspicious
wherever officials of the government were concerned. "I remember a
singular feature of this subject," says Necker. "I think it was twenty
years ago that an intendant, with the laudable intention of encouraging
the manufacture of honey and the cultivation of bees, began by asking
for statistics as to the number of hives kept in the province. The
people did not understand his intentions, they were, perhaps, suspicious
of them, and in a few days almost all the hives were destroyed."
[Footnote: _De l'Administration_, iii. 232.]

No one could be induced to pay promptly, lest he should be thought to
have money. The tax was due in four payments, from the first of October
to the last of April, but the collection of one instalment was seldom
completed before the following one was due; that of one year seldom made
before the next had come. The peasants obliged the collectors to wring
out the hard-earned copper pieces one or two at a time. The tardy were
vexed with fines and distraints. Furniture, doors, the very rafters and
floors were sold for unpaid taxes. In the time of Louis XV., if a whole
village fell too much behindhand, its four principal inhabitants might
be seized and carried off to jail. This corporal joint-liability was
ended by a law passed under the ministry of Turgot, and apparently not
repealed on his fall.[Footnote: Horn, 238; Vauban; Bailly, ii. 203;
Stourm, i. 52; Turgot, vii. 119.]

The assessment and collection of the taille presented many anomalies. In
some places commissioners had been appointed by the intendant, for the
purpose of assessing estates and of reckoning the value of day's labor
of artisans. This method worked well and gave satisfaction, but it
extended only to a few provinces.[Footnote: Babeau, _Le Village_,

From the land tax we pass to the Twentieths (_vingtièmes_
[Footnote: Not to be confounded with the _Droit de vingtième_, an
indirect tax on wine. Kaufmann, 33. Notice that the two
_vingtièmes_ are constantly spoken of as the _dixième_.]),
which, as their name implies, were in theory taxes of five per cent. on
incomes. From these the clergy only were freed (having bought of the
crown a perpetual exemption). Two twentieths and four sous in the livre
of the first twentieth, or eleven per cent., was the regular rate in the
reign of Louis XVI., and was expected to bring in from fifty-five to
sixty million livres a year. A third twentieth was laid in 1782, to last
for three years after the end of the war of the American Revolution,
then in progress. This twentieth brought in twenty-one and a half
millions only, on account of various exemptions that were allowed. The
liability to the twentieths was not joint but individual; so that when a
deduction was made from the amount charged to one tax-payer, the sum
demanded of the others was not increased.

An attempt was made to levy the twentieths on the various sorts of
income. The product of agriculture paid the largest part, but a
percentage was retained on salaries and pensions paid by the government,
and the incomes of public officers receiving fees was estimated. In
spite of the desire to include every income in the operation of this
tax, it was generally believed that valuations were habitually made too
low, and that unfair discrimination took place. The inhabitants of some
provinces, on the other hand, were thought to be overcharged. Attempts
at rectification were resisted by the courts of law, the doctrine being
asserted that the valuation of a man's income for the purposes of this
tax could not legally be increased. It is instructive to compare the
interest thus shown in the rights of the upper classes, who shared in
the payment of the twentieths, with the indifference manifested to the
arbitrary manner in which the common people were treated in levying the
Land Tax.[Footnote: Necker reckons the two _vingtièmes_ and four
sous at 55,000,000 livres. _De l'Administration_, i. 5, 6.
_Compte rendu_, 61. Ibid., _Mémoire au roi sur l'establissement
des administrations provinciales_, 25. Necker abolished the
_vingtième d'industrie_ applied to manufactures and commerce.
_Compte rendu_, 64. In his later book he speaks of it as subsisting
in a few provinces only. _De l'Administration_, i. 159. Turgot, iv.
289. Stourm, i. 54.]

The poll tax (_capitation_) was one only in name. It was in fact a
roughly reckoned income tax, and the inhabitants of France were for its
purposes divided into twenty-two classes, according to their supposed
ability to pay. In the country, the amount demanded for this tax was
usually proportioned to that of the personal taille. People who paid no
taille were assessed according to their public office, military rank,
business, or profession. The rules were complicated, giving rise to
endless disputes. In theory the very poor were exempt, but the exemption
was not very generous, for maid-servants were charged at the rate of
three livres and twelve sous a year, and there were yet poorer people
who paid less than half that amount. If the poor man failed to pay, a
garrison (_garnison_) was lodged upon him. A man in blue, with a
gun, came and sat by his fire, slept in his bed, and laid hands on any
money that might come into the house, thus collecting the tax and his
own wages. The amount levied by the poll-tax and accessories was from
thirty-six to forty-two million livres a year.[Footnote: Bailly, ii.
307. Necker, _De l'Administration_, i. 8. Mercier, iii. 98, xi. 96.
Mercier thinks that the _capitation_ was more feared than the
_dixième_, and than the _entrées_, because it attached more
directly to the individual and to his person. Does this mean greater
severity in collection? Notice that he writes of Paris, where there is
no taille.]

The indirect taxes of France were mostly farmed. Once in six years the
Controller General of the Finances for the time being entered into a
contract, nominally with a man of straw, but actually with a body of
rich financiers, who appeared as the man's sureties, and who were known
as the Farmers General. The first operation of the Farmers, after
entering into the contract, was to raise a capital sum for the purpose
of buying out their predecessors, of taking over the material on hand,
and of paying an advance to the government; for although many individual
Farmers General held over from one contract to the next, the association
was a new one for each lease. In 1774, just before the death of King
Louis XV., a new contract was made, and the capital advanced amounted to
93,600,000 livres. The Farmers were allowed interest on this sum at the
rate of ten per cent. for the first sixty millions, and of seven per
cent. for the remaining 33,600,000 livres. This interest was, however,
taxed by the government for the two twentieths.

The rent paid by the Farmers under this contract was 152,000,000 livres
a year, for which consideration they were allowed to collect the
indirect taxes and keep the product. This system, which is at least as
old as the New Testament, is now generally condemned, but in the
eighteenth century it found defenders even among liberal writers.

The Farmers General in the contract of 1774 were sixty in number, but
they did not divide among themselves all the profits of the enterprise.
It was the habit to accord to many people a share in the operations of
the farm, without any voice in its management. The people thus favored
were called croupiers; king Louis XV. himself was one of them. His
Controller General, the Abbé Terray, received a fee of three hundred
thousand livres on concluding the contract, and the promise of one
thousand livres for every million of profits. When the bargain had been
struck and the advance paid, he announced to the Farmers that further
croupes would be granted, and that sundry payments must be made to the
treasury. The profits of the undertaking were thus materially reduced.
The Farmers at first threatened to throw up their bargain, but the
Controller told them that if they did so he would not return their
advances, but only pay interest on them. In spite of this swindle, the
lease turned out on the whole much to the benefit of the Farmers.

In 1780, when the lease above mentioned expired, Necker was Director of
the Finances. He introduced reforms into the General Farm, cutting down
the number of Farmers from sixty to forty, and reducing their gains. The
collection of certain taxes was taken from them, and entrusted to new
companies. His contract was for a rent of 122,900,000 livres and the
advance was forty-eight millions, for which the Farmers received seven
per cent. Moreover, the latter were not to take the whole profit above
the rent of the Farm. The first three millions of that profit went to
the treasury, which also received one half of the remaining gains, but
croupes and pensions on the Farm were totally abolished. Necker reckons
the total sum drawn yearly by the Farmers from the people under his
administration at 184,000,000 livres, and the sums collected by the two
new companies of his own devising, for the collection of the excise on
drinkables and for the administration of the royal domains at 92,000,000

The Farmers General were the most conspicuous representatives in
France of the moneyed class, which was just rising into importance
beside the old aristocracy, by whose members it was despised but
courted. Many of the Farmers were of low origin and had risen to
fortune by their own abilities. Others belonged to families which had
long made a mark in the financial world. Their luxurious style of life
was admired by the vulgar and derided by the envious. The offices of
the Farm occupied several historic houses in Paris. In the chief of
these the French Academy had once held its sittings under the
presidency of Séguier, and the walls and ceilings shone with pictures
from the brushes of Lebrun and Mignard. The warehouses and offices for
the monopoly of tobacco occupied a fine building between the Louvre
and the Tuileries, where once the duchesses of Chevreuse and of
Longueville had prosecuted their political and amorous intrigues. The
discontented tax-payers grumbled the louder at seeing the hated
publicans so handsomely lodged.[Footnote: The total receipts of the
Farm, according to Necker, were 186,000,000 livres. Against this sum
must be set 2,000,000 for salt and tobacco sold to foreigners;
16,000,000 for the cost of salt and tobacco, and 8,000,000 for the
cost of other articles to the Farm. The amount of actual taxation
collected by the Farm would therefore seem to have been about
160,000,000. Necker, _De l'Administration,_, i. 9,14, iii. 122.
Lemoine, _Les derniers fermiers généraux, passim._ Bailly, ii. 185,
_n_. and _passim_. _Encyclopédie_, vi. 515 (_Fermes, Cinq grosses_)
vi. 513, etc. (_Fermes du roi_). Bertin, 480. Mercier, xii. 89.]

The first and most dreaded of the indirect taxes was the Salt Tax
(_gabelle_). As salt is necessary for all, it has from early days
been considered by some governments a good article for a tax, no one
being able to escape payment by going entirely without it. To make the
revenue more secure, every householder in certain parts of France was
obliged to buy seven pounds of salt a year at the warehouses of the
Farm, for every member of his family more than seven years old. In spite
of this, a certain economy in the use of the article became the habit of
the French nation, and the traveler of the nineteenth century may bless
the government of the Bourbons when for once in his life he finds
himself in a country where the cooks do not habitually oversalt the

The unfortunate Frenchmen of the eighteenth century had to pay dear for
this culinary lesson. But in this matter as in others they did not all
pay alike. The whole product of the salt tax to the treasury was about
sixty million livres, of which two thirds, or forty millions, was taken
from provinces containing a little more than one third of the population
of the kingdom. Necker, who much desired to equalize the impost,
mentions six principal categories of provinces in regard to the salt
tax; varying from those in which the sale was free, and the article
worth from two to nine livres the hundred weight, to those where it was
a monopoly of the Farm, and the salt cost the consumer about sixty-two
livres. Salt being thus worth thirty times as much in one province as in
another, it was possible for a successful smuggler to make a living by a
very few trips. The opportunity was largely used; children were trained
by their parents for the illicit traffic, but the penalties were very
severe. In the galleys were many salt-smugglers; people were shut up on
mere suspicion, and in the crowded prisons of that day were carried off
by jail-fevers.[Footnote: Necker, _De l'Administration_, ii. 1.
Ibid., _Compte rendu_, 82, and see the map of France divided
according to the _gabelle_ in the same volume. Bailly, ii. 163.
Clamageran, iii. 84 _n._, 296, 406. For the numerous officers and
complicated system of the _gabelle_, see _Encyclopédie_, vii.
942 (_Grenier a sel_); _Quintal_=100 French pounds; but which
of the numerous French pounds, I know not.] Of all known stimulants,
tobacco is perhaps the most agreeable and the least injurious to the
person who takes it; but no method of taking it has yet been devised
which is not liable to be offensive to the delicate nerves of some
bystander. It is probably on this account that a certain discredit has
always attached to this most soothing herb, and that it seldom gets fair
treatment in the matter of taxation. Over a large part of France,
containing some twenty-two millions of inhabitants, tobacco had been
subject to monopoly for a hundred years when Louis XVI. came to the
throne,[Footnote: With an interval of two years, during which it was
subject to a high duty. Stourm, i. 361.] yet the use of the article had
become so general that this population bought fifteen million pounds
yearly, or between five eighths and three quarters of a pound per head.
Of this amount about one twelfth was used for smoking in pipes, and the
remainder was consumed in the pleasant form of snuff. Three livres
fifteen sous a pound was the price set by the government and collected
by the Farmers, and the tobacco was often mouldy.[Footnote: Necker,
_De l'Administration_, ii. 100. Babeau, _La vie rurale_, 78.]

The excise on wine and cider (_aides_) was levied not only on the
producer, but also on the consumer, in a most vexatious manner, so that
the revenue officers were continually forcing their way into private
houses, and so that the poor peasant who quietly diluted his measure of
cider with two measures of water was lucky if he got off with a triple
tax, and did not undergo fine and forfeiture for having untaxed cider in
his house. It was moreover a principle with the officers of the excise
that wine was never given away; and as a tax was due on every sale the
poor vine-dresser could not give a part of the produce of his vineyard
to his married children, or even bestow a few bottles in alms on a poor,
sick woman without getting into trouble, and all this notwithstanding
the fact that in France in the eighteenth century, when tea and coffee
were unknown to the rural classes, and when drinking water was often
taken from polluted wells, wine or cider was generally considered
necessary to health and to life.

It is needless to consider in detail the duties on imports and exports
(_traites_). From the beginning of the eighteenth century until
three years after the end of the American War, commerce between France
and England was totally prohibited as to most articles, and subjected to
prohibitory duties in the case of the few that remained. This state of
things was tempered by a great system of smuggling, so successfully
conducted that insurance in many cases was as low as ten and even as
five per cent. Goods were sometimes taken directly from one coast to the
other on dark nights, and no reader of the literature of the last
century will need to be reminded that the "free traders" who brought
them were favorably received by the people among whom they might come to
land. Sometimes the articles were sent by circuitous routes through
Holland or Germany, on whose frontiers the same walls of prohibition did
not exist. But there were many things which could not conveniently be
smuggled, and in their case the want of competition, and still more the
lack of standards of comparison, tended to retard and injure production.
While improved machinery for spinning and weaving was common in England,
the old spindle, wheel, and house-loom still held their own in France.
In the year 1786, a commercial treaty was signed between the two
countries. By its provisions French wines were put on a better footing,
and many manufactured articles, as hardware, cutlery, linen, gauze, and
millinery were to pay but ten or twelve per cent. The confusion of
business which was the natural result of so great a change had not
ceased to be felt when the great Revolution began to disturb all
commercial relations.

It was not at the frontiers alone that commerce was subject to tolls and
duties. Trade was hampered on every road and river in the kingdom, and
so complicated were these local dues that it was said that not more than
two or three men in a generation understood them thoroughly.

Duties on food were then as now collected at the entrance of many
French cities (_octrois_). In the last century they were often partial
in their operation; such of the burghers as owned farms or gardens
outside the walls being allowed to bring in their produce without
charge, while their poorer neighbors were obliged to pay duties on all
they ate. In Paris some kinds of food, and notably fish, were both bad
and dear, because the charges at the city gate were many times as
great as the original value.[Footnote: See the pathetic _cahier_ of
the village of Pavaut, _Archives parlementaires_, v. 9. Vauban, _Dîme
royale_, 26, 51. Montesquieu, iv. 122 (_Esprit des Lois,_, liv. xiii.
c. 7). Necker, _De l'Administration_, ii. 113. _Encyclopédie
méthodique, Finance_, iii. 709 (_Traites_). Turgot, vii. 37. Mercier,
xi. 100. Stourm, i. 325.]

There was another burden which shared with the taille and the gabelle
the especial hatred of the French peasantry. This was the villein
service (_corvée_) which was exacted of the farmers and agricultural
laborers. The service was of feudal origin, and, while still demanded
in many cases by the lords, in accordance with ancient charters or
customs, was now also required by the state for the building of roads
and the transportation of soldiers' baggage. The demand was based on
no general law, but was imposed arbitrarily by intendants and military
commanders. The amount due by every parish was settled without appeal
by the same authorities. The peasant and his draft-cattle were ordered
away from home, perhaps just at the time of harvest. On the roads
might be seen the overloaded carts, where the tired soldiers had piled
themselves on top of their baggage, while their comrades goaded the
slow teams with swords and bayonets, and jeered at the remonstrances
of the unhappy owner. The oxen were often injured by unusual labor and
harsh treatment, and one sick ox would throw a whole team out of work.
The burden, imposed on the parish collectively, was distributed among
the peasants by their syndics, political officers, often partial, who
were sometimes accompanied in their work of selection by files of
soldiers, equally rough and impatient with the refractory peasants and
the wretched official. Turgot, who was keenly alive to the hardships
of the _corvée_, abolished it during his short term of power,
substituting a tax, but it was restored by his successor immediately
on his fall, and was not discontinued until the end of the monarchy.
[Footnote: The _corvées_ owned by the lords were limited by legal
custom to twelve days a year. _Encyclopédie_, iv. 280 (_Corvée_). I
can find no such limitations of _corvées_ imposed by the government.
Some regard seems to have been paid to peasants' convenience in fixing
the season of _corvées_ of road building, but none in those of
military transportation. Compensation was given for the latter, but it
was inadequate, hardly amounting to one fourth of the market price of
such labor. Turgot, iv. 367. Bailly, ii. 215.]

It is entirely impossible to discover, even approximately, what
proportion of a Frenchman's income was taken in taxes by the government
of Louis XVI. We may guess that the burden was too large, we may be sure
that it was ill distributed, yet under it prosperity and population were
slowly increasing.

Let us take the figures of Necker, as the most moderate. It is the
fashion to make light of Necker, and he certainly was not a man of
sufficient strength and genius to overcome all the difficulties with
which he was surrounded, but he probably knew more about the condition
of France than any other man then living. Let us then take his figures
and suppose that the two twentieths, and the four sous per livre of the
first twentieth, produced the eleven per cent. which they should
theoretically have given. In that case eleven per cent. of the country's
income was equal to fifty-five million livres. But at that rate the
direct taxes and tithes would have taken more than half the income, and
the indirect taxes more than the other half, and French subjects would
have been left with less than nothing to live on. Clearly, then, the
twentieths did not produce anything like the theoretical eleven per

M. Taine has gone into the question with apparent care, and his figures
are adopted by recent writers, but they would seem to be open to the
same objection. He reckons that some of the peasants paid over eighty
per cent. of their income. But if a man could pay that proportion to the
government year after year and not die of want, how very prosperous a
man living on the same land must be to-day if his taxes amount only to
one quarter or one third of his income. The real difficulty is one of
assessment. We can tell approximately how much the country paid; we can
never know the amount of its wealth.

How far did the rich escape taxation? The clergy of France as a body did
so in a great measure. They paid none of the direct taxes levied on
their fellow subjects. They made gifts and loans to the state, however,
and borrowed money for the purpose. For this money they paid interest,
which must be looked on as their real contribution to the expenses of
the state. But in this again they were assisted by the treasury. The
amount which finally came out of the pockets of the clergy by direct
taxation would appear to have been less than ten per cent. of their
income from invested property.

The nobility bore a larger share. The only great tax from which the
members of that order were exempted was the taille, forming less than
one half of the direct taxation, less than one sixth of the whole. But
in the other direct taxes, their wealth and influence sometimes enabled
them to escape a fair assessment.

The indirect taxes also bore heavily on the poor. They were levied
largely on necessaries, such as salt and food, or on those simple
luxuries, wine and tobacco, on which Frenchmen of all classes depend for
their daily sense of well-being. The gabelle, with its obligatory seven
pounds of salt, approached a poll-tax in its operation.

The worst features of French taxation were the arbitrary spirit which
pervaded the financial administration, the regulations never submitted
to public criticism, and the tyranny and fraud of subordinates, for
which redress was seldom attainable.[Footnote: Horn, 254.] We groan
sometimes, and with reason, at the publicity with which all life is
carried on to-day. We turn wearily from the wilderness of printed words
which surrounds the simplest matters. But only publicity and free
discussion will prevent every unscrupulous assessor and every arbitrary
clerk in the custom-house from being a petty tyrant. They will not by
themselves procure good government, but they will prevent bad government
from growing intolerable. In France, as we have seen, to print anything
which might stir the public mind was a capital offense; and while the
writer of an abstract treatise subversive of religion and government
might hope to escape punishment, the citizen who earned the resentment
of a petty official was likely to be prosecuted with virulence.



Certain financial practices, not immediately connected with taxation,
call for a short notice; for they are among the most famous errors of
the government of old France. One of these was the habit of issuing what
were called anticipations.[Footnote: Anticipations. "On entendait par
la des assignations sur les revenus futurs, remises aux fournisseurs et
autres creanciers du Tresor et negociables entre leurs mains."
Clamageran, iii. 30. Necker, _Compte rendu_, 20. Stourm (ii. 200)
thinks the amount not excessive, while acknowledging that it was so
considered. The Anticipations formed in fact the floating debt of the
government. Gomel, 287.] These were securities with a limited time to
run, payable from a definite portion of the future revenue. They were a
favorite form of investment with certain people, and a great convenience
to the treasury, but they constantly tended to increase to an amount
which was considered dangerous. Thus the revenue of each year was spent
before it was collected; and loans were contracted, not for any urgent
and exceptional necessity of the state, but for ordinary running
expenses. Another practice was the issuing by the king in person of
drafts on the treasury. Such drafts (_acquits de comptant_) were
made payable to bearer, and it was therefore impossible for the
controller of the finances to know for what purpose they had been drawn.
Originally a device for the payment of the private expenses of the king,
these drafts had become favorite objects of the cupidity of the
courtiers; because from their form it was impossible to trace them and
discover the recipient. Under Louis XVI. they absorbed more money than
ever before. It was very easy for that weak prince to give a check to
any one who might ask him. Turgot made him promise to stop doing so, but
he had not the strength to keep his word.[Footnote: Clamageran, in.
380, n. Bailly, i. 221, ii. 214, 259. The foreign office made use of
ordonnances de comptant to the amount of several millions annually, for
subsidies to foreign governments, expenses of ambassadors, secret
service, etc. Stourm, ii. 153.]

From an early time the custom of selling public offices had taken root
in France. Before the middle of the fourteenth century we find Louis X.
selling judicial places to the highest bidder, and less than a hundred
years later the practice had extended so that all manner of petty
offices were sold by the government. This method of raising money was so
easy that, in spite of the remonstrances of estates general and the
promises of kings, it was continually extended. In the sixteenth
century, as a greater inducement to purchasers, the offices were made
transferable on certain conditions, and in 1605 they became subjects of
inheritance. Places under government were thus assimilated to other
property and passed from the holder to his heirs. The law which
established this state of things was called _Édit de la Paulette_,
after one Paulet, a farmer of the revenue.

This sale of offices bore a certain resemblance to a loan and to a tax.
The services to be performed were often unimportant, sometimes worse
than useless. But the salary attached to the office might be considered
the interest of money lent to the crown; or if the office-holder were
paid by fees, he was enabled to make good to himself the advance made to
the government by drawing money from the tax-payers. Very generally the
two forms of profit to the incumbent were combined, together with a
third, the possession, namely, of privileges, or exemption from
taxation, attached to the office.

In managing its revenue from this source, the treasury dealt fairly
neither with the office holders nor with the public. Places were created
only to be sold, and before long were abolished, either without any
promise of compensation to the buyers, or with promises destined never
to be fulfilled. This want of faith kept down the price, which was often
but ten years' purchase of the income of the place. Yet rich and poor
were eager to buy. "Sir," said a minister of finance to King Louis XIV.,
"as often as it pleases your Majesty to make an office, it pleases God
to make a fool to fill it."

Thus it came to pass that most places about the royal person, in the
courts of justice and in the treasury, and many in the municipal
governments, the professions, and the trades, were subject to sale and
purchase. Numberless persons waited at the royal table, sat in the high
courts of Parliament, weighed, measured, gauged, sold horses, oysters,
fish, or sucking pigs, shaved customers or gave hot baths, as public
functionaries and by virtue of letters patent sold to them by the crown.
The clerk kept his register, not because the information it contained
would be useful to the government, but because he or some one else had
lent money, on which the public was now paying interest in the form of
registration fees. Thus the custom of selling offices was cumbrous and
objectionable.[Footnote: Montesquieu defends the custom, however. He
maintains that the offices in a monarchy should be venal; because people
do as a family business what they would not undertake from virtue; every
one is trained to his duty, and orders in the state are more permanent.
If offices were not sold by the government they would be by the
courtiers. Montesquieu, iii. 217 (_Esprit des Lois_, liv. v.
cxix.). See also De Tocqueville, iv. 171 (_Anc. Reg_. ch. xi.). In
many cases offices were desired more for the sake of distinction and
privilege than for profit. The income was often very small. Clamageran,
ii. 196, 378, 569, 615, 665; iii. 23, 24, 102, 155, 200, 319. Necker,
_De l'Administration_, iii. 147. Thierry, i. 163. Pierre de
Lestoile, 390, _n_.]

While the taxes of France were thus devised without system and levied
without skill, the attention of a thoughtful part of the nation had been
turned to financial matters. About the middle of the century arose the
Physiocrats, the founders of modern political economy. Their leader,
Quesnay, believed that positive legislation should consist in the
declaration of the natural laws constituting the order evidently most
advantageous for men in society. When once these were understood, all
would be well, for the absurdity of all unreasonable legislation would
become manifest. He taught two cardinal principles; first, "that the
land was the only source of riches, and that these were multiplied by
agriculture;" and, second, that agriculture and commerce should be
entirely free. The former of these doctrines, after exercising a good
deal of influence by calling attention to the injustice and oppression
with which the agricultural class in France was treated, has ceased to
be believed as a statement of absolute truth. The latter, adopted with
great enthusiasm by many generous minds, has exercised a deep influence
on modern thought.

Manufactures, according to Quesnay, do no more than pay the wages and
expenses of the workmen engaged in them. But agriculture not only pays
wages and expenses, but produces a surplus, which is the revenue of the
land. He divides the nation into three classes: (1) the productive,
which cultivates the soil; (2) the proprietary, which includes the
sovereign, the land-owners, and those who live by tithes, in other words
the nobility and the clergy; and (3) the sterile, which embraces all men
who labor otherwise than in agriculture, and whose expenses are paid by
the productive and proprietary classes. Therefore he argues that taxes
should be based directly on the net product of real estate, and not on
wages nor on chattels. In other words, all taxes should be levied
directly on the income derived from land, and indirect taxation in every
shape should be abolished.

Liberty of agriculture, liberty of commerce! "Let every man be free to
cultivate in his field such crops as his interest, his means, the
nature of the ground may suggest as rendering the greatest possible
return." "Let complete liberty of commerce be maintained; for the
regulation of commerce, both internal and external, which is most
safe, most accurate, most profitable to the nation, consists in full
liberty of competition." These doctrines of Quesnay, joined with the
ideas of property and security, form the basis of the modern school of
individualism. [Footnote: Lavergne, _Les Économistes,_ 105. Quesnay,
_Oeuvres,_ 233,306,331 _(Maximes du gouvernement économique d'un
royaume agricole Maxime,_ iii. v. xiii. xxv.). Turgot, iv. 305.
Bois-Guillebert appears to have been the principal precursor of the
Physiocrats. Horn, _L'Économie politique avant les Physiocrates,
passim;[Greek physis] = nature,[Greek kratos] = power.]

The body of doctrines long known as "political economy," (for the words
seem now to be used in a larger sense), bore the mark of their origin in
the eighteenth century. Here, as elsewhere, it was the belief of
Frenchmen of that age that the application of a few simple rules derived
from natural laws would solve the difficulties of a complicated subject.
The principles of political economy were conceived as forming "a true
science, which does not yield to geometry itself in the conviction which
it carries to the soul, and which certainly surpasses all others in its
object, since that is the greatest well-being, the greatest prosperity
of the human race upon the earth."[Footnote: 2. Abbé Beaudeau, quoted
in Lavergne, _Les Économistes,_ 179.] Quesnay and Gournay founded
branches of the economic school. The latter, who printed nothing, is
chiefly known through the encomiums of Turgot. Gournay was a merchant,
and recognized that commerce and manufactures are hardly less
advantageous to a state than agriculture. This is the chief difference
of his teaching from that of Quesnay. Gournay is the author of the
famous maxim: _Laissez faire; laissez passer;_ and his whole
system depended on the idea "that in general every man knows his own
interest better than another man to whom that interest is entirely
indifferent;" and that "hence, when the interest of individuals is
exactly the same as the general interest, the best thing to do is to
leave every man to do as he likes."[Footnote: Turgot, iii. 336
(_Éloge de M. de Gournay_).]

The best known member of the economic school in France was Anne Robert
Jacques Turgot, born in Paris on the 10th of May, 1727, of a family
belonging to the higher middle class. His father was _prevost des
marchands_, or chief magistrate of the city. Young Turgot was at
first educated for the ecclesiastical life, and indeed pursued his
studies in that direction until a bishopric seemed close at hand. But he
felt no vocation to enter the priesthood. Turgot was too much the child
of his century to be content to put his great powers into the harness of
the Roman Church; he was, as he told his friends who remonstrated with
him on abandoning his brilliant prospects, too honest a man to wear a
mask all his life.

At the age of twenty-four, Turgot turned finally from the study of
divinity to that of law and administration. He was rapidly promoted to
the place of a _maître des requêtes_, a member of the lowest board
of the royal council, and nine years later he became intendant of the
district of Limoges. It was the poorest in France, but Turgot soon
became so much interested in its welfare that he refused to exchange it
for a richer one. In spite of years of dearth and of the extraordinary
measures of relief which they made necessary, he went energetically to
work at all manner of permanent reforms. He effected improvements in the
apportionment and levy of the taille. He abolished the onerous
_corvée_. He diminished the terror of compulsory service in the
militia, by permitting the engagement of substitutes. He encouraged
agriculture by distributing seeds and offering prizes for the
destruction of wolves, which were still numerous in his district, and he
waged a successful war on a moth that was ravaging the wheat crop. He
assisted in the introduction of the manufacture of pottery, still one of
the leading industries of Limoges. His reports are among the most
valuable material in existence for the study of the condition of old

Soon after the accession of Louis XVI., Turgot was called to the
ministry, first, for a very short time, as secretary of the navy, and
then as Controller of the Finances. Two courses were open to the new
minister. Malesherbes, his close adherent, standing in high official
position, urged him to summon the Estates General, or at least the
Provincial Estates, and rule constitutionally. Such action would have
been a great, a serious innovation, but it was not on this ground that
Turgot opposed it. Like most of the economists of his day, he believed
at once in freedom and in despotism. "The republican constitution of
England," he had said, "sets obstacles in the way of the reform of
certain abuses." Turgot had a plan for the benefit of mankind. None but
a despot could carry it out for him. France and the world were to be set
right; and it would take absolute power to compel them into the best

The new Controller of the Finances could not afford to wait. "You
accuse me of too great haste," he said to a friend, "and you forget
that in my family we die of the gout at fifty." But this haste,
combined with his awkward and haughty manners, proved the cause of his
ruin. The courtiers, whose perquisites were in danger, were disgusted
at his simplicity and economy. Although he was the friend of absolute
government, he was accused of republican austerity. And his measures
were not more popular than his manners. The harvest of 1774 had been
bad, and famine was in the land. Turgot met the situation by declaring
commerce in grain free throughout the kingdom. The harvest was again
bad in 1775, and riots broke out, for the common people had it firmly
in their minds that the price of bread was fixed by the
government. Turgot put down disturbances with a high hand, and
persevered in his measures. He abolished the _corvée_ on roads and
public works throughout France. In truth it would have been better to
modify and regulate it, for in poor countries many men had rather work
on the roads than pay for them, but such considerations as this were
foreign to his mind. He, moreover, abolished the trade-guilds
(_jurandes_), which possessed the monopoly of most kinds of
manufactures and trades, saying that God, in giving man needs and
making labor his necessary resource, had made the right to work the
property of every man, and that this property is the most sacred and
inalienable of all.[Footnote: Turgot, viii. 330. Yet the monopolies
in certain trades, as those of apothecaries, jewelers, printers, and
booksellers, were retained, probably because their strict regulation
and supervision was considered necessary. The guilds were
reestablished, with modifications, on the fall of Turgot.
_Encyclopédie méthodique, Commerce_, ii. 760, 790.] But Turgot's ideal
of freedom was entirely industrial and commercial, and not at all
political or social. He forbade all associations or assemblies of
masters or workmen, holding that the faculty granted to artisans of
the same trade to meet and join in one body is a source of evil. Under
Turgot's system, the individual workman would not have escaped the
tyranny of the masters' guild only to fall under that of the
trades-union; but one of the most essential privileges of a freeman
would have been denied him. Individual liberty to work, and political
liberty to combine, have not yet been made perfectly to coincide.

The innovations thus introduced were great; the interests threatened
were powerful. The Parliament of Paris rallied to the defense of vested
rights. It refused to register the edicts issued to enforce the
minister's innovations.

The king held a bed of justice and forced their registration; but his
weak nature was tiring of the struggle. Turgot was unpopular on all
sides, and Louis never supported a truly unpopular minister. "Only M.
Turgot and I love the people," he cried, in his impotent despair; and
then he gave way. Malesherbes, the principal supporter in the royal
council of the Controller General of the Finances, was the first to go.
Thereupon Turgot wrote the king a long and harsh letter, blaming him for
Malesherbes's resignation. "Do not forget, sir," said he, "that it was
weakness which put the head of Charles I. on the block; it was weakness
which formed the League under Henry III., which made crowned slaves of
Louis XIII. and of the present king of Portugal; it was weakness which
caused all the misfortunes of the late reign." Kings to whom such
language as this can be used are not strong enough to bear it. Turgot
was dismissed twelve days after sending the letter.[Footnote: May 12,
1776. Lavergne, _les Économistes_, 219. Turgot, iii. 335; viii.
273, 330. Bailly, ii. 210.]

The financial situation of France was undoubtedly serious. The cause of
this was far less the amount of the debt, or the excess of expenditure
over revenue, than the total demoralization of the public service. The
annual deficit at the accession of Louis XVI. is variously stated at
from twenty to forty million livres a year.[Footnote: From four to
eight million dollars.] Such a deficiency would have nothing very
appalling for a strong minister of finance, supported by a determined
sovereign, and could have been overcome by economy alone. The expenses
of the court were not less than thirty millions. Turgot proposed to
reduce them by five millions immediately and by nine millions more in
the course of a few years. Twenty-eight millions were spent in pensions,
and it requires but a superficial knowledge of the state of France to
assure us that many of these were bestowed without sufficient reason.
[Footnote: Stourm sets the pensions at thirty-two millions, and thinks
that the improper ones did not exceed six or seven millions, ii. 134.]
Important reductions might have been made in the expenditures of most of
the departments without impairing their efficiency. But to have done
this many interests would have had to be disturbed, many hardships
inflicted. Amiable persons, living without labor at the public cost,
would have been deprived of their revenues. Other agreeable and
influential men and women would have had to live without pleasant things
which they had been brought up to expect. The good-nature of the king
made him shrink from inflicting pain. He would approve of the best plans
of economy, he would promise his minister of finance to adhere to them,
he would depart from them secretly at the solicitation of his wife or of
his courtiers. The poor man wanted "to make his people happy," and he
could not bear to see those of his people who came nearest to him
discontented. The successor of Turgot was a mere courtier, not even
personally honest, whose career was fortunately cut short by death
within a few months of his nomination.

The war of the American Revolution was drawing near, and old Maurepas,
the prime minister, felt the need of a competent man to take charge of
the finances. A name was suggested to him,--that of Necker, a successful
banker. But Necker was a Protestant, a Swiss, a nobody. The title of
Controller was too high for him, so a new post was created, and he was
made Director-General of the Finances, coming into office in October,

It has been the fate of Necker to excite strong enthusiasm and violent
objurgation; but in fact he was little more than commonplace. An
ambitious man, he wanted to make a reputation, to build up the royal
credit, to found a national debt, like that of England. Did he really
believe that such a debt would pay its own interest, without additional
taxes, or did he rely on economy of expenditure and good administration,
not only to balance the ordinary accounts, but to cover the interest of
the war-loans which he was obliged to contract? How far did his cheerful
manifestoes deceive himself? What might he not really have accomplished
if the royal support had been anything more solid than a shifting
quicksand? These questions cannot be answered satisfactorily. Neither
Necker, nor anybody else, knew exactly what the government owed, or what
it borrowed. The loans contracted by Necker himself are believed to have
amounted to five hundred and thirty million livres. Of this sum it is
thought that about two hundred millions were employed in covering the
annual deficit for five years, and that three hundred and thirty
millions were spent for the extraordinary demands of the war. The money
was raised chiefly by state lotteries and by the sale of life annuities,
although many other means also were employed.

The royal lottery had been a favorite device earlier in the century. As
practiced by Necker and some of his predecessors it combined the
features of gambling and of investment. Every ticket, in addition to its
chance of drawing a prize, was in itself a pecuniary obligation of the
government, either carrying perpetual interest at four per cent., or to
be repaid at its full price in seven or nine years without interest. The
prizes were sums of money or annuities. Thus the ticket-holder did not
lose his whole stake, and ran the chance of winning a fortune. But the
operation was not brilliant for the government.

Nor was the sale of annuities more judiciously managed. Here, as in the
lotteries, Necker copied old models, without making any improvements of
importance. No account was taken of the age of the annuitants, but
incomes were sold at a fixed rate of ten per cent, of the capital
deposited for one life, nine per cent, for two lives, eight and a half
for three, eight for four. The bankers and financiers of the day were
shrewd enough to profit by this arrangement.

They bought up the obligations, and named healthy children as the
annuitants. The chance of life of these selected persons was more than
fifty years, and as the children were usually chosen at about the age of
seven, the treasury would be called on to pay its annuities for an
average term of between forty and forty-five years. As the current rate
of interest on good security was about six per cent, the operation was
not a very promising one for the state.

In spite of all these blunders Necker was liked by the nation. He
recognized the need of economy and honestly tried to reduce expenses. He
succeeded in cutting off a little of the extravagance of the court and
in simplifying the collection of the revenue. He tried to establish
provincial assemblies and to equalize the incidence of the salt-tax. And
above all, in order to sustain the royal credit, he took the country
into his confidence to some extent, and prophesied pleasant things. But
he did not stop there. The national accounts had long been considered a
government secret; Necker resolved to publish them to the world. His
famous "Compte rendu au roi" appeared in February, 1781. The portrait of
the author, excellently engraved on copper, stares complacently from the
frontispiece, above an allegorical picture, where we can make out
Justice and Abundance, while Avarice appears to bring her treasures, and
a lady in high, powdered hair, and no visible clothing, gazes astonished
from the background. The contents of the report are not such as we are
in the habit of expecting in financial documents, but are rhetorical and
self-complacent. The ordinary revenues of the country are said to exceed
the expenditures by ten million livres. As a matter of fact, no such
surplus existed, but Necker was an optimist by temperament, and was
moreover anxious to bolster credit. The nation was delighted, but
Maurepas and the court were shocked. The cupidity of the courtiers was
painted in the account in glowing language. Such a publication was
dangerous in itself, and the economical measures already taken, with
those announced as to follow, threatened many interests. Even the old
prime minister trembled for his personal power. Necker had obtained the
removal from office of one of the adherents of Maurepas, while the
latter was kept in Paris by the gout. So the usual machinery of
detraction was put in motion. Letters, pamphlets, and epigrams flew
about. While the larger part of the public was singing Necker's praises,
the smaller and more influential inner circle was conspiring against
him. He might yet have prevailed but for an act of imprudence. Although
the most conspicuous and popular man in the kingdom, he had hitherto
been excluded from the Council of State. He now asked to be admitted to
it. Louis XVI., whose Catholicism was his strongest conviction, replied
that Necker, as a Protestant, was inadmissible by law. Thereupon the
latter offered to resign his place as Director of the Finances, and the
king, by the advice of Maurepas, accepted his resignation.[Footnote:
Gomel, _passim._]

From this time all real chance of the extrication of Louis XVI. from his
financial difficulties, without a radical change of government,
disappeared forever. The controllers that succeeded Necker only plunged
deeper and deeper into debt and deficit. It is needless to follow them
in their flounderings. A long experience of the vacillation of the
government both as to persons and as to systems had discouraged the
hopes of conscientious patriotism, and strengthened the opposition to
reform of all those who were interested in abuses. From the well-meaning
king, if left to his own ways, nothing more could be hoped. Pecuniary
embarrassment, with Louis, as with many less important people, was quite
as much a symptom of weakness as a result of unmerited misfortune.



We have seen that the church had an irreconcilable enemy in Voltaire;
that the government of France had found a critic of weight and
importance in Montesquieu; that the Economists had attacked the
financial organization of the country. But the assaults of the
Philosophic school were not leveled at the religious and civil
administration alone. The very foundations of French thought, slowly
laid through previous ages, were made in the reign of Louis XV. the
subject of examination, and by a very dogmatic set of thinkers were
pronounced to be valueless. Nor were men left at a loss for something to
put in the place of what was thus destroyed. The teachings of Locke,
explained and amplified by Condillac and many others, obtained an
authority which was but feebly disputed. The laws against free speech
and free printing, intended for the defense of the old doctrines,
deterred no one from expressing radical opinions. Only persons of
conservative and law-abiding temperament, the natural defenders of
things existing, were restrained by legal and ecclesiastical terrors.
The champions of the old modes of thought stood like mediaeval men at
arms before a discharge of artillery, prevented from rushing on the guns
of the enemy by the weight of the armor that protected them no longer.
The new philosophy, stimulated and hardly impeded by feeble attempts at
persecution, was therefore able to overrun the intellectual life of the
nation, until it found its most formidable opponent in one who was half
its ally, and who had sprung from its midst, the mighty heretic,

The most voluminous work of the Philosophers is the "Encyclopaedia," a
book of great importance in the history of the human mind. The
conception of its originators was not a new one. The attempt to bring
human knowledge into a system, and to set it forth in a series of folio
volumes, had been made before. The endeavor is one which can never meet
with complete success, yet which should sometimes be made in a
philosophic spirit. The universe is too vast and too varied to be
successfully classified and described by one man, or under the
supervision of one editor. But the attempt may bring to light some
relation of things hitherto unnoticed, and the task is one of practical

The great French "Encyclopaedia" may claim two immediate progenitors.
The first is found in the works of Lord Bacon, where there is a
"Description of a Natural and Experimental History, such as may serve
for the foundation of a true philosophy," with a "Catalogue of
particular histories by titles." The second is Chambers's Cyclopaedia,
first published in 1727, a translation of which Diderot was engaged to
edit by the publisher Le Breton. Diderot, who freely acknowledges his
obligation to Bacon, makes light of that to Chambers, saying in his
prospectus that the latter owed much to French sources, that his work is
not the basis of the one proposed, that many of the articles have been
rewritten, and almost all the others corrected and altered. There is no
doubt that the whole plan of the "Encyclopaedia" was much enlarged by
Denis Diderot himself.[Footnote: Bacon, iv. 251, 265. Morley,
_Diderot_, i., 116. Diderot, _Oeuvres_, xiii. 6, 8. "If we
come out successfully we shall be principally indebted to Chancellor
Bacon, who laid out the plan of a universal dictionary of sciences and
arts _at a time when there were, so to speak, neither sciences nor

This eminent man was born at Langres in 1713, the son of a worthy
cutler. He was educated by the Jesuits, and on his refusal to enter
either of the learned professions of law or medicine, was set adrift by
his father,--who hoped that a little hardship would bring him to
reason,--and found himself in Paris with no resource but the precarious
one of letters. Diderot lived from hand to mouth for a time, sleeping
sometimes in a garret of his own, sometimes on the floor of a friend's
room. Once he got a place of tutor to the children of a financier, but
could not bear the life of confinement, and soon threw up his
appointment and returned to freedom. When any friend of his father
turned up on a visit to the town, he would borrow, and the old cutler at
Langres would grumble and repay. Gradually the young author rose above
want. He became one of the first literary men of his day and one of the
most brilliant talkers, rich in ideas, overflowing in language, subtle
without obscurity, suggestive, and satisfying; yet always retaining a
certain shyness, and "able to say anything, but good-morning." Yet he
was soon carried away by the excitement of conversation and of
discussion. He had a trick of tapping his interlocutor on the knee, by
way of giving point to his remarks, and the Empress Catharine II. of
Russia complained that he mauled her black and blue by the use of this
familiar gesture, so that she had to put a table between herself and him
for protection. Diderot was fond of the young, and especially of
struggling authors. To them his purse and his literary assistance were
freely given. He was delighted when a writer came to consult him on his
work. If the subject were interesting he would recognize its
capabilities at a glance. As the author read, Diderot's imagination
would fill in all deficiencies, construct new scenes in the tragedy, new
incidents, new characters in the tale. To him all these beauties would
seem to belong to the work itself, and his friends would be astonished,
after hearing him praise some new book, to find in it but few of the
good things which he had quoted from it.

Diderot's good nature was boundless. One morning a young man, quite
unknown to him, came with a manuscript, and begged him to read and
correct it. He prepared to comply with the request on the spot. The
paper, when opened, turned out to be a satire on himself and his

"Sir," said Diderot to the young man, "I do not know you; I can never
have offended you. Will you tell me the motive which has impelled you to
make me read a libel for the first time in my life? I generally throw
such things into the waste-paper basket."

"I am starving. I hoped that you would give me a few crowns not to print

Instead of flying into a passion, Diderot simply remarked: "You would
not be the first author that ever was bought off; but you can do better
with this stuff. The brother of the Duke of Orleans is in retreat at
Saint Genevieve. He is religious; he hates me. Dedicate your satire to
him; have it bound with his arms on the cover; carry it to him yourself
some fine morning, and he will help you."

"But I don't know the prince; and I don't see how I can write the
dedicatory epistle."

"Sit down; I'll do it for you."

And Diderot writes the dedication, and gives it to the young man, who
carries the libel to the prince, receives a present of twenty-five
louis, and comes back after a few days to thank Diderot, who advises him
to find a more decent means of living.

The people whom the great writer helped were not always so polite. One
day he was seeing to the door a young man who had deceived him, and to
whom, after discovering it, he had given both assistance and advice.

"Monsieur Diderot," said the swindler, "do you know natural history?"

"A little; I can distinguish an aloe from a head of lettuce, and a
pigeon from a humming-bird."

"Do you know the formica leo?"


"It is a very clever little insect. It digs a hole in the ground, shaped
like a funnel. It covers the surface with fine, light sand. It attracts
silly insects and gets them to tumble in. It seizes them, sucks them
dry, and then says: `Monsieur Diderot, I have the honor to wish you
good-morning.'" Whereupon the young man ran downstairs, leaving the
philosopher in fits of laughter.[Footnote: Morley, Diderot and the
Encyclopaedists. Scherer, Diderot, passim. Morrellet, i. 29. Marmontel,
ii. 313. Mémoire sur Diderot, par Mme. de Vandeul, sa fille (a charming
sketch only 64 pages long) in Diderot, Mémoires, Corresp., etc., vol.

As a writer, the great fault of Diderot is one not common in France. He
is verbose. As we read his productions, even the cleverest, we feel that
the same thing could have been better said in fewer words. There is also
a lack of arrangement. Diderot would never take time to plan his books
before writing them. But these faults, although probably fatal to the
permanent fame of an author, are less injurious to his immediate success
than might be expected. A large part of the public does not dislike a
copious admixture of water in its intellectual drink. And Diderot
reconciles the reader to his excessive flow of words by the
effervescence of his enthusiasm. It is because his mind is overfull of
his subject that the sentences burst forth so copiously.

The first writing of Diderot that need engage our attention is his
"Letter on the Blind," published in 1749. This letter deals with the
question, how far congenital deprivation of one of the senses, and
especially blindness, would modify the conceptions of the person
affected; how far the ideas of one born blind would differ from the
ideas of those who can see. The bearing of this question on Locke's
theory that all our ideas are derived from sensation and reflection is
obvious. Diderot, in a manner quite characteristic of him, took pains to
examine the cases of persons who had actually been blind and had
recovered their sight, and where these failed him, supplied their places
by inventions of his own.[Footnote: Condorcet says of Diderot, "faisant
toujours aimer la verité, même lorsqu'entrainé par son imagination il
avait le malheur de la méconnaitre." D'Alembert, _Oeuvres_, i. 79
(_Éloge par Condorcet_). There is a great deal in this remark.
Unless we can enter into the state of mind of men who tell great lies
from a genuine love of abstract truth, we shall never understand the
French Philosophers of the 18th century.]

Diderot's principal witness is Nicholas Saunderson, a blind man with a
talent for mathematics, who between 1711 and 1739 was a professor at the
University of Cambridge. Diderot quotes at some length the atheistic
opinions of Saunderson, giving as his authority the Life of the latter
by "Dr. Inchlif." No such book ever existed, and the opinions are the
product of Diderot's own reasoning. When an author treats us in this way
our confidence in his facts is hopelessly lost. His reasons, however,
remain, and the most striking of these, in the "Letter on the Blind," is
the answer given to one who attempts to prove the existence of God by
pointing out the order found in nature, whence an intelligent Creator is
presumed. In answer to this, the dying Saunderson is made to say: "Let
me believe... that if we were to go back to the birth of things and of
times, and if we should feel matter move and chaos arrange itself, we
should meet a multitude of shapeless beings, instead of a few beings
that were well organized.... I can maintain that these had no stomach,
and those no intestines; that some, to which their stomach, palate, and
teeth seemed to promise duration, have ceased to exist from some vice of
the heart or the lungs; that the abortions were successively destroyed;
that all the faulty combinations of matter have disappeared, and that
only those have survived whose mechanism implied no important
contradiction, and which could live by themselves and perpetuate their
species."[Footnote: Diderot, i. 328.] The step from the idea here
conveyed to that of the struggle for existence and of the survival of
the most fit is not a very long one.

For his "Letter on the Blind," Diderot was imprisoned at Vincennes. The
real cause of this punishment is said to have been a slight allusion in
the "Letter" to the mistress of a minister of state. But this may not
have been the only cause. There occurred about this time one of those
temporary seasons of severity which are necessary under all governments
to meet occasional outbursts of crime, but to which weak and corrupt
governments are liable with capricious frequency. Diderot sturdily
denied the authorship of the "Letter," lying as thoroughly as he had
done in that piece of writing itself, when he invented the name of
Inchlif and forged the ideas of Saunderson. This time there was more
excuse for his untruth; for the disclosure of his printer's name might
have sent that unfortunate man to prison or to the galleys. The
imprisonment of Diderot himself, at first severe, was soon lightened at
the instance of Voltaire's mistress, Madame du Châtelet. Diderot was
allowed to see his friends, and even to wander about the park of
Vincennes on parole. After three months of captivity he was released by
the influence of the booksellers interested in the "Encyclopaedia."
[Footnote: Morley, _Diderot_, i. 105.]

The first volume of that great work was in preparation. Diderot, whose
untiring energy was unequal to the task of editing the whole, and who
was, moreover, insufficiently trained for the work in some branches, and
notably in mathematics, gathered about him a band of workers which
increased as time went on, until it included a great number of
remarkable men. First in importance to the enterprise, acting with
Diderot on equal terms, was D'Alembert, an almost typical example of the
gentle scholar, who refused one brilliant position after another to
devote himself to mathematics and to literature. Next, perhaps, should
be mentioned the Chevalier de Jaucourt, a man of encyclopaedic learning,
who helped in the preparation of the book with patient enthusiasm,
reading, dictating, and working with three or four secretaries for
thirteen or fourteen hours a day. Montesquieu, whose end was
approaching, left behind him an unfinished article on Taste. Voltaire
not only sent in contributions of his own, but constantly gave
encouragement and advice, as became the recognized head of the
Philosophic school. Rousseau, whose literary reputation had recently
been made by his "Discourses," contributed articles on music for a time;
but subsequently chose to quarrel with the Encyclopaedists, whose minds
worked very differently from his. Turgot wrote several papers on
economic subjects, and in the latter part of the work, Haller, the
physiologist, and Condorcet were engaged.

The publication of the "Encyclopaedia" lasted many years, and met with
many vicissitudes. The first volume appeared in 1751, the second in
January, 1752. The book immediately excited the antagonism of the church
and of conservative Frenchmen generally. On the 12th of February, 1752,
the two volumes were suppressed by an edict of the Council, as
containing maxims contrary to royal authority and to religion. The edict
forbade their being reprinted and their being delivered to such
subscribers as had not already received their copies. The continuation
of the work, however, was not forbidden. It was believed at the time
that the administration took this step in order to silence the Jesuits,
to please the Archbishop of Paris, and perhaps to be beforehand with the
Parliament, which might have taken severer measures. It was also
intimated that certain booksellers, jealous of the success of the
undertaking, were exerting influence on the authorities. All these
enemies of the "Encyclopaedia" were not content with their first
triumph. A few days after the appearance of the edict, the manuscripts
and plates were seized by the police. They were restored to the editors
three months later. The work was one in the performance of which many
Frenchmen took pride. It is said that the Jesuits had tried to continue
it, but had failed even to decipher the papers that had been taken from
Diderot. The attack of the archbishop, who had fulminated against the
great book in an episcopal charge, had served the purpose of an
advertisement; such was the wisdom and consistency of the repressive
police of that age.

From 1753 to 1757 the publication went on without interruption, one
volume appearing every year. Seven volumes had now been published,
bringing the work to the end of the letter G. The subscription list,
originally consisting of less than two thousand names, had nearly
doubled. But the forces of conservatism rallied. In 1758 appeared
Helvetius's book "De l'Esprit," of which an account will be given in the
next chapter, and which shocked the feelings of many persons, even of
the Philosophic school. Few things could, indeed, have made the
Philosophers more unpopular than the publication by one of their own
party of a very readable book, in which the attempt was made to push
their favorite ideas to their last conclusions. This is a process which
few abstract theories can bear, for the limitations of any statement are
in fact essential parts of it. But human laziness so loves formulas, so
hates distinctions, that extreme and unmodified expressions are seized
with avidity by injudicious friends and exulting foes.

The feeling of indignation awakened in the public by the doctrines of
Helvetius gave opportunity to the opponents of the "Encyclopaedia." That
work was denounced to the Parliament of Paris, together with the book
"De l'Esprit." The learned court promptly condemned the latter to the
flames. The great compilation, on the other hand, of which the volume of
Helvetius was said to be a mere abridgment, was submitted to nine
commissioners for examination, and further publication was suspended
until they should report. While proceedings before the Parliament were
still pending, the Council of State intervened, and the "Encyclopaedia"
was arbitrarily interdicted, its privilege taken away, the sale of the
volumes already printed, and the printing of any more, alike forbidden.

It is characteristic of the condition of things existing under the weak
and vacillating government of Louis XV, that the interdict pronounced
against the "Encyclopaedia" did not stop its printing. The editor and
the publishers determined to prepare in private the ten volumes that
were still unmade, and to launch them on the world at one time. To this
work Diderot turned with boundless energy. D'Alembert, however, was
discouraged, and retired from the undertaking. For six years Diderot
labored on, never safe from interference on the part of the government,
and managing a great enterprise, with its staff of contributors and its
scores of workmen, while constantly liable to arrest and imprisonment.
Diderot worked indefatigably also with his pen; writing articles on all
sorts of subjects,--philosophy, arts, trades, and manufactures. To learn
how things were made he visited workshops and handled tools, baffled at
times by the jealousy and distrust of the workmen, who were afraid of
his disclosing their secret processes, or of his giving information to
the tax-gatherer.

The sharpest blow was yet to fall. The "Encyclopaedia" was issued by an
association of publishers which paid Diderot a moderate salary for his
services. Of these publishers one, named Le Breton, was the chief. He is
said to have been a dull man, incapable of understanding any work of
literature. It was his maxim that literary men labor for glory, and
publishers for pay, and consequently he divided the income of the
"Encyclopaedia" into two parts, giving to Diderot the glory, the danger,
and the persecution, and reserving the money for himself and his
partners. From his position in Paris he felt sure of being able to
foresee any new order launched against the "Encyclopaedia" while the
printing was in progress, and of providing against it. But the time of
publication was likely to be marked by a new storm. Under these
circumstances Le Breton resorted to a trick. After Diderot had read the
last proof of every sheet, the publisher and his foreman secretly took
it in hand, erased and cut out all that seemed rash or calculated to
excite the anger of religious or conservative people, and thus reduced
many of the principal articles to fragments. Then, to make the wrong
irremediable, they burned the manuscripts, and quietly proceeded with
the printing. This process would seem to have been continued for more
than a year. One day in 1764, when the time of publication was drawing
near, Diderot, having occasion to consult an article under the letter S,
found it badly mutilated. Puzzled at first, he presently recognized the
nature of the trick that had been played him. He turned to various parts
of the book, to his own articles and to those of other writers, and
found in many places the marks of the outrage. Diderot was in despair.
His first thought was to throw up the undertaking and to announce the
fraud to the public. The injury that would have been done to Le Breton's
innocent partners, the danger of publishing the fact that the
"Encyclopaedia" was still in process of printing,--a fact of which the
officers of the government had only personal and not official
knowledge,--determined him to go on with the publication. It may be that
Le Breton's changes had been less extensive than Diderot, in his first
excitement on making the discovery, had been led to believe. In
examining the "Encyclopaedia" no alteration of tone is observable
between the first seven and the subsequent volumes; and Grimm, to whom
we owe the story, acknowledges that none of the authors engaged with
Diderot in the work complained or even noticed that their articles had
been altered.

In 1765 the ten volumes which completed the alphabet (making seventeen
of this part of the work) were delivered to the subscribers. As a
precautionary measure, those for foreign countries were sent out first,
then those for the provinces, and lastly those for Paris. The eleven
volumes of plates were not published until 1772. A supplement of four
volumes of text and one of plates appeared in 1776 and 1777, and three
years later a table of contents in two volumes.[Footnote: Several
volumes of the original edition have the imprint of Neufchatel, and the
supplement has that of Amsterdam, although all were actually printed in
Paris. The _Encyclopaedia_ was reprinted as a whole at Geneva and
at Lausanne. Editions also appeared at Leghorn and at Lucca; besides
volumes of selections and abbreviations. Morley, _Diderot_, i. 169.
For the _Encyclopaedia_, see Morley, _Diderot_, _passim._
Soberer, _Diderot_; the correspondence of D'Alembert and Voltaire
in the works of the latter. Diderot, _Mémoires_, i. 431 (Nov. 10,
1760). Grimm, vii. 44, and especially ix. 203-217, an excellent article.
Barbier, v. 159, 169; vii. 125, 138, 141; also in the work itself the
word _Encyclopédie_ in vol. v. Mr. Morley thinks that the article
_Genève_, in vol. vii. of the _Encyclopaedia_, especially
excited the church and the Parliament to desire its suppression. The
same article drew from Rousseau his letter to D'Alembert on the theatre
at Geneva, which marks the separation between Rousseau and the
Philosophers. But in the _Discours préliminaire_ D'Alembert had
attacked Rousseau's _First Discourse_. For the excitement caused at
Geneva by the article, see Voltaire, lvii. 438 (Voltaire to D'Alembert,
Jan. 8, 1758). It is perhaps superfluous to remark that Grimm's account
of the character and ideas of Le Breton, which has been followed above,
is probably not unbiased.]

What was the great book whose history was so full of vicissitudes? Why
did the French government, the church, and the literary world so excite
themselves about a dictionary? The "Encyclopaedia" had in fact two
functions; it was a repository of information and a polemical writing.
Condorcet has thus stated the purpose of the book. Diderot, he says,
"intended to bring together in a dictionary all that had been discovered
in the sciences, what was known of the productions of the globe, the
details of the arts which men have invented, the principles of morals,
those of legislation, the laws which govern society, the metaphysics of
language and the rules of grammar, the analysis of our faculties, and
even the history of our opinions."[Footnote: D'Alembert,
_Oeuvres_, i. 79 (_Éloge par Condorcet_).] So comprehensive a
scheme was not without danger to those classes which claimed an
exclusive right to direct men's minds. As for the double nature of the
book, we have the words of two of the men most concerned in its
preparation. First there is an anecdote by Voltaire, certainly
inaccurate, probably quite imaginary, but setting forth most clearly one
cause of the interest which the "Encyclopaedia" excited.

"A servant of Louis XV. has told me that one day when the king his
master was supping at Trianon with a small party, the conversation
turned on shooting and then on gunpowder. Somebody said that the best
powder was made of equal parts of saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal. The
Duke of La Vallière, better informed, maintained that for cannon the
proper proportion was one part of sulphur, one of charcoal, and five of
well-filtered, well-evaporated, and well-crystallized saltpetre.

"`It is absurd,' said the Duke of Nivernois, `that we should amuse
ourselves every day with killing partridges in the park of Versailles,
and sometimes with killing men or getting ourselves killed on the
frontier, and not know exactly what we kill with.'

"`Alas! we are in the same state about all things in the world,'
answered Madame de Pompadour. `I don't know of what the rouge is
composed that I put on my cheeks, and I should be much puzzled to say
how my stockings are made.'

"`It is a pity,' then said the Duke of La Vallière, `that His Majesty
should have confiscated our encyclopaedic dictionaries, which cost us a
hundred pistoles apiece. We should soon find in them the answers to all
our questions.'

"The king justified his confiscation. He had been warned that the
twenty-one volumes in folio, that were to be found on all the ladies'
dressing-tables, were the most dangerous thing in the world for the
French monarchy; and he wished to see for himself if that were true
before he allowed the book to be read. After supper he sent for a copy,
by three servants of his bed-chamber, each of whom brought in seven
volumes, with a good deal of difficulty.

"They saw, in the article on gunpowder, that the Duke of La Vallière
was right. Madame de Pompadour soon learned the difference between the
old-fashioned Spanish rouge, with which the ladies of Madrid colored
their cheeks, and the rouge of the ladies of Paris. She learned that
the Greek and Roman ladies were painted with the purple that came from
the murex, and consequently that our scarlet was the purple of the
ancients; that there was more saffron in the Spanish rouge and more
cochineal in the French.

"She saw how her stockings were made on the loom, and the machine used
for the purpose filled her with astonishment. `Oh, what a fine book,
sir!' she cried. `Have you confiscated this store-house of all useful
things in order to own it alone, and to be the only wise man in your

"They all threw themselves upon the volumes, like the daughters of
Lycomedes on the jewels of Ulysses. Each found at once whatever he
sought. Those that had lawsuits on hand were surprised to find the
decision of their cases. The king read all the rights of his crown.
'But, really,' said he, `I don't know why they spoke so ill of this

"`Do you not see, sir,' said the Duke of Nivernois, `that it is because
it is very good? People do not attack poor and flat things of any kind.
When the women try to make a new-comer appear ridiculous, she is sure to
be prettier than they are.'

"All this time they were turning over the pages, and the Count of C----
said aloud, `Sir, you are too happy that men should have been found in
your reign able to know all the arts and to transmit them to posterity.
Everything is here, from the way of making a pin to that of casting and


Back to Full Books