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Fa Rmers-Genera L

salt, france, system, people, taxes, public, sum and minister

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FA RMERS-GENERA L. Fermiers Gineraux was the name given in France under the old monarchy to a company which farmed certain branches of the public revenue, that is to say, contracted with the government to pay into the trea sury a fixed yearly sum, taking upon it self the collection of certain taxes as an equivalent. The system of farming the taxes was an old custom of the French monarchy. Under Francis I., the revenue arising from the sale of salt was farmed by private individuals in each town. This was and is still in France and other countries of Europe a monopoly of the go vernment. At the present time the govern ment of France derives about 2,200,000/. a year from toe salt monopoly. The government reserves to itself the power of providing the people with salt, which it collects in its stores, and sells to the retailers at its own price. This mo nopoly was first assumed by Philippe de Valois in 1350. Other sources of reve nue were likewise farmed by several in dividuals, most of whom were favourites of the court or of the minister of the day. Sully, the able minister of Henry IV., seeing the dilapidation of the public 're venue occasioned by this system, by which, out of 150 millions paid by the people, only 30 millions 'cached the treasury, opened the contracts for farming the taxes to public auction, giving them to the highest bidder, according to the ancient Roman practice. By this means he greatly increased the revenue of the state. But the practice of private con tracts through favour or bribing was re newed under the following reigua: Col bert, the minister of Louis XIV., called the farmers of the revenue to a severe ac count, and by an act of power deprived them of their enormous gains. In 1728, under the regency, the various individual leases were united into a Ferme Generale, which was let to a company, the members of which were henceforth called Fermiers Generaux. In 1759, Silhouette, minister of Louis XV., quashed the contracts of the farmers-general, and levied the taxes by his own agents. But the system of contracts revived : for the court, the mi nisters, and favourites were all well dis posed to them, as private bargains were made with the farmers-general, by which they paid large sums as donceurs. In the time of Necker, the company consisted of forty-four members, who paid a rent of 186 millions of Byres, and Necker calcu lated their profit at about two millions yearly—no very extraordinary sum, if correct. But independent of this profit there were the expenses of collection, and a host of subalterns to support : the company had its officers and accountants, receivers, collectors, &c., who, having the

public force at their disposal, committed numerous acts of injustice towards the people, especially the poorer class, by distraining their goods, selling their chattels, &c. The " gabelle" or sale of salt, among others, was a fruitful source of oppression. Not satisfied with oblig• ing the people to pay for the salt at the price fixed upon it in the name of the king, they actually obliged every indivi dual above eight years of age to buy a certain quantity of salt whether wanted or not But the rule was not alike all over France ; in some provinces, which en toyed certain privileges, salt was 9 liT tea the one hundred weight, whilst in others it cost 16, and in some 62 Byres. In some provinces the quantity required to be purchased per head was 25 pounds weight: in others it was 9 pounds. And yet the provinces, nay the individual families of each province, were pro hibited under the severest penalties from accommodating each other's wants, and buying the superfluous salt of their neighbours, but whoever wanted more salt than his obligatory allowance was obliged to resort to the government stores. Besides, every article of pro visions that was exported from one pro vince to another was subject to duties called Traites. Every apprentice on being bound to a master was bound to pay to the king a certain sum according to the nature of the trade, and afterwards a much larger sum on his admission to practise his trade as a master. These few instances may serve to convey an idea of taxation in France previous to the Revo lution. A lively but faithful picture of the whole system is given in Breton's Histoire FinancUre de la France, 2 vols. 8vo., Paris, 1829. The farmers-general, as the agents of that system, coming into immediate contact with the people, drew upon themselves a proportionate share of popular hatred. But the Revolution swept away the farmers-general, and put an end to the system of farming the revenues : it equalized the duties and taxes all over France ; but the monopoly of the salt and tobacco has remained, as well as the duties on provisions, cattle, and wine brought into Paris and other large towns, called the octroi, and the right of search ing by the octroi officers, if they think fit, all carriages and individuals entering the barriers or gates of the same.

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