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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/45

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be civilized ever could have had such an experience. In order to effectually secure at the outset the payment of this tax, the right to produce and sell salt was vested exclusively in the state. By an ordinance in 1780, every person over seven years of age was required to purchase, not at convenience, but on one stated day of each year, seven pounds of salt, which in a peasant's family of four, according to Taine, entailed an expense equal to the average wage receipts of nineteen days' work. It was forbidden also to divert a single ounce of the seven obligatory pounds to any use but the "pot and the salt cellar." If any one failed in these observances he was fined; and he was also fined if he purchased a smaller quantity than the law prescribed. To supplement the use of salt with water from the ocean, or from saline springs, or to water cattle in marshes or other places containing salt, was forbidden under severe penalties. In certain departments of France it was also made incumbent on officials periodically to destroy, often by defilement, all deposits of salt which were formed naturally. No retail dealing in salt was permitted, but Government warehouses were established, often at places at considerable distances from towns and villages, where their inhabitants were compelled to make their purchases. According to a report made by the comptroller-general in 1787, the salt tax at that time annually occasioned "four thousand domiciliary seizures, three thousand four hundred imprisonments, and five hundred sentences to flogging, exile, and the galleys."

But in addition to the so-called national system, which imposed a great variety of taxes upon all persons and property in France which could not through favor procure exemption, which exemption embraced practically all the nobility, clergy, and gentry, there were a great number of taxes peculiar to separate estates or seigniories, but at the same time more or less general. Thus, all the various operations involved in production and consumption were made, as far as possible, the occasion for tax assessments. The tenants, or vassals, were bound to grind their corn at the mill of the seigneur only; to bake their bread exclusively at his ovens; to press their grapes and apples exclusively at his presses; and for every such industrial conversion a toll or tithe was collected. One of the memoirs touching the condition of the Tiers √Čtat, as the common people were called, published about the time of the meeting of the National Convention, expresses a hope that posterity may be ignorant that feudal tyranny in Brittany, armed with judicial power, did not blush at breaking hand mills and selling annually to the miserable people the privilege of bruising between two stones a measure of buckwheat or barley.

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