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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/46

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

another always involved taxation. If a farmer or laborer moved from one parish to another, it was held that he could not separate himself from a residence once adopted, but remained there for taxation, although he might actually and permanently have left it and be paying taxes in another place. All movements of property and persons were discouraged; and it not infrequently happened that there was grievous famine in some departments of France, and a surplus of food at the same time in others, not very far distant, because of the inability of producers in the latter to dispose of an abundant harvest for lack of any remunerative market or demand. Every sale or transfer of property also carried in it a payment to the seignior, or lord of the manor, to the extent of one eighth and sometimes one sixth of the entire equivalent received in consideration. And it is interesting here to note that this exaction was recognized and enforced in French Canada until the abolition of seignioral tenure, forty years ago. Arthur Young states that at the time he traveled in France, 1787-'89, the very terms used to designate the taxes imposed on the peasantry were in many instances untranslatable into English; and from a long list of such terms as he recorded, very few can be found and defined in any ordinary French lexicon.[1] In order, however, in some degree to satisfy curiosity as to the nature of these abominations, it may be mentioned that one of the local taxes in Brittany, which remained in force down to 1789, and was known as the "silence des grenouilles," was a money payment in lieu of an ancient feudal obligation incumbent on the residents of marshy districts to keep the frogs still, by beating the waters, that the lady of the seigneur might not be disturbed "when she lies in"; while another exaction, still more outrageous, which was not repealed until the French revolutionary convention in 1790 swept it from the statute book, was a tax known as cuissage, or "droit du seigneur," which was paid to the seignior as a substitute for his ancient and formerly undisputed right to the possession before marriage of the person of every female, the daughter of any of his serfs or more dependent vassals.[2]


  1. Of such terms Mr. Young mentions the following as expressive of the tortures of the peasantry in Bretagne (Brittany) without attempting to define their exact meaning: "Chevauches, quintaines, soule, saut de poisson, haiser de marices, chansons, transport d'œuf un charrette, silence des grenouilles, corvée à misèricordes, milods, leide, couponage, cartilage, borage, fouage, marechaussée, ban vin, ban d'aout, trousses, gelinage, civerage, taillabilité, vingtain, sterlage, bordelage, minage, ban de vendanges, droit d'accapite," etc.
  2. This exaction, the reality of which has been called in question, would seem to be a necessary incidence or outcome of slavery or serfdom, inasmuch as the condition of slavery implies no rights on the part of a slave that the master is bound to respect. Mr. Thorold Rogers is authority for the fact that this droit du seigneur was recognized under