Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Politics of Fiscal Privilege in Provence, 1530s-1830s

The Politics of Fiscal Privilege in Provence, 1530s-1830s

Rafe Blaufarb
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Politics of Fiscal Privilege in Provence, 1530s-1830s
    Book Description:

    Rafe Blaufarb examines the interwoven problems of taxation and social privilege in this treatment of the contention over fiscal privilege between the seigneurial nobility and the tax-payers of Provence

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1951-6
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In 1549 the Parlement of Paris began to hear arguments in a case pitting the seigneurial nobility of Provence against the Third Estate of the province. The trial turned on a series of deceptively technical questions. Did the privilege of tax exemption derive from the personal status—noble or roturier (non-noble)—of landholders? Or, rather, as the Third Estate preferred, was tax exemption attached to properties classified as noble regardless of their owner’s status? If this was the case, further questions necessarily arose. What made some parcels of land noble and others roturier? In what circumstances could noble land lose...

  2. CHAPTER ONE Origins of the Procès des Tailles
    (pp. 17-60)

    The notion that provinces that levied taxes directly on property, the pays de taille réelle, were more harmonious than those in which privileged individuals enjoyed personal tax exemption (pays de taille personnelle) has had a long life. Already in the sixteenth century, political thinkers were praising the taille réelle as an antidote to the spread of divisive personal exemptions. Jean Bodin, for one, applauded the system for making “the rich and poor, the noble and commoner, the priest and laborer” all bear their share of the fiscal burden and deplored the system of personal tax exemption for forcing productive farmers...

  3. CHAPTER TWO Conflict over Compensation, 1556–1702
    (pp. 61-92)

    Although intended to end the troubles caused by seigneurial claims to tax exemption, the royal arrêt of 1556 raised new questions that exacerbated tensions between the Noblesse and the Third Estate. In his treatise on the Statuts et coustumes du pays de Provence (1658), the jurist Jacques Mourgues found nothing better to say about the ruling than that it was “eminently ambiguous.”¹ Far from settling the issue of seigneurial tax exemption, he noted, it had only fanned the flames of discord and bred an “infinity of lawsuits” in the century since its promulgation.² Although gaps in the archival record make...

  4. CHAPTER THREE Compensation, 1702–89
    (pp. 93-129)

    Although the arrêt of 1702 provided a robust framework for exercising the right of compensation, one that would endure down to the abolition of noble tax exemption in 1789, it did not end conflict over the divisive seigneurial prerogative. Rare was the village in eighteenth-century Provence that never experienced a trial with its lord over compensation. Entangled with an array of other contentious issues pitting the community against the seigneurie (feudal dues, usage rights, and the like), these grassroots struggles over compensation were a focus of local political life. Most turned on minor points of fact and did not raise...

  5. CHAPTER FOUR The Biens Aliénés avec Franchise des Tailles
    (pp. 130-162)

    As it dawned on the Noblesse in the 1760s that the right of compensation had been steadily eroding the mass of noble land in the province, it turned to another type of tax exempt property to reconstitute its fiefs. This type of property, the biens aliénés avec franchise des tailles en département de dettes, was former communal property that had been granted tax exemption and then sold by indebted communities to satisfy their creditors. Many of these creditors had been seigneurs. The Noblesse now seized upon the biens aliénés, much as a shipwreck victim might clutch at flotsam, to keep...

  6. CHAPTER FIVE The Crisis of 1787–89
    (pp. 163-201)

    The Declaration of 1783 not only exacerbated tensions between the province and the Noblesse. It also influenced their respective assumptions and actions in the turmoil of 1787–89. In seeking to understand the origins of the Old Regime’s terminal political crisis, historians have emphasized the emergence of new language, concepts, and cultural contexts in the second half of the eighteenth century. The desacralization and discrediting of the monarchy, the revival of republican political theory and rhetoric, the emergence of various public spheres, interlocking Jansenist and judicial turmoil, and the rise of commercial society have garnered the lion’s share of attention....

  7. CHAPTER SIX Dismantling the Old Regime in Provence
    (pp. 202-227)

    The National Assembly’s abolition of fiscal privilege spelled the end of the formal, provincial-level Procès des Tailles. This was recognized immediately by the provincial political elite. Writing to the Provencal deputation at Versailles in the summer of 1789, the commissioners of the Commons applauded the news. It would open a new age of peace, since noble tax exemption “had been the sole cause of all the debates between the nobility and Third Estate of Provence for centuries.” Compared to the Assembly’s blanket abolition of fiscal privilege, the “council’s arrêt of 1556, that of 1702, and others” were “but very minor...

  8. CHAPTER SEVEN The Afterlife of the Procès des Tailles
    (pp. 228-262)

    In the preceding chapter we have seen how the promise to abolish privilege made on the Night of August 4th and the decrees enacted to implement it had unexpected effects when applied to Provence. Another principle proclaimed that night, the sacredness of property, also had unanticipated consequences. By consecrating the right of property, the National Assembly unwittingly ensured that pending property-related contestations that had begun during the Old Regime would spill over into the New. Throughout revolutionary France troubles flared over feudal dues, which were maintained until repurchase but not abolished outright, and communal rights and usages, which were often...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 263-270)

    Running from the inception of regular royal taxation in the sixteenth century to the French Revolution and beyond, the Procès des Tailles was a critical piece in the political puzzle of early modern Provence. To begin with, it was responsible for bringing into existence and defining the two groups, the corps de la noblesse and the corps of the province, whose struggle over noble tax exemption dominated Provencal politics until 1789. Although usually confined to the judicial sphere, their contest sometimes spilled over into the political realm. When this happened, as in 1639 with the replacement of the Estates by...