Customs Officials Attacked by
Taxation in Pre-Revolutionary
Between 1500 and 1789, France
was the leading power in Europe, dethroning Spain, making
Austria the runner-up, and preceding Britain.
However . . .
par les contrebandiers
attacked by smugglers.
Le Petit Journal,
end of 19th century, which makes it
post-revolutionary, of course.
Musée National des Douanes
. . . the country's revenues were based on a very complex system
Carried over from olden times, each province had different tax agreements with the
Crown. The resulting difference in tax rates from province to
province made it necessary to set up internal customs barriers
and was of course both, a challenge and a delight for
As it turned out, this unequal system of taxation
became major fuel to the 1789 bonfire of the
What Is the
Direct Connection Between Taxation in Pre-Revolutionary
France and the French Revolution of 1789?
It was the King's deficit that
caused him to desperately call for the
Estates General on
August 8, 1788 — a deficit that could have been taken
care of and balanced out by
But there is more.
Taxes under the ancient
regime were based on privileges. Toward the end of the
ancient regime, two things became apparent:
A system based on privileges was felt to be
A system based on privileges was almost
impossible to reform effectively because it
meant to cut the wings of the privileged,
whose power was given to them by this very
Thus, in a nutshell, taxation in
pre-revolutionary France illustrated the injustice and the
impracticality of the actual cornerstone of French
society at the time — privileges.
And by illustrating its
inability to change, it demonstrated the
need for a major overhaul of the social order in France.
Regarding financial reform see also