Wikimedia [from ArtNet]
Tuesday, 12 July 2022
Wikimedia [from ArtNet]
Saturday, 9 July 2022
|Madame de La Pouplinière by Quentin La Tour, Musée Antoine-Lécuyer, Saint-Quentin, c.1741 [Wikimedia]|
Tuesday, 5 July 2022
|Detail from Greuze's L'Enfant gâté (Louvre)|
The story of Bouret and his dog has been made famous by Diderot in Rameau' s Nephew:
Rameau's nephew ("Lui") defends his reprehensible life as a social parasite on the grounds of moral determinism and cites Bouret 's innate natural ability in the art of flattery, a skill which has served him well: "Only God and a few rare geniuses can have careers that keep stretching out before them as they advance". His incident concerning the dog is one of three, ostensibly well-known, examples of Bouret's ingenuity, the others being the "Book of Felicity" and "torches lighting the way to Versailles". The first of these references is clearly to Bouret's famous book in the pavillon du roi, described in the Correspondance littéraire for March 1764. Bouret is recorded in 1759 as having stationed torchbearers at intervals along the King's progress from Versailles to La Croix-Fontaine.
According to Rameau's nephew, the Keeper of the Seals took a fancy to Bouret's little pet dog and Bouret decided to make him a present of it. He was obliged to go extraordinary lengths since he had to persuade the animal to accept the minister as his new master. The creature, who was extremely attached to Bouret, was frightened by the minister's bizarre clothing. Moreover Bouret was under time pressure, for he has only a week to achieve the feat. He had a mask made to disguise himself as the Keeper of the Seals, borrowed the man's wig and voluminous robe, then petted the dog and enticed it with titbits to eat; reverting to his own identity, he then gave the animal a beating. By repeating the exercise from morning to night, the dog was soon persuaded to prefer the minister. Rameau's nephew professes admiration for this remorseless attention to detail - "Having a mask made to look like him! It's the mask I find so staggering". Genius of this sort is born, not made: "Who ever gave Bouret any lessons? No-one. It's nature that forms these rare men. Do you think the dog and the mask is written down anywhere?" (2014 English edition, p.52-55)
Saturday, 2 July 2022
This portrait, by Louis-Michel Van Loo, is from the collection of the late couturier Hubert de Givency which is to be auctioned by Christie's in Paris at the end of the month. If you have €60,000-€ 80,000 to spare, this glossy, this splendid, rather self-satisfied eighteenth-century gentleman could soon adorn your walls....
Louis-Michel Van Loo (1707-1771) and workshop, Portrait of Étienne-Michel Bouret (1710-1777) in front of the Pavillon Bouret
According to Lenotre, Bouret was "le prototype des parvenus". The most famous of three brothers, he rose from modest origins - legend he had it he arrived in Paris with only 20 écus - and amassed fortune through transport of salt for the gabelle and later through speculation in the grain trade. He accumulated even greater wealth through a series of lucrative Royal offices - General Treasurer to the Royal Household in 1738 and Postmaster General in 1752 - and in 1741 joined the exalted ranks of the Farmer-Generals.
In an age of ostentatious luxury, Bouret stood out for his extravagance. Biographers estimate that his fortune at its peak could have been reached as much 42 million livres. Voltaire later maintained that he spent up to 200 livres a day to have fresh seafood relayed by road from Dieppe.(Requête à tous les magistrats du royaume, 1769). It was above all the scale of his building projects which drew scandalised attention. He maintained a splendid hôtel in the rue de la Grange-Batelière (later sold to Laborde), and constructed an magnificent "pavilion" at Gonesse ("What folly!", wrote d'Argenson, who disliked him: "What an insult all this is to the people.").
Sunday, 12 June 2022
Jaucourt's informant notes that the manufacture of tobacco products demanded neither complicated machinery nor highly skilled workers; however simple operations require care and attention throughout the process, from the choice of materials to the finished product.
The magasins or warehouses for storage of raw tobacco were designed to offer protection from sunlight and humidity. They were very large, since newer leaves had to be constantly moved and piled up to avoid uncontrolled fermentation.
Tobacco was processed into a number of different finished products, each with a particular name and usage. The two most common in Paris were rolls for the pipe and tabacs "en carotte", that is compressed tobacco for grating. The article illustrates the steps in manufacture:
1. L' Époulardage
|Two workers sort imported tobacco leaves|
Saturday, 4 June 2022
This post is based on a lecture given in 2011 by Paul Smith, a specialist in industrial archaeology with the Direction générale des patrimoines (see references blow).
|Manufacture de tabac Architectes: Jacques Martinet et Jacques V. Gabriel, Le Havre 1728.|
Thursday, 2 June 2022
The Ferme du tabac and the organisation of the Tobacco industry
By the mid century tobacco duties were worth more than 30 million livres a year to the French Crown - some 7% of fixed income - second in value only to the hated gabelle. Like the trade in salt, the tobacco trade was administered as a royal monopoly. In 1730, after a period of control by the Compagnie des Indes, Ferme du tabac was incorporated into the "General-Farm". It was a huge undertaking. To maintain the tobacco monopoly effectively, every aspect of the importation, processing and sale of tobacco had to be overseen.
This map, which was prepared by Lavoisier in the 1780s, shows the Tobacco Farm's complex and highly regulated pattern of import and distribution. This level of control was made possible by the centralised organisation of the General-Farm with its specialised committees, directors and inspectors. From 1749 onwards the Comité du tabac occupied the magnificent 17th-century Hôtel de Longueville, situated in the centre of Paris between the Louvre and the Tuileries. From here the authority of the Farm extended directly through much of the Kingdom, with "sous-fermes" in the Lyonnais, Dauphiné, Provence, Languedoc, Roussillon and Lorraine.
Sunday, 29 May 2022
The division of the gabelle into different regions, with extreme and arbitrary price differentials, inevitably made the smuggling of salt an intractable problem. Smugglers were most active where the pays francs or pays rédimés shared a frontier with the grandes gabelles, above all along boundary with Brittany. Salt which sold for two or three livres-per-minot in Brittany retailed for fifty-six or more livres-per-minot over the border in Maine or Anjou.
According to Daniel Roche, everywhere in France the majority of those convicted of salt tax violations were men; two-thirds were adults under the age of forty. Smuggling was normally a supplement to other work: even the few full-time smugglers would be supported by their communities and often did ordinary chores around the villages. They were not the true marginals of society, but poor country folk - day labourers, smallholders, village artisans, petty traders. Ultimately they inhabited the same world in which the taxed salt and tobacco were consumed.
As long as individuals operated alone and on foot, the money to be made was modest - around 50% profit might be expected, but the quantities of salt involved were small - an "artisanal" level of fraud. In the towns and larger settlement, particularly along the Loire, the involvement of artisans, innkeepers and petty tradesmen encouraged some larger scale enterprise. In the 18th century professionals or semi-professional smugglers worked mainly as individuals or small groups - but occasionally there were armed troops of several dozen men, quasi -military in operation. The most dangerous operated by night, under cover of darkness. On the Breton border the landscape - with the woods and hedges of the bocages - acted in their favour, making it easy to evade pursuers and to hide the contraband. The territory round the Loire offered sizable urban outlets; Angers was only 20 km from the frontier of the gabelle.
See: Daniel Roche, France in the Enlightenment, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Harvard U.P.1998) , p.348-53.
Figures published by Necker (1784)
According to Necker, during the first three years of the Lease Salzard (1780) an annual average of 2,342 men, 896 women and 201 children were convicted of salt smuggling in the vicinity of Laval and Angers on the Brittany border. Many more women and children were arrested (or rearrested) but not prosecuted. Over a thousand horses, and fifty waggons were also seized, and 4,000 domestic raids carried out. The value of illegal salt seized and horses and wagons confiscated amounted to 280,000 livres [Quoted G.T. Matthews, The Royal General Farms (New York, 1958) p.109].
The grenier à sel at Laval
In 1974 Yves Durand and his students carried out a statistical analysis of 4,788 smugglers tried between 1759 and 1788 by the grenier à sel in Laval, a centre of the clandestine trade. These were overwhelmingly petty smugglers.
Saturday, 28 May 2022
This time the preamble reads:
"We are informed that notwithstanding our Letters-Patent registered by our Parlement of Brittany, intended to prevent salt smuggling using dogs trained for the purpose; these animals have multiplied to a point so excessive, that they are traded publicly in the markets of Towns subject to the gabelle and tabac; We have therefore deemed it necessary to renew and extend the provisions of the aforesaid Letters-Patent...."
A fine of 200 livres was imposed for keeping or selling chiens- mâtins in the provinces subject to the gabelle, or anywhere within four leagues of the border, with the sole exception of farm guard dogs. The agents of the Farm were given the right to search and prosecute market traders and to shoot any dog they found loose.
Friday, 27 May 2022
[...continuing my notes from Bernard Briais's book, Contrabandiers de sel (1984)]
|Gardes des brigades des Fermes du roi, 1788, |
Association pour l'histoire de l'administration des douanes
Wednesday, 25 May 2022
Bernard Briais, Contrebandiers du sel la vie des faux sauniers au temps de la gabelle, Paris, Aubier (1984)
It is easy to become overwhelmed by all the statistical analyses and detailed local studies of 18th-century smuggling, especially for localities you don't know that well.
I was very pleased to get hold this general history by Bernard Briais, an impressive and sympathetic presentation which syntheses an awful lot of material. The following translates / summarises chapters from this book.
Origins of salt-smuggling: the miseries of the grandes gabelles (p.5-29)
The detested salt tax was at the root of smuggling activity in huge proportions. The disparity between the price of salt in the pays des grandes gabelles and the bordering provinces was so great that in 1789 the inhabitants of the sénéchaussée of Angers could contrast the "Paradise" of Brittany, with its cheap salt, to the "Hell" of Anjou.
In the region of the grandes gabelles, salt tax was a form of direct taxation. The amount was fixed by the Farm at one minot per year between fourteen people (c.3.5 kg per person). At fifty six livres per minot, this was four livres per person. With an average wage of 12 sols a day, this could easily represent a month's income for a family (p.16).
This sel d'impôt or sel de devoir was restricted to salt for cooking and seasoning, "au pot et à la salière". This caused all sorts of anomalies. The cahiers of 1789 complained that inhabitants had been subject to punitive fines for using their excess salt to cure meat; or that day-labourers and artisans had been obliged to buy salt even though they received board from their employers and had no occasion to use it (p.16)
For curing and industrial purposes, salt had to be bought from the grenier of jurisdiction. This was not necessarily the nearest; the parishioners of Langé (Blésois) complained that they had to travel six leagues to the grenier, with a hazardous return journey on dark winter nights. (p.17-18).
Friday, 20 May 2022
Sunday, 15 May 2022
Thursday, 12 May 2022
Throughout France the General-Farm advertised its presence with imposing offices, factories and warehouses. In the provinces, it was common to assign to the Farm grand hôtels left vacant by their noble owners; when these were not available for sale, they would be leased. In Paris the Farmers owned the properties they occupied. On the eve of Revolution it is estimated that there were as many as 700 officials and clerks employed in the Farm's central bureaux alone (Dict. des Fermes). The most important building was the Hôtel des Fermes, rue de Grenelle, which had been acquired in 1687. It was here that the assemblies of senior Farmers met, and here also that much of the administration was accommodated. In course of the century half-a-dozen others premises were added, notably the magnificent Hôtel de Bretonvilliers on the Île Saint-Louis. The Hôtel de Longueville adjacent to the Louvre was occupied from 1746, by the administration and Paris manufacture of the tobacco monopoly. There was also a splendid salt warehouse, the grenier à sel in the rue Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois.
|Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste_Raguenet, The Hôtel de Bretonvilliers, 1757|
Wednesday, 4 May 2022
Saturday, 5 March 2022
It is always exciting to find a new image of a prominent Enlightenment figure! This portrait of Helvétius has been on the website of Lapham's Quarterly from at least 2015 and is beginning to feature more and more on the internet.....