A Gill Fox cartoon from :
In the Southern Literary Messenger published some “Notes and Anecdotes, Political and Miscellaneous — . — Drawn from the Portfolio of an Officer of the Empire — and translated from the French for the Messenger, by a gentleman in Paris.” Included was this anecdote concerning tax resistance in the French Revolution of :
The Refusal to Pay Taxes — A Precedent.
The associations for the refusal of taxes, followed quickly after the formation of the Polignac ministry. Facts have since proved that France was not deceived in its anticipations, and that it wisely comprehended the hostility to its institutions to be expected from such men as Messrs. de Polignac, Bourmont, and Labourdonnaie; nor was the government, on its side, long in understanding the full power of the means of resistance then seized for the first time by the people. The refusal to pay taxes, is in fact the last reason of the people, and by a much juster title than the cannon is that of kings. Orders were given to all the attorneys general and king’s attorneys, to prosecute with the greatest rigor every journal that registered the acts of association for the refusal of taxes, and invited their readers to subscribe to them.
Among the newspapers thus prosecuted, was a provincial journal, La Sentinelle des Deux-Sèvres. This journal, which was conducted with courage and talent, had published a letter on the subject of the refusal of taxes, by M. Mauquin, who had been simultaneously nominated as deputy by the department des Deux-Sèvres, and by that of la Côte d’Or. This journal was prosecuted for the publication of the letter. M. Mauquin hastened to offer the support of his fine talents to a journal which was involved in difficulties on his account; and notwithstanding the excessive cold of the winter of , proceeded to Niort to defend, before the court which was to try the offence, a cause which he regarded as a personal one.
The threat to refuse the payment of taxes in the event of a violation of the charter, said the prosecutor, was a gratuitous outrage to the government, which the most odious hostility could alone believe capable of for getting its oaths and betraying its duties. The right of the citizens to refuse, in any state of things, the payment of taxes, and thus to deprive the government of all means of action, and to deliver the country up to anarchy, was questioned.
The answer of the counsel for the defence was simple. Whether with justice or not, said they, we distrust you: if we are deceived, if you respect the charter, our association will fall of itself, and the taxes, freely voted by a legally constituted Chamber, will be paid as they have heretofore been.
M. Mauquin had to defend before the tribunal of Niort, an offence which had already been tried before nearly every tribunal of France. He had to prove that the constitutional government, which was already but a fiction, would become a mere chimera, if the Chambers were not permitted to refuse the subsidies which they are called upon to vote, and if, without a regular vote of the regularly constituted Chambers, the citizens could be forced to pay a tax, which, according to the true spirit of the law, should be freely agreed.
Opposed to so lucid and powerful a speaker as M. Mauquin, the duty of the public prosecutor became one of no little difficulty. He could only effect a partial escape from the embarrassment of his situation — shut in between simple propositions — by vague declamation against revolutionary factions, evil passions, the fury of parties, &c. &c. From amplication to amplication, the king’s attorney for Niort had at length come to sustain the proposition, that the refusal of taxes, supposing it to be in any case a right, was not of so exorbitant a character, that it would be a crime even to dream of exercising it: he added, that at no period, not even during the worst of our political storms, had the payment of taxes ever been questioned.
At this point M. Mauquin wished him to arrive. This was the proposition which he expected to hear him sustain. Rising immediately in reply, he drew a paper from his port-folio, and read before the tribunal sitting in judgment in the name of Charles Ⅹ, an authentic declaration addressed to Louis ⅩⅥ, when king, by his brother the Count d’Artois, (afterwards Charles Ⅹ,) by the Prince of Condé, the Duke of Bourbon, and the Duke d’Enghien. These princes announced to the king by this declaration, respectfully, but formally, their determination to refuse the payment of all taxes, in the event of the constituent assembly’s attempting any infringement of the rights and prerogatives of the nobility. But one prince of the royal family had refused to sign this paper; this person was Monsieur, Count of Provence, afterwards Louis ⅩⅧ. No one had even dreamt of asking the signatures of the princes of the Orleans branch.
The effect on the tribunal, produced by reading this piece, was magical. The king’s attorney was put down, and the journal, after some forms had been gone through, was acquitted, amidst the applauses of the whole audience.
For more information on the topic or topics below (organized as “topic → subtopic → sub-subtopic”), click on any of the ♦ symbols to see other pages on this site that cover the topic. Or browse the site’s topic index at the “Outline” page.