Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/49

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37
PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

temning and weakening lawful authority. The circulation of his book was forbidden, and all the copies which the state could reach were destroyed; while the unhappy marshal, unable to survive the loss of the king's favor, or stand up against the enmities he had created, soon died of a broken heart.

His friend Boisguilbert, whom these events ought to have made prudent, could not restrain himself, but published a book vindicating Vauban, and answering one of the principal objections to his system—namely, the impracticability of making any radical changes during a great war—by asking if it was necessary to wait for peace before abolishing great abuses. This was a more offensive contemning of authority than Vauban had committed; and Boisguilbert was stripped of his functions, severely reprimanded, and sent into exile. For this he was in a degree recompensed by the acclamations and approbation of the people wherever he went.

The system and abuses which Vauban and Boisguilbert endeavored to reform accordingly continued; but as years went on, and the misfortunes of France accumulated and culminated in the total defeat of her armies by Marlborough, the necessity of larger revenues to meet larger expenditures became most urgent; but how to provide them was a problem which brought no little embarrassment to Louis XIV's ministers. At last Desmarets, who was Comptroller-General of the Finances, proposed to the Council of State, as a way out of their difficulties, that they should, in addition to all existing numerous and abominable taxes, establish or take on the system of a royal tenth, which had been proposed by Vauban and Boisguilbert as a substitute for all other taxes; with all the new machinery, officials, and valuations which such a system entailed. The proposition, after a brief consideration, was approved by the Council, and Desmarets was authorized to present it to the king; who, although long accustomed to various and extravagant exactions, is related at first to have been greatly terrified, and to have exhibited for some eight or ten days a profound melancholy. At the expiration of this period he regained his usual calmness, and gave the following explanation of the cause of his trouble: He said that he had been much tormented that the extremity of his affairs required him to take so much of the wealth of his subjects; and that at last he unbosomed himself to the Père Tellier (his confessor); who after a few days returned and reported that he had laid the matter before the most eminent doctors (theologians) of the Sorbonne, by whom it was decided, that all the wealth of his subjects was the king's, and that when he took of it he only took what belonged to him. The king added that this decision had taken away all his scruples, and had restored to him all the calm and cheerfulness that he had lost. After