Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II. - The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. I
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
CHAPTER II. - Hippolyte Taine, The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. I 
The Origins of Contemporary France: The Modern Regime, vol. 1, trans. John Durand (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1890).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
I. Local society since 1830.—Introduction of a new internal motor.—Subordinate to the external motor.—Advantageous under the system of universal suffrage.—II. Application of universal suffrage to local society.—Two assessments for the expenses of local society.—The fixed amount of one should in equity be equal to the average sum of the other.—Practically, the sum of one is kept too low.—How the new régime provides for local expenditure.—The “additional centimes.”—How the small taxpayer is relieved in town and country.—His quota in local expenditure reduced to the minimum.—His quota of local benefits remains intact.—Hence the large or average taxpayer bears, beside his own burden, that of the relieved senate taxpayer.—Number of those relieved.—The extra burden of the large and average taxpayer is alms-giving.—The relief of the small taxpayer is a levy of alms.—III. Possible compensation in the other side of the scale.—What the distribution of rights should be according to the principle of distributive justice.—In every association of stock-owners.—In local society confined to its natural object.—In local society charged with supplementary functions.—The local statute in England and Prussia.—The exchange equitable when burdens are compensated by rights.—IV. How unlimited universal suffrage found its way into local society.—Object and mode of the French legislator.—V. No distinction between the rural and the urban commune.—Effects of the law on the rural commune.—Disproportion between the intelligence of its elected representatives and the work imposed on them.—The mayor and the municipal council.—Lack of qualified members.—The secretary of the mayoralty.—The chief or under chief of the prefectorial bureau.—VI. Effects of the law on the urban commune.—Disproportion between the administrative capacity of its elected representatives and the work imposed on them.—Lack of a special and permanent manager.—The municipal council and the mayor.—The general council and the intermediary committee.—The prefect.—His dominant rule.—His obligatory concessions.—His principal aim.—Bargains between the central authority and the local Jacobins.—Effect of this on local government, on the officials, and in local finances.—VII. Present state of local society.—Considered as an organism, it is stillborn.—Considered as a mechanism, it gets out of order.—Two successive and false conceptions of local government.—In theory, one excludes the other.—Practically, their union ends in the actual system.—Powers of the prefect.—Restrictions on these through subsequent changes.—Give and take.—Bargaining.—Supported by the government and cost to the State.—VIII. Final result in a tendency to bankruptcy.
After thirty years of silence, neither feeling nor thought are any longer capable of uttering this vivifying and decisive phrase: those who ought to be interested in local society as a private association care but little for it, while the State does not admit of it. Indeed, after the year viii, the State introduces into the machine a new mainspring. After the revolution of 1830,1 the municipal and general councilors become elective and are appointed by a limited suffrage; after the revolution of 1848,2 they are elected by universal suffrage. After the revolution of 1870,3 each municipal council elects its own mayor, while the council-general, whose powers are enlarged, leaves in its place, during its vacations, a standing committee who arrange with, and govern along with, the prefect. Here, in local society, is a superadded internal motor, working from below, whilst the first one is external and works from above; henceforth, both are to work together and in accord.—But, in reality, the second remains subordinate; moreover, it does not suit the machine and the machine does not suit it; it was not made for the machine, nor the machine for it; it is only a superfetation, an inconvenient and cumbersome intruder, nearly always useless, and often mischievous. Its impulse is feeble and of little effect; too many brakes are attached to it; its force diminishes through the complexity of its numerous wheels; it fails in giving action; it cannot but little more than impede or moderate other impulsions, those of the external motor, sometimes as it should, and sometimes the contrary. Most frequently, even nowadays, it is of no efficiency whatever. Three-quarters of the municipal councils, for three-fourths of their business, hold sessions only to give signatures. Their pretended deliberations are simply a parade formality; the impulsion and direction continue to come from without, and from above; under the third Republic, as under the Restoration and the first Empire, it is always the central State which governs the local society; amid all the wranglings and disputes, in spite of passing conflicts it is, and remains, the initiator, proposer, leader, controller, accountant, and executor of every undertaking, the preponderating power in the department as well as in the commune, and with what deplorable results we all know.—There is still another and more serious result. Nowadays, its interference is an advantage, for should it renounce its preponderance this would pass over to the other power which, since this has become vested in a numerical majority, is mere blind and brutal force; abandoned to itself and without any counter-weight, its ascendency would be disastrous; we would see reappearing along with the blunders of 1789, the outrages, usurpations, and distress of 1790, 1791, and 1792.1 —In any event, there is this advantage in despotic centralization, that it still preserves us from democratic anatomy. In the present state of institutions and minds, the former system, objectionable as it may be, is our last retreat against the greater evil of the latter.
In effect, direct universal suffrage, counted by heads, is in local society an incongruous element, a monstrous contrivance, to which it is adverse. Constituted as this is, not by human arbitrament, but by physical conditions, its mechanism is determined beforehand; it excludes certain wheels and connections; the legislator must write out in the law what is written out by things, or, at least, translate this as closely as he can, without any gross contradiction. Nature herself presents him with ready-made statutes. His business is to read these properly; he has already transcribed the apportionment of burdens; he can now transcribe the apportionment of rights.
So we have seen, local society renders two distinct services, which, that the expenses of both may be met, require two distinct assessments, one personal and the other real, one levied on everybody and of which the amount is alike for all, and the other levied only on those whose amount is based on what he spends, on the importance of his business, and on the income from his real property.—In strict equity, the amount of the former should be equal to the average amount of the latter; in effect, as has been shown, the services defrayed by the former are as many, as diverse, and as precious, still more vital, and not less costly than those of which the latter is the price. Of the two interests which they represent, each, did it stand alone, would be obliged to secure the same services, to take upon itself the whole of the work; neither would obtain more in the dividend, and each would have to pay the whole of the expense. Accordingly, each gains as much as the other in the physical solidarity which binds them together. Hence, in the legal bond which unites them they enter into it on an equal footing, on condition that each is burdened or relieved as much as the other, on condition that if the latter assumes one-half of the expense the former shall assume the other half, on condition that if the latter quota on each one hundred francs expended against calamities and for public roads is fifty francs, the former quota shall also be fifty francs.—Practically, however, this is impossible. Three times out of four the former levy with this apportionment would not be returned; through prudence as well as humanity, the legislator is bound not to overburden the poor. Recently, in organizing the general tax and the revenue of the State, he has looked out for them; now, in organizing the local tax and the revenue of the department or of the commune, he looks out for them to a still greater extent.
In the new financial scheme, so many centimes, added to each franc of direct tax, form the principal resource of the department and commune, and it is through this extra charge that each taxpayer pays his quota of local expenditure. Now, there is no surcharge on the personal tax, no additional centimes. Under this heading, the laborer without any property or income, the workman who lives in lodgings, on his wages, and from day to day, contributes nothing to the expenses of his commune or department. In vain do “additional centimes” pour down on other branches of direct taxation; they are not grafted on this one, and do not suck away the substance of the poor.1 —There is the same regard for the half poor, in relation to the artisan who furnishes his own room, but who lodges in an upper story, and in relation to the peasant whose hovel or cottage has but one door and one window.2 Their rate of taxation on doors and windows is very low, purposely reduced, kept below one franc a year, while the rate of their personal tax is scarcely higher. “Additional centimes” may be imposed on so small a principal and be multiplied in vain, never will they reach more than an insignificant sum.—Not only are the indigent relieved of both principal and “additional centimes,” the verified indigent, those who are registered and are helped, or should be, that is to say 2,470,000 persons;3 but, again, others, by hundreds of thousands, whom the municipal council judges incapable of paying.—Even when people possess but a small piece of land, they are also relieved of the land tax and of the numerous additional centimes which increase it. Such is the case with those who are infirm or burdened with a family. The exchequer, so as not to convert them into beggars and vagabonds, avoids expropriation, selling out their concrete hovel, vegetable garden, and small field of potatoes or cabbages; it gives them receipts gratis, or, at least, refrains from prosecuting them.1 In this way the poor peasant, although a land-owner, again exempts himself, or is exempted from his local indebtedness. In truth, he pays nothing, or nearly nothing, otherwise than by prestations in money or in kind; that is to say, by three days’ work on the district roads, which, if he pays in kind, are not worth more than fifty sous.2 Add to this his portion, very small and often null, of the additional centimes on the tax on doors and windows, on the personal tax, and on the tax on real estate, in all four or five francs a year. Such is the amount by which the poor or half-poor taxpayer in the villages liberates himself toward his department and commune.—In the towns, he apparently pays more, owing to the octroi. But, at first, there are only one thousand five hundred and twenty-five communes out of thirty-six thousand in which the octroi3 has been established; while in the beginning, under the Directory and Consulate, it was revived only on his account, for his benefit, in behalf of public charity, to defray the expenses of asylums and hospitals ruined by revolutionary confiscation. It was then “an octroi for charity,” in fact as well as in name, like the surplus tax on theater seats and tickets, established at the same time and for the same purpose; it still to-day preserves the stamp of its first institution. Bread, the indispensable provision for the poor, is not subjected to the octroi, nor the materials for making it, either grain or flour, nor milk, fruits, vegetables, or codfish, while there is only a light tax on butcher’s meat. Even on beverages, where the octroi is heavier, it remains, like all indirect taxes, nearly proportional and semi-optional. In effect, it is simply an increase of the tax on beverages, so many additional centimes per franc on the sum of indirect taxation, as warrantable as the impost itself, as tolerable, and for the same motives.1 For the greater the sobriety of the taxpayer, the less is he affected by this tax. At Paris, where the increase is excessive, and adds to the six centimes paid to the state, on each quart of wine, twelve centimes paid to the city; if he drinks but one quart a day, he pays, under this heading, into the city treasury forty three francs eighty centimes per annum; but, as compensation for this, he is free of personal tax of eleven and three-quarters per centum, which this adds to the amount of each rental of the eleven and three-quarters per centum, whereby this would have added to his rent, and therefore forty-seven francs per annum as a rent of four hundred francs. Thus what he has paid with one hand he gets back with the other. Now, at Paris, all rentals under four hundred francs2 are thus free of any personal tax; all rentals between four hundred and one thousand francs are more or less free, and, in the other octroi towns, an analogous discharge reimburses to the small taxpayers a portion more or less great of the sum they pay to the octroi.—Accordingly, in the towns as in the country, they are favored at one time through fiscal relief and at another through administrative favor, now through compulsory deduction and now through total or partial reimbursement. Always, and very wisely, the legislator apportions the burden according to the strength of the shoulders; he relieves them as much as he can, at first, of the general tax, and next, which is still better, of the local tax. Hence, in local expenditure, their quota diminishes out of all proportion and is reduced to the minimum. Nevertheless, their quota of local benefit remains full and entire; at this insignificant price they enjoy the public highways and profit by all the precautions taken against physical ills; each profits by this personally, equally with any millionaire. Each personally receives as much in the great dividend of security, health, and convenience, in the fruit of the vast works of utility and enjoyment due to improved communications, which preserve health, promote intercourse, and beautify the locality, and without which, in town as well as in the country, life would be impossible or intolerable.
But these works which cost so much, these defensive operations and apparatus against inundations, fires, epidemics, and contagions, these 500,000 kilometres of district and department roads, these dikes, quays, bridges, public gardens, and promenades, this paving, drainage, sweeping and lighting, these aqueducts and supplies of drinkable water, all this is paid for by somebody, and, since it is not done by the small taxpayer, it is the large or average taxpayer who pays for it. The latter then, bears, besides his obligatory weight, a gratuitous surplus burden, consisting of the weight of which the other is relieved.
Evidently the greater the number of the relieved, the heavier will be this overweight, and the relieved count by millions. Two millions and a half of declared poor1 are relieved of any direct tax, and, therefore, of all the centimes which have just increased the burden. Out of eight millions of real estate owners,2 three millions, considered as insolvent, pay neither the real estate tax nor the centimes which it comprises. In the octroi towns, it is not the minority but the majority of the inhabitants who are relieved in the way just described; in Paris,3 out of 685,000 rentals, 625,000, in other terms twelve out of thirteen lodgings, are exempt, wholly or in part, from the personal tax, the principal and “additional centimes.” On each franc of this principal there are ninety-six of these super-added centimes for the benefit of the town and department; and because the department and the town expend a good deal, and because receipts are essential for the settlement of these accounts, this or that sum is noted beforehand in every chapter of receipts, and the main thing now is to have this paid in, and it must be paid by somebody; it matters little whether the peasants are few or numerous; if among thirteen taxable persons there is only one that pays, so much the worse for him, for he must pay for himself and the other twelve. Such is the case in Paris, which accounts for the “additional centimes” here being so numerous,1 owing to there being less than 60,000 rentals for the acquittance of the entire tax, and, besides paying their own debt, they must discharge the indebtedness of six hundred and twenty-five thousand other rentals, the tax on which is reduced or null.—Frequently, before the Revolution, some rich convent or philanthropic seignior would pay the taxes of his poor neighbors out of his own pocket; willingly or not, sixty thousand Parisians, more or less well lodged, now hand over the same sum, bestow the same charity, on six hundred and twenty-five thousand badly or only tolerably lodged Parisians; among these sixty thousand benefactors whom the exchequer obliges to be benevolent, thirty-four thousand eight hundred who pay from one thousand to three thousand francs rent, bestow, under this heading, a pretty large sum for charitable purposes, while fourteen thousand eight hundred, who pay more than three thousand francs rent, pay a very large one. Other branches of direct taxation, in the country as well as in the city, present the same spectacle: it is always the rich or the well-to-do taxpayers who, through their over-tax, more or less completely relieve the poor or straitened taxpayers; it is always the owners of large or small properties, those who pay heavy or average licenses, the occupants of lodgings with more than five openings,1 and whose locative value surpasses 1000 francs, who in local expenditure pay besides their own dues the dues of others and, through their additional centimes, almost entirely defray the expenses of the department and commune.—This is nearly always the case in a local society, except when it chances to possess an abundant income, arising from productive real estate, and is able to provide for its wants without taxing its members; apart from this rare exception, it is forced to tax some in order to relieve others. In other words, the same as with other enterprises, it manufactures and sells its product; but, just the reverse of other enterprises, it sells the product, an equal quantity of the same product, that is to say, equal protection against the same calamities, and the equal enjoyment of the same public highway, at unequal prices, very dear to a few, moderately dear to many, at cost price to a large number, and with a discount to the mass; to this last class of consumers the discount goes on increasing like the emptiness of their purse; to the last of all, extremely numerous, the goods are delivered almost gratis, or even for nothing.
But to this inequality of prices may correspond the inequality of rights, and compensation will come, the balance may be restored, distributive justice may be applied, if, in the government of the enterprise, the parts assigned are not equal, if each member sees his portion of influence growing or diminishing along with the weight of his charge, if the statute, graduating authority according to the scale of the levies, assigns few votes to those who pay the lowest quotas of expense and receive alms, and many votes to those who give alms and pay the largest quotas of the expenditure.
Such is the rule in every association of interests, even in stock companies in which the distribution of charges allows of no favor or disfavor to any associate. It must be noted that, in these companies, co-operation is not compulsory, but voluntary; the associates are not, as in the local society, conscripts enlisted under the constraint of physical solidarity, but subscribers bound together under the impulsion of a deliberate preference, each remaining in it of his own free will just as he entered it; if he wishes to leave it he has only to sell his stock; the fact of his keeping this confirms his subscription, and, thus holding on to it, he daily subscribes anew to the statute. Here, then, is a perfectly free association; it is accordingly perfectly equitable, and its statute serves as a model for others.
Now this statute always makes a distinction between the small and the large stockholders; it always attributes a greater share of authority and influence to those who share most largely in the risks and expenses; in principle, the number of votes it confers on each associate is proportionate to the number of shares of which he is the owner or bearer.—All the stronger is the reason why this principle should be embodied in the statutes of a society which, like the local community, diminishes the burden of the small taxpayer through its reductions, and increases by its extra taxation the burden of the large or average taxpayer; when the appointment of managers is handed over to universal suffrage, counted by heads, the large and average taxpayers are defrauded of their dues and deprived of their rights, more so by far and more deeply wronged than the bearer or owner of a thousand shares in an omnibus or gas company if, on voting at a meeting of stockholders, his vote did not count for more than that of the owner or bearer of a single share.—How is it then when a local society adds to its natural and unavoidable purpose an optional and supplementary purpose; when, increasing its load, it undertakes to defray the cost of public charity and of primary education; when, to support this additional cost, it multiplies the additional centimes; when the large or average taxpayer pays alone, or nearly alone, for this benevolent work by which he does not benefit; when the small taxpayer pays nothing, or next to nothing, to this benevolent work by which he does benefit; when, in voting for the expense thus apportioned, each taxpayer, whatever the amount of his contribution, has one vote and only one? In this case, powers, benefits, reductions, and exemptions, all the advantages are on one side, that of the poor and half-poor forming the majority and who, if not restrained from above, will persistently abuse their numerical force to augment their advantages, at the increasing expense of the rich or well-to-do minority. Thenceforth, in the local society, the average or large taxpayer is no longer an associate but a victim; were he free to choose he would not enter into it; he would like to leave it and establish himself elsewhere; but were he to enter others, near or remote, his condition would be no better. He remains, accordingly, where he is, physically present, but absent in feeling; he takes no part in deliberative meetings; his zeal has died out; he withholds from public affairs that surplus of vigilant attention, that spontaneous and ready collaboration which he would have contributed gratis; he lets matters go along without him, just as it happens; he remains there just what he is, a workable, taxable individual in capricious hands, in short, a passive subject who gives up and has become resigned.—For this reason, in countries where an encroaching democracy has not yet abolished or perverted the notion of equity, the local statute applies the fundamental rule of an equitable exchange; it lays down the principle that he who pays commands, and in proportion to the sum he pays.1 In England, a surplus of votes is awarded to those most heavily taxed, even six votes to one voter; in Prussia, local taxation is divided into thirds, and, accordingly, the taxpayers into three groups, the first one composed of heavy taxpayers, few in number, and who pay the first third, the second composed of average taxpayers, average in number, and who pay the second third, and the third composed of the great number of small taxpayers, who pay the last third.1 To each of these groups is assigned the same number of suffrages in the commune election, or the same number of representatives in the commune representation. Though this approximative balance of legal burdens and of legal rights, the two sides of the scales are nearly at their level, the level which distributive justice demands, and the level which the state, special interpreter, sole arbiter and universal minister of distributive justice, should establish when, in the local community, it imposes, rectifies, or maintains the statute according to which it derives its income and governs.
If the state, in France, does just the contrary, it is at the height of a violent and sudden revolution, under the dictation of the master faction and of popular prejudice, logically, and through contagion. According to revolutionary and French usage, the legislator was bound to institute uniformity and to make things symmetrical; having placed universal suffrage in political society, he was likewise determined to place it in local society. He had been ordered to apply an abstract principle, that is to say, to legislate according to a summary, superficial, and verbal notion which, purposely curtailed and simplified to excess, did not correspond with its object. He obeyed and did nothing more; he made no effort outside of his instructions. He did not propose to himself to restore local society to its members, to revive it, to make it a living body, capable of spontaneous, co-ordinate, voluntary action, and, to this end, provided with indispensable organs; he did not even take the trouble to figure it to himself mentally, as it is effectively, I mean by this, complex and diverse; inversely to his predecessors in France before 1789, and adversely to legislators before and after 1789 outside of France, against all the teachings of experience, against the evidence of nature, he refused to recognize the fact that, in France, mankind are of two species, the people of the towns and the people of the country, and that, therefore, there are two types of local society, the urban commune and the rural commune; he was not disposed to take this capital difference into consideration; he issued decrees for the Frenchman in general, for the citizen in himself, for fictive men, so reduced that the statute which suits them can nowhere suit the actual and complete man. At one stroke, the legislative shears cut out of the same stuff, according to the same pattern, thirty-six thousand examples of the same coat, one coat indifferently for every commune, whatever its shape, a coat too small for the city and too large for the village, disproportionate in both cases, and useless beforehand, because it could not fit very large bodies, nor very small ones. Nevertheless, once dispatched from Paris, people had to put the coat on and wear it; it must answer for good or for ill, each donning his own for lack of another better adjusted; hence the strangest attitudes for each, and, in the long run, a combination of consequences which neither governors nor the governed had foreseen.
Let us consider these results in turn in the small and in the great communes; clear enough and distinct at the two extremities of the scale, they blend into each at intermediate degrees, because here they combine together, but in different proportions, according as the commune, higher or lower in the scale, comes nearer to the village or to the city.—On this territory, too, subdivided since 1789, and, so to say, crumbled to pieces by the Constituent Assembly, the small communes are enormous in number; among thirty-six thousand, more than twenty-seven thousand have less than one thousand inhabitants, and of these, more than sixteen thousand have less than five hundred inhabitants.1 Whoever has traveled over France, or lived in this country, sees at once what sort of men compose such purely rustic groups; he has only to recall physiognomies and attitudes to know to what extent in these rude brains, rendered torpid by the routine of manual labor and oppressed by the cares of daily life, how narrow and obstructed are the inlets to the mind; how limited is their information in the way of facts; how, in the way of ideas, the acquisition of them is slow; what hereditary distrust separates the illiterate mass from the lettered class; what an almost insurmountable wall the difference of education, of habits, and of manners interposes in France between the blouse and the dress-coat; why, if each commune contains a few cultivated individuals and a few notable proprietors, universal suffrage sets them aside, or at least does not seek them out for the municipal council or the mayoralty.—Before 1830, when the prefect appointed the municipal councilors and the mayor, these were always on hand; under the monarchy of July and a limited suffrage, they were still on hand, at least for the most part; under the second Empire, whatever the elected municipal council might be, the mayor, who was appointed by the prefect, and even outside of this council, might be one of the least ignorant and least stupid even in the commune. At the present day, it is only accidentally and by chance that a noble or bourgeois, in a few provinces and in certain communes, can become mayor or municipal councilor; and yet more is it essential that he should be born on the soil, long established there, resident and popular. Everywhere else the numerical majority, being sovereign, tends to selecting its candidates from among its own set; in the village, he is a man of average rural intelligence, and, more frequently, the village municipal councilor, as narrow-minded as his electors, elects a mayor equally as narrow-minded as himself. Such are, henceforth, the representatives and directors of communal interests; except when they themselves are affected by personal interests in which they are sensitive, their inertia is only equaled by their incapacity.1
Four times a year a bundle of elaborately drawn papers, prepared in the prefecture bureaux, are submitted to these paralytics, born blind, large sheets divided into columns from top to bottom, with tabular headings from right to left, and covered with printed texts and figures in writing—details of receipts and expenses, general centimes, special centimes, obligatory centimes, optional centimes, ordinary centimes, extra centimes, with their sources and employment; preliminary budget, final budget, corrected budget, along with legal references, regulations, and decisions bearing on each article; in short, a methodical table as specific as possible and highly instructive to a legist or accountant, but perfect jargon to peasants, most of whom can scarcely write their name and who, on Sundays, are seen standing before the advertisement board2 trying to spell out the Journal Officiel, whose abstract phrases, beyond their reach, pass over their heads in aerial and transient flight, like some confused rustling of vague and unknown forms. To guide them in political life, much more difficult than in private life, they require a similar guide to the one they take in the difficult matters of their individual life, a legal or business adviser, one that is qualified and competent, able to understand the prefecture documents, sitting alongside of them to explain their budget, rights and limits of their rights, the financial resources, legal expedients, and consequences of a law; one who can arrange their debates, make up their accounts, watch daily files of bills, attend to their business at the county town, throughout the entire series of legal formalities and attendance on the bureaux,—in short, some trusty person, familiar with technicalities, whom they might choose to select.—Such a person was found in Savoy, before the annexation to France, a notary or lawyer who, practicing in the neighborhood or at the principal town, and with five or six communes for clients, visited them in turn, helped them with his knowledge and intelligence, attended their meetings and, besides, served them as scribe, like the present secretary of the mayoralty, for about the same pay, amounting in all to about the same total of fees or salaries.1 —At the present time, there is nobody in the municipal council to advise and give information to its members; the schoolmaster is their secretary, and he cannot be, and should not be, other than a scribe. He reads in a monotonous tone of voice the long financial enigma which French public book-keeping, too perfect, offers to their divinations, and which nobody, save one who is educated to it, can clearly comprehend until after weeks of study. They listen all agog. Some, adjusting their spectacles, try to pick out among so many articles the one they want, the amount of taxes they have to pay. The sum is too large, the assessments are excessive; it is important that the number of additional centimes should be reduced, and therefore that less money should be expended. Hence, if there is any special item of expense which can be got rid of by a refusal, they set it aside by voting No, until some new law or decree from above obliges them to say Yes. But, as things go, nearly all the expenses designated on the paper are obligatory; willingly or not, these must be met, and there is no way to pay them outside of the additional centimes; however numerous these are, vote them they must and sanction the centimes inscribed. They accordingly affix their signatures, not with trust but with mistrust, with resignation, and out of pure necessity. Abandoned to their natural ignorance, the twenty-seven thousand petty municipal councilors of the country are now more passive, more inert, more constrained than ever; deprived of the light which, formerly, the choice of the prefect or a restricted suffrage could still throw into the darkness around them, there remains to them only one safe tutor or conductor; and this final guide is the official staff of the bureaux, especially this or that old, permanent chief, or under clerk, who is perfectly familiar with his files of papers. With about four hundred municipal councilors to lead, one may imagine what he will do with them—nothing except to drive them like a flock of sheep into a pen of printed regulations, or urge them on mechanically, in lots, according to his instructions, he himself being as automatic and as much in a rut as they are.
Let us now look at the other side of the scale, on the side of the large urban communes, of which there are two hundred and twenty-three, with above ten thousand inhabitants, ninety of these above twenty thousand inhabitants, nine of the latter above one hundred thousand inhabitants, and Paris, which has two million three hundred thousand.1 We see at the first glance bestowed on an average specimen of these human anthills, a town containing from forty to fifty thousand souls, how vast and complex the collective undertaking becomes, how many principal and accessory services the communal society must co-ordinate and unite together in order to secure to its members the advantages of public roads and insure their protection against spreading calamities,—the maintenance and repairs of these roads, the straightening, laying-out, paving, and drainage, the constructions and expense for sewers, quays, and rivers, and often for a commercial harbor; the negotiations and arrangements with departments and with the state for this or that harbor, canal, dyke, or insane asylum; the contracts with cab, omnibus, and tramway companies and with telephone and house-lighting companies; the street-lighting, artesian wells and aqueducts; the city police, superintendence and rules for using public highways, and orders and agents for preventing men from injuring each other when collected together in large assemblies in the streets, in the markets, at the theater, in any public place, whether coffee-houses or taverns; the firemen and machinery for conflagrations; the sanitary measures against contagions, and precautions, long beforehand, to insure salubrity during epidemics; and, as extra burdens and abuses, the establishment, direction and support of primary schools, colleges, public lectures, libraries, theaters, hospitals, and other institutions which should be supported and governed by different associations; at the very least, the appropriations to these establishments and therefore a more or less legitimate and more or less imperative intervention in their internal management—such are the great undertakings which form a whole, which bear alike on the present, past, and future budget of the commune, and which, as so many distinct branches of every considerable enterprise, require, for proper execution, to have their continuity and connection always present in the thoughtful and directing mind which has them in charge.1 Experience shows that, in the great industrial or financial companies, in the Bank of France, in the Crédit Lyonnais, and in the Société Générale, at Creusot, at Saint Gobin, in the insurance, navigation, and railroad companies, the best way to accomplish this end is a permanent manager or director, always present, engaged or accepted by the administrative board on understood conditions, a special, tried man who, sure of his place for a long period, and with a reputation to maintain, gives his whole time, faculties, and zeal to the work, and who, alone, possessing at every moment a coherent and detailed conception of the entire undertaking, can alone give it the proper stimulus, and bring to bear the most economical and the most perfect practical improvements. Such is also the municipal régime in the Prussian towns on the Rhine. Then, in Bonn, for instance,1 the municipal council, elected by the inhabitants “goes in quest” of some eminent specialist whose ability is well known. It must be noted that he is taken wherever he can be found, outside the city, in some remote province; they bargain with him, the same as with some famous musician, for the management of a series of concerts; under the title of burgomaster, with a salary of ten thousand francs per annum, he becomes for twelve years the director of all municipal services, leader of the civic orchestra, solely intrusted with executive power, wielding the magisterial baton which the various instruments obey, many of these being salaried functionaries and other benevolent amateurs,2 all in harmony and through him, because they know that he is watchful, competent, and superior, constantly occupied with the general combination, responsible, and for his own interest, as a point of honor, wholly devoted to his work which is likewise their work, that is to say, to the complete success of the concert.
Nothing in a French town corresponds to this admirable type of a municipal institution; here, also, and to a much greater extent than in the village, the effect of universal suffrage has been to discredit the true notables and to insure the abdication or exclusion of men who, by their education, the large proportion of the taxes they pay, and still greater influence or production on labor and on business, are social authorities, and who should become legal authorities; in every country where conditions are unequal, the preponderance of a numerical majority necessarily ends in the nearly general abstention or almost certain defeat of the candidates most deserving of election. But here the case is different; the elected, being towns-people (citadins) and not rustics, are not of the same species as in the village. They read a daily newspaper, and believe that they understand not only local matters but all subjects of national and general importance, that is to say, the highest formulæ of political economy, of philosophic history, and of public right; somewhat resembling the schoolmaster who, being familiar with the rules of arithmetic, thinks that he can teach the differential calculus, and the theory of functions. At any rate, they talk loud and argue on every subject with confidence, according to Jacobin traditions, being, indeed, so many fresh Jacobins, the heirs and continuators of the old sectarians, issuing from the same stock and of the same stamp, a few in good faith, but mainly narrow-minded, excited, and bewildered by the smoke of the glittering generalities they utter, most of them mere politicians, charlatans, and intriguers, third-class lawyers and doctors, literary failures, semi-educated stump-speakers, bar-room, club, or clique orators, and of low ambition, who, left behind in private careers, in which one is closely watched and accepted for what he is worth, launch out on a public career because, in these lists, popular suffrage at once ignorant, indifferent, and badly informed, a prejudiced and passionate judge, a moralist of easy conscience, instead of demanding unsullied integrity and proven competency, asks for nothing from candidates but oratorical “buncombe,” self-pushing and self-display in public, gross flattery, a parade of zeal and promises to place the power about to be conferred on them by the people in the hands of those who will serve its antipathies and prejudices. Thus introduced into the municipal council, they constitute its majority and appoint a mayor who is their coryphæus or creature, now the bold leader and again the docile instrument of their spite, their favors, and their headlong action, of their blunders and presumption, and of their meddlesome disposition and encroachments.—In the department, the council general, also elected by universal suffrage, also savors of its origin; its quality, without falling so low, still descends in a certain degree, and through changes which keep on increasing: politicians install themselves there and make use of their place as a stepping-stone to mount higher; it also, with larger powers and prolonged during its vacations by its committee, is tempted to regard itself as the legitimate sovereign of the extensive and scattered community which it represents.—Thus recruited and composed, enlarged and deteriorated, the local authorities become difficult to manage, and henceforth, to carry on the administration, the prefect must come to some understanding with them.
Before 1870, when he appointed the mayors and when the council general held its sessions only fifteen days in the year, this prefect was almost omnipotent; still, at the present day, “his powers are immense,”1 and his power remains preponderant. He has the right to suspend the municipal council and the mayor, and to propose their dismissal to the head of the state. Without resorting to this extremity, he holds them with a strong hand, and always uplifted over the commune, for he can veto the acts of the municipal police and of the road committee, annul the regulations of the mayor, and, through a skillful use of his prerogative, impose his own. He holds in hand, removes, appoints or helps appoint, not alone the clerks in his office, but likewise every kind and degree of clerk who, outside his office, serves the commune or department,1 from the archivist, keeper of the museum, architect, director, and teachers of the municipal drawing-schools, from the directors and collectors of charity establishments, directors and accountants of almshouses, doctors of the mineral springs, doctors and accountants of the insane asylums and for epidemics, head-overseers of octrois, wolf-bounty guards, commissioners of the urban police, inspectors of weights and measures, town collectors, whose receipts do not exceed thirty thousand francs, down to and comprising the lowest employés, such as forest-guards of the department and commune, lock-keepers and navigation guards, overseers of the quays and of commercial ports, toll-gatherers on bridges and highways, field-guards of the smallest village, policemen posted at the corner of a street, and stone-breakers on the public highway. When things and not persons are concerned, it is he, again, who, in every project, enterprise, or proceeding, is charged with the preliminary examination and final execution of it, who proposes the department budget and presents it, regularly drawn up, to the council general, who draws up the communal budget and presents that to the municipal council, and who, after the council general or municipal council have voted on it, remains on the spot the sole executor, director, and master of the operation to which they have assented. Their total, effective part in this operation is very insignificant, it being reduced to a bare act of the will; in reaching a vote they have had in their hands scarcely any other documents than those furnished and arranged by him; in gradually reaching their decision step by step, they have had no help but his, that of an independent collaborator who, governed by his own views and interests, never becomes the mere instrument. They lack for their decision direct, personal, and full information, and, beyond this, complete, efficient power; it is simply a dry, Yes, interposed between insufficient resources, or else cut off, and the fruit of which is abortive or only half ripens. The persistent will of the prefect alone, informed, and who acts, must and does generally prevail against this ill-supported and ill-furnished will. At bottom, and as he stands, he is, in his mental and official capacity, always the prefect of the year viii.
Nevertheless, after the laws lately passed, his hands are not so free. The competency of local assemblies is extended and comprises not only new cases but, again, of a new species, while the number of their executive decisions has increased five-fold. The municipal council, instead of holding one session a year, holds four, and of longer duration. The council general, instead of one session a year, holds two, and maintain itself in the interim by its delegation, which meets every month. With these increased authorities more generally present, the prefect has to reckon, and what is still more serious, he must reckon with local opinion; he can no longer rule with closed doors; the proceedings of the municipal council, the smallest one, are duly posted; in the towns, they are published and commented on by the newspapers of the locality; the general council furnishes reports of its deliberations.—Thus, behind elected powers, and weighing with them on the same side of the scales, here is a new power, opinion, as this grows in a country leveled by equalized centralization, in a heaving or stagnant crowd of disintegrated individuals lacking any spontaneous, central, rallying point, and who, failing natural leaders, simply push and jostle each other or stand still, each according to personal, blind, and haphazard impressions—a hasty, improvident, inconsequent, superficial opinion, caught on the wing, based on vague rumors, on four or five minutes of attention given each week, and chiefly to big words imperfectly understood, two or three sonorous, commonplace phrases, of which the listeners fail to catch the sense, but the sound of which, by dint of frequent repetition, becomes for them a recognized signal, the blast of a horn or a shrieking whistle, which assembles the herd and arrests or drives it on. No opposition can make head against this herd as it rushes along in too compact and too heavy masses.—The prefect, on the contrary, is obliged to cajole it, yield to it, and satisfy it; for, under the system of universal suffrage, this same herd, besides local representatives, elects the central powers, the deputies, the government; and when the government sends a prefect from Paris into the provinces, it is after the fashion of a large commercial establishment, with a view to keep and increase the number of its customers, to stay there, maintain its credit, and act permanently as its traveling-clerk, or, in other terms, as its electoral agent, and, still more precisely, as the head-manager of coming elections for the dominant party and for the ministers in office, who have commissioned and appointed him, and who, from top to bottom, constantly stimulate him to hold on to the voters already secured and to gain fresh ones.—Undoubtedly, the interests of the state, department, and commune must be seriously considered, but, first and above all, he is the recruiting officer for voters. By virtue of this position and on this point he treats with the council general and the standing committee, with the municipal councilors and mayors, with influential electors, but especially with the small active committee which, in each commune, supports the prevailing policy and offers its zeal to the government.
Give and take. These indispensable auxiliaries must obtain nearly all they ask for, and they ask for a great deal. Instinctively, as well as by doctrine and tradition, the Jacobins are exacting, disposed to regard themselves as the representatives of the real and the ideal people, that is to say, as sovereigns by right, above the law, entitled to make it and therefore to unmake it, or, at least, strain it and interpret it as they please. Always in the general council, in the municipal council, and in the mayoralty, they are tempted to usurp it; the prefect has as much as he can do to keep them within the local bounds, to keep them from meddling with state matters and the general policy; he is often obliged to pocket their want of respect, to be patient with them, to talk to them mildly; for they talk loud and want the administration to reckon with them as a clerk with his master; if they vote money for any service it is on condition that they take part in the use of the funds and in the details of the service, in the choice of contractors and in hiring the workmen; on condition that their authority be extended and their hands applied to the consecutive execution of what does not belong to them but which belongs to the prefect.1 Bargaining, consequently, goes on between them incessantly and they come to terms.—The prefect, it must be noted, who is bound to pay, can do so without violating the letter of the law. The stern page on which the legislator has printed his imperative text is always provided with an ample margin where the administrator, charged with its execution, can write down the decisions that he is free to make. In relation to each departmental or communal affair, the prefect can with his own hand write out what suits him on the white margin, which, as we have already seen, is ample enough; but the margin at his disposition is wider still and continues, beyond anything we have seen, on other pages; for he is chargé d’affaires not only of the department and commune, but again of the State. Titular conductor or overseer of all general services, he is, in his circumscription, head inquisitor of the republican faith,2 even in relation to private life and inner sentiments, the responsible director of orthodox or heretical acts or opinions, which are laudable or blamable in the innumerable army of functionaries by which the central state now undertakes the complete mastery of human life, the twenty distinct regiments of its vast hierarchy—with the staff of the clergy, of the magistracy, of the preventive and repressive police, of public education, of public charities, of direct taxation, of indirect taxation, of registration, and of the customs; with the officials of bridges and highways, forest domains, stock-breeding establishments, postal and telegraph departments, tobacco and other monopolies; with those of every national enterprise which ought to be private, Sèvres and Gobelins, deaf and dumb and blind asylums, and every auxiliary and special workshop for war and navigation purposes, which the state supports and manages. I pass some of them and all too many. Only remark this, that the indulgence or severity of the prefecture in the way of fiscal violations or irregularities is an advantage or danger of the highest importance to three hundred and seventy-seven thousand dealers in wines and liquors; that an accusation brought before and admitted in the prefecture may deprive thirty-eight thousand clergymen of their bread,1 forty-three thousand letter-carriers and telegraph messengers, forty-five thousand sellers of tobacco and collecting-clerks, seventy-five thousand stone-breakers, and one hundred and twenty thousand male and female teachers;2 directly or indirectly, the good or ill favor of the prefecture is of consequence, since recent military laws, to all adults between twenty and forty-five years, and, since recent school laws, to all children between six and thirteen years of age. According to these figures, which go on increasing from year to year, calculate the breadth of the margin on which, alongside of the legal text which states the law for persons and things in general, the prefect in his turn gives the law for persons and things in particular. On this margin, which belongs to him, he writes as he pleases, at one time permissions and favors, exemptions, dispensations, leaves of absence, relief of taxes or discharges, help and subventions, preferences and gratuities, appointments and promotions, and at another time destitutions, severities, prosecutions, wrongs, and injuries. To guide his hand in each case, that is to say, to endure all the favors on one side and all the disfavors on the other, he has special informers and imperious solicitors belonging to the local set of Jacobins. If not restrained by a very strong sentiment of distributive justice and very great solicitude for the public good he can hardly resist them, and in general when he takes up his pen it is to write under the dictation of his Jacobin collaborators.
Thus has the institution of the year viii deviated, no longer attaining its object. The prefect, formerly appointed to a department, like a pacier of the Middle Ages, imposed on it from above, ignorant of local passions, independent, qualified and fitted for the office, was able to remain, in general, for fifty years, the impartial minister of the law and of equity, maintaining the rights of each, and exacting from each his due, without heeding opinions and without respect to persons. Now he is obliged to become an accomplice of the ruling faction, govern for the advantage of some to the detriment of others, and to put into his scales, as a preponderating weight, every time he weighs judgment, a consideration for persons and opinions. At the same time, the entire administrative staff in his hands, and under his eye, deteriorates; each year, on the recommendation of a senator or deputy, he adds to it, or sees, intruders there, whose previous services are null, feeble in capacity and of weak integrity, who do poor work or none at all, and who, to hold their post or get promoted, count not on their merits but on their patrons. The rest, able and faithful functionaries of the old school, who are poor and to whom no path is open, become weary and lose their energy; they are no longer even certain of keeping their place; if they stay, it is for the dispatch of current business and because they cannot be dispensed with; perhaps to-morrow, however, they will cease to be considered indispensable; some political renunciation, or to give a political favorite a place, will put them by anticipation on the retired list. Henceforth they have two powers to consult, one, legitimate and natural, the authority of their administrative chiefs, and the other illegitimate and parasite, consisting of democratic influence from both above and below; for them, as for the prefect, public good descends to the second rank and the electoral interest mounts upward to the first rank. With them as with him, self-respect, professional honor, the conscientious performance of duty, reciprocal loyalty go down; discipline relaxes, punctuality falters, and, as the saying goes, the great administrative edifice is no longer a well-kept house, but a barracks.
Naturally, under the democratic régime, the maintenance and service of this house becomes more and more costly; for, owing to the additional centimes, it is the rich or well-to-do minority which defrays the larger portion of the expense; owing to universal suffrage, it is the poor or half-poor majority which preponderates in voting, while the larger number who vote can overtax the small paying number with impunity. At Paris, the parliament and the government, elected by this numerical majority, contrive demands in its behalf, force expenditure, augment public works, schools, endowments, gratuities, prizes, a multiplication of offices to increase the number of their clients, while it never tires in decreeing, in the name of principles, works for show, theatrical, ruinous, and dangerous, the cost of which they do not care to know, and of which the social import escapes them. Democracy, above as well as below, is short-sighted; it seizes whatever food it comes across, like an animal, with open jaws and head down; it refuses to anticipate and to calculate; it burdens the future and wastes every fortune it undertakes to manage, not alone that of the central state, but, again, those of all local societies. Up to the advent of universal suffrage, the administrators appointed above or elected below, in the department or in the commune, kept tight hold of the purse-strings; since 1848, especially since 1870, and still later, since the passage of the laws of 1882, which, in suppressing the obligatory consent of the heaviest taxed, let slip the last of these strings, this purse, wide open, is emptied into the street.1 In 1851, the departments, all together, expended ninety-seven millions; in 1869, one hundred and ninety-two millions; in 1881, three hundred and fourteen millions. In 1836, the communes, all together, save Paris, expended one hundred and seventeen millions, in 1862, four hundred and fifty millions, in 1877, six hundred and seventy-six millions. If we examine the receipts covering this expenditure, we find that the additional centimes which supplied the local budgets, in 1820, with eighty millions, and, in 1850, with one hundred and thirty-one millions, supplied them, in 1870, with two hundred and forty-nine millions, in 1880, with three hundred and eighteen millions, and, in 1887, with three hundred and sixty-four millions. The annual increase, therefore, of these superadded centimes to the principal of the direct taxes is enormous, and finally ends in an overflow. In 1874,2 there were already twenty-four departments in which the sum of additional centimes reached or surpassed the sum of the principal. “In a very few years,” says an eminent economist,3 “it is probable that, for nearly all of the departments,” the overcharge will be similar. Already, for a long time, in the total of personal taxation,4 the local budgets raised more than the state, and, in 1888, the principal of the tax on real property, one hundred and eighty-three millions, is less than the total of centimes joined with it, one hundred and ninety-six millions. Coming generations are burdened over and beyond the present generation, while the sum of loans constantly increases, like that of taxation. The communes with debts, all together save Paris, owed, in 1868, five hundred and twenty-four millions, in 1871, seven hundred and eleven millions, in 1878, thirteen hundred and twenty-two millions. Paris, in 1868, already owed thirteen hundred and seventy-six millions, March 30, 1878, it owed nineteen hundred and eighty-eight millions.1 In this same Paris, the annual contribution of each inhabitant for local expenses was, at the end of the first Empire, in 1813, thirty-seven francs per head, at the end of the Restoration, 45 francs, after the July monarchy, in 1848, 43 francs, and, at the end of the second Empire, in 1869, 94 francs. In 1887, it is 110 francs per head.2
Such, in brief, is the history of local society from 1789 down to 1889. After the philosophic demolitions of the Revolution, and the practical constructions of the Consulate, it could no longer be a small patrimony, something to take pride in, an object of affection and devotion to its inhabitants. The departments and communes have become more or less vast lodging-houses, all built on the same plan and managed according to the same regulations, one as passable as the other, with apartments in them which, more or less good, are more or less dear, but at rates which, higher or lower, are fixed at a uniform tariff over the entire territory, so that the thirty-six thousand communal buildings and the eighty-six department hotels are about equal, it making but little difference whether one lodges in the latter rather than in the former. The permanent taxpayers of both sexes who have made these premises their home, have not obtained recognition for what they are, invincibly and by nature, a syndicate of neighbors, an involuntary, obligatory and private association, in which physical solidarity engenders moral solidarity, a natural, limited society whose members own the building in common, and each possesses a property right more or less great, according to the greater or lesser contribution he makes to the expenses of the establishment. Up to this time no room has yet been found, either in the law or in minds, for this very plain truth; its place is taken and occupied in advance by the two errors which, in turn or both at once, have led the legislator and opinion astray.
Taking things as a whole, it is admitted up to 1830 that the legitimate proprietor of the local building is the central state, that it may install its delegate therein, the prefect, with full powers; that, for better government, he consents to be instructed by the leading interested and most capable parties on the spot; that he should fix the petty rights he concedes to them within the narrowest limits; that he should appoint them; that, if he calls them together for consultation, it is from time to time and generally for form’s sake, to add the authority of their assent to the authority of his omnipotence, on the implied condition that he shall not give heed to their objections if he does not like them, and not follow their advice if he does not choose to accept it.—Taking things as a whole, it is admitted that, since 1848, the legitimate proprietors of the building are its adult male inhabitants, counted by heads, all equal and all with an equal part in the common property, comprising those who contribute nothing or nearly nothing to the common expenditure of the house, the numerous body of semi-poor who lodge in it at half price, and the not less numerous body to whom administrative philanthropy furnishes house comforts, shelter, light, and frequently provisions, gratuitously.—Between both these contradictory and false conceptions, between the prefect of the year viii, and the democracy of 1792, a compromise has been effected; undoubtedly, the prefect, sent from Paris, is and remains the titular director, the active and responsible manager of the departmental or communal building; but, in his management of it he is bound to keep in view the coming elections, and in such a way as will maintain the parliamentary majority in the seats they occupy in parliament; consequently, he must conciliate the local leaders of universal suffrage, rule with their help, put up with the intrusion of their bias and cupidity, take their advice daily, follow it often, even in small matters, even in payments day by day of sums already voted, in appointing an office-clerk, in the appointment of an unpaid underling, who may some day or other take this clerk’s place.1 —Hence the spectacle before our eyes: a badly kept establishment in which profusion and waste render each other worse and worse, where sinecures multiply and where corruption enters in; a staff of officials becoming more and more numerous and less and less serviceable, harassed between two different authorities, obliged to possess or to simulate political zeal and to neutralize an impartial law by partiality, and, besides performing their regular duties, to do dirty work; in this staff, there are two sorts of employés, the new-comers who are greedy and who, through favor, get the best places, and the old ones who are patient and pretend no more, but who suffer and grow disheartened; in the building itself, there is great demolition and reconstruction, architectural fronts in monumental style for parade and to excite attention, entirely new decorative and extremely tiresome structures at extravagant cost; consequently, loans and debts, heavier bills at the end of each year for each occupant, low rents, but still high, for favorites in the small rooms and garrets, and extravagant rents for the larger and more sumptuous apartments; in sum, forced receipts which do not offset the expenses; liabilities which exceed assets; a budget which shows only a stable balance on paper,—in short, an establishment with which the public is not content, and which is on the road to bankruptcy.
The following notes, added by the author after the foregoing translation had been made, were not received in time to incorporate with the text before it was put in the printer’s hands. They are given with the indications that enable the reader to refer to them in their proper places.
Laws of March 21, 1831, and July 18, 1837, June 22, 1833, and May 10, 1838. The municipal electors number about 2,250,000 and form the superior third of the adult masculine population; in the choice of its notables and semi-notables, the law takes into account not only wealth and direct taxation, but likewise education and services rendered to the public.—The department electors number about 200,000, about as many as the political electors. The reporter observes that “an almost complete analogy exists between the choice of a deputy and the choice of a department councilor, and that it is natural to confide the election to the same electoral body otherwise divided, since the object is to afford representation to another order of interests.”
Law of July 3, 1848.
Laws of Aug. 12, 1876, March 28, 1882, and April 5, 1884; law of Aug. 10, 1871.
“The Revolution,” vol. i., book viii.
Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “Traité de la science des finances,” 4th edition, i., p. 303: “The personal tax, levied only as principal, oscillates between the minimum of 1 fr. 50 and the maximum of 4 fr. 50 per annum, according to the communes.—Ibid., 304: “In 1806 the personal tax produced in France about sixteen millions of francs, a little less than 0 fr. 50 per head of the inhabitants.”
Ibid., i., 367 (on the tax on doors and windows). According to the population of the commune, this is from 0 fr. 30 to 1 fr. for each opening, from 0 fr. 45 to 1 fr. 50 for two openings, from 0 fr. 90 to 4 fr. 50 for three openings, from 1 fr. 60 to 6 fr. 40 for four openings, and from 2 fr. 50 to 8 fr. 50 for five openings. The first of these rates is applied to all communes of less than 5000 souls. We see that the poor man, especially the poor peasant, is considered; the tax on him is progressive in an inverse sense.
De Foville, “La France Economique” (1887), p. 59: “Our 14,500 charity bureaux gave assistance in 1883 to 1,405,500 persons; . . . . as, in reality, the population of the communes aided (by them) is only 22,000,000, the proportion of the registered poor amounts to over six per cent.”
Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “Essai sur la répartition des richesses,” p. 174, et seq.—In 1851, the number of land-owners in France was estimated at 7,800,000. Out of these, three millions were relieved of the land tax, as indigent, and their quotas were considered as irrecoverable.
Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “Traité de la science des finances,” p. 721.
De Foville, p. 419. (In 1889.)
Cf. ante, on the characteristics of indirect taxation.
Here it is the estimated rent, which stands to the real rent as four to five; an estimated rent of 400 francs indicates a real rent of 500 francs.
De Foville, p. 57.
Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “Essai sur la répartition de richesses,” p. 174.
Ibid., p. 209: In 1878, in Paris, 74,000 houses with 1,022,539 rentals, 337,587 being for trade and commerce, and 684,952 for dwelling purposes. Among the latter, 468,641 have a locative value interior to 300 francs a year; 74,360 are between 500 and 750 francs; 21,147 are between 750 and 1000 francs. All these lodgings are more or less exempt from the personal tax: those between 1000 and 400 francs pay it with a more or less great reduction: those under 400 francs pay nothing. Above 1000 francs, we find 17,202 apartments from between 1000 and 1250 francs; 6198 from between 1250 and 1500 francs; 21,453 from 1500 to 3000 francs. These apartments are occupied by more or less well-to-do people.—14,858 apartments above 3000 francs are occupied by the richer or the wealthy class. Among the latter 9985 are from 3000 to 6000; 3049 are from 6000 to 10,000; 1443 are from 10,000 to 20,000; 421 are under 20,000 francs. These two latter categories are occupied by the really opulent class.—According to the latest statistics, instead of 684,952 dwelling rentals there are 806,187, of which 727,419 are wholly or partly free of the personal tax. (“Situation au 1ére Janvier, 1888,” report by M. Lamouroux, conseiller-municipal.)
The following appropriations for 1889 are printed on my tax-bill: “To the State, 51 per cent.; to the Department, 21 per cent.; to the Commune, 25 per cent.” On business permits; “To the State, 64 per cent.; to the Department, 12 per cent.; to the Commune, 20 per cent. The surplus of taxes is appropriated to the benevolent fund and for remission of taxes.”
Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “Traité de la science des finances,” i., pp. 367-368: “In communes under 5000 inhabitants the principal of the tax on doors and windows is, for houses with one opening, 0 fr. 30 per annum; for those with four openings, 1 fr. 60.” Now, “a house with five openings pays nearly nine times as much as a house with one opening.” The small taxpayers are accordingly largely relieved at the expense of those who pay heavy and average taxes, the magnitude of this relief being appreciable by the following figures: In 1885, out of 8,975,166 houses, 248,352 had one opening, 1,827,104 two openings, 1,624,516 three openings, and 1,165,902 four openings. More than one-half of the houses, all of those belonging to the poor or straitened, are thus relieved, while the other half, since the tax is an impost, not one aliquot part, but an apportionment, is overcharged as much.
One result of this principle is, that the indigent who are exempt from taxation or who are on the poor list have no vote, which is the case in England and in Prussia.—Though another result of the same principle, the law of May 15, 1818, in France, summoned the heaviest taxpayers, in equal number with the members of the municipal council, to deliberate with it every time that “a really urgent expenditure” obliged the commune to raise extra additional centimes beyond the usual o fr. 05. “Thus,” says Henrion de Pancey (“Du pouvoir municipal,” p. 109), “the members of the municipal councils belonging to the class of small land-owners, at least in a large number of communes, voted the charges without examination which only affected them insensibly.”—This last refuge of distributive justice was abolished by the law of April 5, 1882.
Max Leclerc, “La Vie municipale en Prusse.” (Extrait des “Annales de l’Ecole libre des sciences politique,” 1889, a study on the town of Bonn.) At Bonn, which has a population of 35,810 inhabitants, the first group is composed of 167 electors: the second, of 471; the third, of 2607, and each group elects 8 municipal councilors out of 24.
De Foville, “La France économique,” p. 16 (Census of 1881).—Number of communes, 36,097; number below 1000 inhabitants, 27,503; number below 500 inhabitants, 16,870.—What is stated applies partly to the two following categories: 1st, communes from 1000 to 1500 inhabitants, 2982; 2d, communes from 1500 to 2000 inhabitants, 1917.—All the communes below 2000 inhabitants are counted as rural in the statistics of population, and they number 33,402.
See Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “L’État moderne et ses fonctions,” p. 169. “The various groups of inhabitants, especially in the country, do not know how to undertake or agree upon anything of themselves. I have seen villages of two or three hundred people belonging to a large scattered commune wait patiently for years and humbly petition for aid in constructing an indispensable fountain, which required only a contribution of 200 or 300 francs, 5 francs per head, to put up. I have seen others possessing only one road on which to send off their produce and unable to act in concert, when, with an outlay of 2000 francs, and 200 or 300 francs a year to keep it in order, it would easily suffice for all their requirements. I speak of regions relatively rich, much better off than the generality of communes in France.”
In French villages, on one of the walls of a public building on the square are notices of all kinds, of interest to the inhabitants, and among these, in a frame behind a wire netting, the latest copy of the government official newspaper, giving authentic political items, those which it thinks best for the people to read. (Tr.)
On the communal system in France, and on the reforms which, following the example of other nations, might be introduced into it, cf. Joseph Ferrand (formerly a prefect), “Les Institutions administratives en France et à l’étranger”; Rudolph Gneist, “Les Réformes administratives en Prusse accomplies par la législation de 1872,” (especially the institution of Amts-vorsteher, for the union of communes or circumscriptions of about 1500 souls); the Duc de Broglie, “Vues sur le gouvernement de la France” (especially on the reforms that should be made in the administration of the commune and canton), p. 21.—“Deprive communal magistrates of their quality as government agents; separate the two orders of functions; have the public functionary whose duty it is to see that the laws are executed in the communes, the execution of general laws and the decisions of the superior authority carried out, placed at the county town.”
De Foville, ibid., p. 16.—The remarks here made apply to towns of the foregoing category (from 5000 to 10,000 souls), numbering 312. A last category comprises towns from 2000 to 5000 souls, numbering 2160, and forming the last class of urban populations; these, through their mixed character, assimilate to the 1817 communes containing from 1500 to 2000 inhabitants, forming the first category of the rural populations.
Max Leclerc, “La Vie municipale en Prusse,” p. 17.—In Prussia, this directing mind is called “the magistrate,” as in our northern and northeastern communes. In eastern Prussia, the “magistrate” is a collective body; for example, at Berlin, it comprises 34 persons, of which 17 are specialists, paid and engaged for twelve years, and 17 without pay. In western Prussia, the municipal management consists generally of an individual, the burgomaster, salaried and engaged for twelve years.
Max Leclerc, ibid., p. 20.—“The present burgomaster in Bonn was burgomaster at Münchens-Stadbach, before being called to Bonn. The present burgomaster of Crefeld came from Silesia. . . . . A jurist, well known for his works on public law, occupying a government position at Magdeburg,” was recently called “to the lucrative position of burgomaster” in the town of Munster. At Bonn, a town of 30,000 inhabitants, “everything rests on his shoulders; he exercises a great many of the functions which, with us, belong to the prefect.”
Max Leclerc, ibid., p. 25.—Alongside of the paid town officers and the municipal councilors, there are special committees composed of benevolent members and electors “either to administer or superintend some branch of communal business, or to study some particular question.” “These committees, subject, moreover, in all respects to the burgomaster, are elected by the municipal council.”—There are twelve of these in Bonn and over a hundred in Berlin. This institution serves admirably for rendering those who are well-disposed useful, as well as for the development of local patriotism, a practical sense and public spirit.
Aucoc, p. 283.
Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “L’administrateur locale en France et en Angleterre,” pp. 26, 28, 92. (Decrees of March 25, 1852, and April 13, 1861.)
J. Ferrand, ibid., p. 170 (Paris, 1779), and 169: “In many cases, general tutelage and local tutelage are paralyzed. . . . . Since 1870—1876 the mayors, to lessen the difficulties of their task, are frequently forced to abandon any rightful authority; the prefects are induced to tolerate, to approve of these infractions of the law. . . . For many years one cannot read the minutes of a session of the council general or of the municipal council without finding numerous examples of the illegality we report. . . . . In another order of facts, for example in that which relates to the official staff, do we not see every day agents of the state, even conscientious, yield to the will of all-powerful political notabilities and entirely abandon the interests of the service?”—These abuses have largely increased within the past ten years.
See “La République et les conservateurs,” in the Revue des Deux Mondes of March 1, 1890, p. 108.—“I speak of this de visu: I take my own arrondissement. It is in one of the eastern departments, lately represented by radicals. This time it was carried by a conservative. An attempt was first made to annul the election, which had to be given up as the votes in dispute were too many. Revenge was taken on the electors. Gendarmes, in the communes, investigated the conduct of the curés, forest-guard, and storekeeper. The hospital doctor, a conservator, was replaced by an opportunist. The tax-comptroller, a man of the district, and of suspicious zeal, was sent far into the west. Every functionary who, on the eve of the election, did not have a contrite look, was threatened with dismissal. A road-surveyor was regarded as having been lukewarm, and accordingly put on the retired list. There is no petty vexation that was not resorted to, no insignificant person, whom they disdained to strike. Stone breakers were denounced for saying that they ought not to have had their wages reduced. Sisters of charity, in a certain commune, dispensed medicine to the poor; they were forbidden to do this, to annoy the mayor living in Paris. The custodians of mortgages had an errand-boy who was guilty of distributing, not voting-tickets, but family notices (of a marriage) on the part of the new deputy; a few days after this, a letter from the prefecture gave the custodian notice that the criminal must be replaced in twenty-four hours. A notary, in a public meeting, dared to interrupt the radical candidate; he was prosecuted in the court for a violation of professional duties, and the judges of judiciary reforms condemned him to three months’ suspension.” This took place, “not in Languedoc, or in Provence, in the south among excited brains where everything is allowable, but under the dull skies of Champagne. And when I interrogate the conservators of the West and of the Center, they reply: “We have seen many beside these, but it is long since we have ceased to be astonished!”
Ibid., p. 105: “Each cantonal chief town has its office of informers. The Minister of Public Worship has himself told that on the first of January, 1890, there were 300 curés deprived of their salary, about three or four times as many as on the first of January, 1889.”
These figures are taken from the latest statistical reports. Some of them are furnished by the chief or directors of special services.
De Foville, pp. 412, 416, 425, 455; Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “Traité de la science des finances,” i., p. 717.
“Statistiques financières des communes en 1889”:—3539 communes pay less than 15 common centimes; 2597 pay from 0 fr. 15 to 0 fr. 30; 9652 pay from 0 fr. 31 to 0 fr. 50; 11,095 from 0 fr. 51 to 1 franc, and 4248 over 1 franc.—Here this relates only to the common centimes; to have the sum total of the additional local centimes of each commune would require the addition of the department centimes, which the statistics do not furnish.
Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, ibid., i., pp. 690, 717.
Ibid.: “If the personal tax were deducted from the amount of personal and house tax combined we would find that the assessment of the state in the product of the house tax, that is to say the product of the tax on rentals, amounts to 41 or 42 millions, and that the share of localities in the product of this tax surpasses that of the state by 8 or 9 millions.” (Year 1877.)
“Situation financière des department et des communes,” published in 1889 by the Minister of the Interior. Loans and indebtedness of the departments at the end of the fiscal year in 1886, six hundred and thirty million, sixty-six thousand, one hundred and two francs. Loans and indebtedness of the communes Dec. 30, 1886, three billion, twenty million, four hundred and fifty thousand, five hundred and twenty-eight francs.
De Foville, p. 148; Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “L’État moderne et ses fonctions,” p. 21.
Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, “L’Administration locale en France et en Angleterre,” p. 28. (Decrees of March 25, 1852, and April 13, 1861.) List of offices directly appointed by the prefect and on the recommendation of the heads of the service, among others the supernumeraries of telegraph lines and of the tax offices.
Page 2, Note 1.
Page 8, Note 2.
Page 16, Note 1.
Page 17, Note 1.
Page 30, Note 3.
Page 35, Note 3.
Page 37, Note 2.
Page 56, Note 1.
Page 57, Note 2.
Page 61[, Note [a.
Page 72, Note 2.
Page 85, Note 3.