Peasants, Rise Up! The Croquants of the 17th Century

Friday, July 23, 2010
By Paul Martin

by Murray N. Rothbard

Seventeenth-century French kings and their minions did not impose an accelerating burden of absolutism without provoking grave, deep, and continuing opposition. Indeed, there were repeated rebellions by groups of peasants and nobles in France from the 1630s to the 1670s. Generally, the focus of discontent and uprising was rising taxes, as well as the losses of rights and privileges. There were also similar rebellions in Spain in mid-century, and in autocratic Russia throughout the seventeenth century.

Consider, for example, the remonstrances of the peasants in the first great French rebellion of the seventeenth century, the croquants’ (literally, “crunchers”) revolt in 1636 in south-western France. The croquants’ rebellion was precipitated by a sudden near-doubling of direct taxes upon the peasantry to raise funds for the war against Spain. The intendant La Force, sent to investigate the disturbances, reported on the peasants’ grievances and demands. The peasants focused on the eternal and accelerating increases of taxation. They pointed out that in the reign of Henry IV more taxes had been collected than in all previous reigns of the monarchy taken together; and that in but two years of the reign of Louis XIII they had paid more than in all the years of Henry IV.

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