:"The following article is about a tax. If you are looking for information about a literary character, see A Tale of Two Cities."

The gabelle was a very unpopular tax on salt in France before 1790. The term gabelle derives from the Latin term "gabulum" (a tax).

In France, Gabelle was originally applied to taxes on all commodities, but was gradually limited to the tax on salt. In time it became one of the most hated and most grossly unequal taxes in the country, but, though condemned by all supporters of reform, it was not abolished until 1790. First imposed as a temporary expedient in 1286 in the reign of Philip IV, it was made a permanent tax by Charles V. Repressive as a state monopoly, it was made doubly so from the fact that the government obliged every individual above the age of eight years to purchase weekly a minimum amount of salt at a fixed price. When first instituted, it was levied uniformly on all the provinces in France, but for the greater part of its history the price varied in different provinces. There were six distinct groups of provinces, who were called "pays" (lit. "countries"; to be understood as an obsolete word for "region"), and classified as follows:

#the "Pays de grandes gabelles", in which the salt came from the Atlantic and the tax was heaviest: between about 54 and 61 livres for a "minot", that is to say about 50 Kilograms of salt, in 1789;
#the "Pays de petites gabelles", in which the salt came from the Mediterranean and the tax was about half the rate of the former: between 22 and 30 livres for a "minot";
#the "Pays de quart-bouillon", such as the coast of Normandy, Provence or Roussillon, in which salt came from boiling sea-salt impregnated sand, a fourth of which production went to the king, and prices ranged from 13 to 27 livres for a "minot";
#the "Pays de salines" (Franche-Comté, Alsace and Lorraine), in which the tax was levied on the salt extracted from the salt marshes, and prices for a "minot" varying from 15 livres (Franche-Comté) to between 12 and 36 livres in the numerous fiscal divisions of the Alsace-Lorraine;
#the "Pays redimés", which had purchased redemption in 1549: the "minot" of salt could be found there for about between 8 and 11 livres;
#the "Pays exempts", which had stipulated for exemption on entering into union with the kingdom of France; there, "minot" of salt would cost only between 1 and 8 livres.

"Greniers à sel" (salt granaries dating from 1342) were established in each province, and to these all salt had to be taken by the producer on penalty of confiscation. The grenier fixed the price which it paid for the salt and then sold it to retail dealers at a higher rate.

The important differences in cost between various "pays" clearly show the reason behind the active contraband of salt that took place in France until the gabelle was abolished. The obvious idea was to buy salt in a region where it was cheap and to sell it under the coat in regions where it was expensive, at a higher price, but still less than the legal price. Such smugglers were called "faux-sauniers", from "faux" ("false") and the root "sau-", referring to salt. In turn, the customs guards tasked with arresting the "faux-sauniers" were nicknamed "gabelous", a term obviously derived from the "gabelle" they sought to uphold. "Faux-sauniers" were sentenced to the galleys if they were caught without weapons, and to death if caught with weapons.

In 1675, the "red bonnets" in Brittany rebelled against the gabelle. They expressed a list of demands in a document known as the "peasant code". In this document, the gabelle was personified, as was common in this age, especially with death and plague.


*The prices are quoted from "De la révolution de 1789 à la révolution de 1848" by Isaac, Alba, Michaud and Pouthas, Hachette, 1960.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • GABELLE — De tous les impôts de l’Ancien Régime, la gabelle (impôt sur le sel) a été le plus honni. Mise au point par Philippe VI (ordonnances de 1341 et de 1343), elle ne cessa d’être perfectionnée jusqu’à la Révolution, qui l’abolit. Le sel, denrée… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Gabelle — du sel La gabelle est une taxe sur le sel ayant existé en France au Moyen Âge et à l époque moderne. C était alors l une des aides ou taxe indirecte. Les gabelous se chargeaient de la récolte de la gabelle. Le mot vient de l italien gabella… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • gabelle — GABELLE. s. f. Impost sur le sel. Ferme des gabelles. receveur des gabelles. rentes constituées par le Roy sur les aides & gabelles. Gabelle, signifie aussi, Le grenier où l on vend le sel, Il faut aller à la gabelle. On appelle, Pays de gabelle …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Gabelle — (fransk, middelalderlig latin: gabella, af etymologisk slægtskab med tysk geben) er oprindelig navnet på enhver indirekte afgift eller skat, men betegner senere specielt den gamle franske, 1790 ophævede saltskat. Den franske stat forbeholdt sig… …   Danske encyklopædi

  • Gabelle — Porté notamment dans le département du Nord (variante : Gabelles), le nom évoque l impôt sur le sel, mais a pu s appliquer au Moyen Âge à d autres types d impôts sur les marchandises. Il est apparu en France au XIIIe siècle, emprunté à l italien… …   Noms de famille

  • Gabelle — Ga belle , n. [F. See {Gabel}.] A tax, especially on salt. [France] Brande & C. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Gabelle — (fr., spr. Gabell, lat. Gabella), 1) Abzugsgeld, Nachsteuer; Gabella emigrationis, so v.w. Abzugsgeld. G. hereditaria, so v.w. Abschoß 2) indirecte Steuer (Accise u. Zoll, Consumtionsabgaben); bes. 3) Abgabe für Salz, in der Revolution aufgehoben …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Gabelle — Gabelle, gabella, Abzugsgeld, s. Freizügigkeit; die Salzsteuer im alten Frankreich …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • gabelle — Gabelle, Vectigal …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • gabellé — Gabellé. part …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • gabelle — [gə bel′] n. [ME < OFr < OIt gabella < Ar ḳabāla, tax < qabala, to receive; akin to Heb kibel: see CABALA] a tax levied on salt in France before the Revolution …   English World dictionary

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