Wednesday, 21 March 2007

A Former Guest

While Voltaire was an exile in England, he observed that the peasants were “not afraid of increasing their stock of cattle, nor of tiling their houses from any apprehension that their taxes [would] be raised the year following.” [1] Doubtless there are present-day descendants of those peasants who have never heard of Voltaire, though, if they still live in the land of their forefathers, they should have no difficulty in determining from his description that he hasn’t visited the place in quite a while.
[1] François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), Letters on the English, Letter IX — On the Government, The Harvard Classics, Vol.34, Part 2, (New York: P.F. Collier & Son Co., 1909–14), §13, reproduced online at


Cirdan said...

I believe there was a depression in the 1720's.

In any case, the Gin Act of 1736 raised taxes on gin. I think the taxes on tobacco and linen also rose. Not really a golden age then.

Cirdan said...

Serves me right for being sloppy.

Actually, the first Gin Act, which was rather unpopular with the working man, was passed in 1729. Voltaire was in England in 1729. Amazing if it passed him by.

james higham said...

But did it? Did it pass him by, Cirdan or was he a soak?