Futurs d'antan, Futuribles Journal n° 353

Économie, emploi - Institutions

The "Dîme royale" (1706)

Par

Vauban is known to most readers of Futuribles for his great achievements in the field of urban construction and military defensive structures (fortifications, waterways, parade grounds etc.), but we are often unaware of his freedom of thought and of the love of France and the French that inspired him.
The plan for the "dîme royale", which he proposed unsuccessfully to Louis XIV and eventually published without the king's permission in 1706 (leading to his banishment from the court), bears witness to this. In it we find arguments, quasi-revolutionary for his times, in favour of the introduction of a single impost proportional to individuals' incomes. The aim was to sweep away the arbitrariness and corruption that prevailed in matters of taxation throughout the kingdom and to put an end to the poverty and injustice afflicting the "humble folk". Vauban hoped that he would, by his proposal, be working for the common good. He argued also that it was through this fiscal openness and "fairness", and by the proper recognition of the value of the people who worked and produced the wealth of the kingdom, that France could continue to prosper in the most peaceful way possible. If such arguments had been heeded, they would perhaps have changed the course of French history, avoiding or delaying the emergence of the discontent that led to the Revolution.
We reproduce here a part of Vauban's preface to his "dîme royale" project in its original language (seventeenth-century French), preceded by an introduction by André Lebeau.

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