Society at the time of Saint Vincent de Paul

From VincentWiki

by: José María Ibáñez, C.M.

Third Asian Vincentian Institute (Mother House, Paris, September-December 2006)


In the spirit of Vincent de Paul, life, thoughts and action inter¬mingle and come forth from within him. That is why it is impossible to approach this committed and daring believer outside the political, social, economic and religious circumstances that developed during his lifetime. His life and his thoughts were a constant effort to assimilate the reality of his time and to respond generously to the situations and the problems that history offered to him. It is impossible to discover the meaning of history, to reread the “writings of history,” to interpret the Vincent de Paul event, without knowing the archaeology of history. Anything else would only be projected fantasies inconsistent with history, creating a “view” lacking in meaning and objective. To forget this would be to ignore the fact that Vincent de Paul was the type of man for whom life and thought develop in reciprocal interaction. The realities of his life, the circumstances and opportunities that came his way, the ongoing experiences that shaped him, become a rich source for reflection, which in turn become a source for practical ways of acting. That is why his life constitutes a hermeneutical principle for his thought, and his doctrine is the formulation of his faith and his experience. In this faith and in this experience, he integrates what he is and what he under¬stands, what he discovers and what he suspects, that is, the political, social, economic and religious world in which his life unfolds.

Difficulties in understanding institutional history at the time of Vincent de Paul

To analyze the society in the time of Vincent de Paul (1581¬1660) does not involve the application of certain pre-established schema, taken from certain old or new systems conceived on the edge or outside of society. The role of the historian is not to construct pre¬established systems, but rather to observe, discover, try to understand and help promote understanding.

All scholastic, juridical or worldly forms of classification vanish before the essential: this society was above all a rural society, organized in function of the earth. It developed in several demographic, economic, juridical and mental frameworks which help us to understand it. In this sense, it should be noted that the notion of a “society of orders,” even if it is interesting, useful and frequently exact, cannot completely explain this society. The uncompromising formalism of the notion of “society of classes” is also useful, and to some extent exact, but it also falls short of taking into account what this society involves. To under¬stand the society at the time of Vincent de Paul, it is necessary to enter into it slowly, to analyze its demographical, economical, political and religious aspects. Our re-reading of the history of this society has to happen necessarily within “what has been written” and in “what has been said.” If unfortunately we do not have all the secrets of this key that allows us to interpret them, we can, however, take note of the dangers that exist when examining it.

First danger: the sources

For a long time, an understanding of the institutional history of France at the time of Vincent de Paul was developed almost exclu¬sively from official texts: ordinances, administrative rules, instructions addressed to those who were to apply them and put them into practice in the provinces. In this way, there was a tendency to overestimate the efficiency of the “administrative monarchy.” We cannot doubt the value of these documents. At the same time, however, it must be admitted that they do not show us the concrete application of these decisions that were made at the highest governmental level of the nation. Moreover, given the fact that they were done repeatedly, we would tend to doubt their effectiveness. There are other sources, such as notary, judicial and private sources, which today allow us to perceive much more clearly the concrete resistances that arose against the orders coming from central power.

Second danger: atomization of institutional studies

In keeping with an apparent logic, one can successively approach the Councils of the King, the executive officers, the judiciary bodies, the officers responsible for fiscal functions, the recruitment and organization of armies and the units of local life. All of these aspects have been examined in excellent studies, to which we will refer. The purpose is to understand the broad outline of the global functioning of the system as it evolved.

Third danger: the temptation to characterize history in a linear way

One cannot doubt the growing efficiency throughout the 17th century of the system or machinery of centralized power in French society whose decisive progress occurred at the end of the same century during the reign of Louis XIV. But this progress was not attained without reactions and repercussions: periodically the political, eco¬nomical, or military situation called into question what had already been considered to be established.

I. Demographical aspect

The society of Vincent de Paul’s era was solidly rooted in a territory of almost one half million square kilometres. In this territory there were about twenty million inhabitants. These statistics show that France was by far the most highly populated kingdom in Europe, with the exception of far away Russia. This demographical strength helps explain its political power. Such a large population helped guarantee that the King of France would have substantial material resources. Among these twenty million inhabitants, at least twelve million, approximately, would have been producers, and thus, contributors.

This is where the most solid goldmine of French power for King Louis was located. It sufficed that his subjects not be miserable and that they pay their taxes, in order for the government enterprises including war to be assured, but also for the future of the country to be foreseen without serious concern. In spite of reluctance on the part of the contributors, the fiscal system in the end was tolerated, even if from our perspective it seems unequal, mediocre and oppressive. The reality of it allows one to conclude that the inhabitants continued to live, work and pay, with the exception of certain social categories and regions and some specific years. This almost constant population of twenty million inhabitants leads us to affirm that in spite of so many miserable aspects and so many tragic events, the relative richness of the country constituted one of the great factors of its stability. To this richness, must be added the varied climate, the land and the water as well as the courage and ingenuity of those who worked on the land.

For such an extensive kingdom, a population density of forty inbitants per square kilometre constituted an acceptable transform¬ation, even if it seems modest by today’s standards. This optimal equilibrium between the economy and the population was what France was able to maintain, given its type of production, technical level, forms of consumption and commerce, physical customs and mentalities.

Notwithstanding the maintenance of some twenty million in¬habitants, in order to examine it on a long term scale, it is important to note that this population was not young, because it aged very rapidly. The average lifespan was thirty-five years, and infant mortality claimed one in four children below the age of one year.

In a number of years, and especially over a longer course of time, the rural population would be transformed as it underwent abrupt oscil¬lations that were at times quite severe. Insufficient harvests, followed by epidemics, accompanied by war, all decimated the population by claiming numerous victims. Death came in the form of three apoca¬lyptic faces, at times distinct but frequently interrelated. These three forms of calamities, dreaded by humanity since the beginning of time, struck the subjects of the King of France.

1. War

War, which is always atrocious and is carried out in the forms of atrocity of the era, brought about a great number of victims, especially in the regions of Lorraine, Champagne, Picardy and the surrounding areas of Paris. The disasters of war disconcerted and destroyed the people, prevented work, commerce and trade. The armies often left in their wake, especially in the North and the East, disease, devastation, misery and death. The violent acts and the excessive abuses of the armies knew no limits.

2. Plague

Until 1650, the geography of France was affected by “the evil that spread terror.” The bubonic or pulmonary plague frequently recurred and spread through regions with devastating force. In some summers, with its brief but terrible outbreaks, it would decimate one quarter or one third of the inhabitants of a region or province. As soon as a serious epidemic erupted, panic would spread among the population. Despite the precautions and attempts to fight it, this evil invaded bodies and was transmitted across areas.

Other epidemics, less “spectacular” but perhaps more dan¬gerous, brought about other “crises of mortality” in several provinces. Smallpox outbreaks took the lives of children between the ages of three and seven every five years. Influenza, malaria and dysentery cost thousands of lives, especially in times immediately following severe food shortages.

3. Hunger

Hunger made an appearance frequently and regularly especial¬ly in the North, Center and East of France. Its origin was related to weather phenomena and was the consequence of an economy too dependent on grain production, an assortment of economic and social customs which created a structured mentality.

The diet of the majority of French citizens of this time consisted primarily, and sometimes solely on boiled stews, soup and bread. The diet of poor persons was predominantly grains.

The wheat harvest, at least in a part of the kingdom, was insuf¬ficient to satisfy immediate needs. The land deprived of fertilizer and poorly worked produced little. The slow spread of information and limited transportation prevented rapid delivery of aid. Whenever rumors of “food shortages” spread, threats ensued and prices doubled or even tripled. It was impossible to be able to buy what was needed. Half of the population would seek out other means of sustenance, often contaminated, sending their children to beg or steal, and be¬coming violently angry against those who monopolized the supplies. This led to threats, which led to attacks. Hunger during the 1630?s provoked many illnesses.

The disasters of 1649-1653 caused by four bad harvests and four consecutive famines were aggravated by bands of vagrants at the time of the Fronde civil war and by the insecurity on the roads. The correspondence written to Vincent de Paul described scenes of canni¬balism and other miseries. In reality, the majority of the population had a deficient and insufficient diet. Without a doubt, the “shortage” was the main cause of the population crisis at the time of Vincent de Paul.

The fact that after one or two years of insufficient harvest, the majority of the population was reduced to disease and weakness due to hunger clearly shows the essential deficiencies of this economy and this society. At the same time, it demonstrates that the majority of the citizens did not enjoy economic independence and that they did not harvest enough to live on. The world of craftsmen and small artisans in the city did not possess sufficient resources to make up for what was lacking. Although it was harsh, this shortage made obvious both the mediocrity of economic mechanisms and the extreme inequality of the different social levels.

The great economic crisis of 1630 and those of 1648-1653 coincided with the great economic crises unleashed by the cyclical rise in the price of wheat. Consequently, it is not an exaggeration to claim that the price of wheat was a true demographic “barometer” and that a demographical crisis in its oldest form directly resulted from an economic crisis in its oldest form. If the life and death of the people depended on the price of wheat, it was because grain dominated the economy and society. This implies that the majority of the population could not harvest sufficient quantities of wheat to sustain them or that they did not have enough resources to buy it when its price increased considerably. An agricultural crisis thus led to an economic crisis, which in turn unleashed the dangers of expensive bread, hunger, unemployment, misery and death.

Nevertheless, this population, undergoing these severe repercus¬sions, tried to overcome an obsession with death by a special force of vital importance: human reproduction increased at a sufficient rate to overcome the threat of death and to maintain the human race.

II. Economic aspect

At times, one wonders if the juridical and political systems in the society in the time of Vincent de Paul as in all of the Old Regime was “determined” by the type of economy and “means of production” where they developed. The existence of connections among the economic, social, political and even the psychological domains are surprising only to the most naive.

Frequently, the criteria of theorists, authors of “memoirs,” government officials and administrative correspondence are the sole sources used to reconstruct the old economy. This consists only in listening to and reproducing the systems of some and the declara¬tions and justifications of others. All theory is first of all a testimony of the theorists and their setting. Similarly, legislative texts as well as the reams of paper from official administration testify primarily to its production site.

Another method that is slower and more humble, practiced patiently for over twenty years, seems more reliable. It consists of pain¬staking analysis of parish archives. This is the sole method of achieving a quantitative way of understanding the economic aspects of society in the time of Vincent de Paul. This means that the patient historian gains in certitude what he or she loses in extension or pretension. Multiple local and provincial analyses over a twenty-year period end up constructing a view of the French economy of the 17th century that can provide a provisional synthesis.

From a current human perspective, that is, at a distance, 17th century France can be represented as an agriculturally rich land, but with greatly outdated technique. Its textile industry or “manufactu¬ring,” the term used at that time, was mediocre but worthwhile for providing the peasants with economic assistance and significant national riches; however, it was not mobilized and consequently, it was sterile.

1. An economy with an overwhelming agricultural focus

To understand France at the time of Vincent de Paul, and thus its economic realities, we cannot forget that it was a rural country. Between 80 and 85% of the French in the 17th century lived in rural areas and had rural occupations. Moreover, at least 50% of textile manufacturing took place in the countryside.

This overwhelming agricultural focus translated not only into an almost anxious search for sustenance, in the form of grain, but also created a need to exchange or sell, in other words, to “buy” the money needed to pay the royal tax collectors. We will speak more about this when we refer to the topic of the social realities.

2. Mediocre industry or “manufacturing"

“Manufacturing” in the 17th century in France calls to mind a loose conglomeration of scattered workers, each relatively specialized in a simple natural product such as wool, rather than a concentration of buildings and workers grouped together.

It is necessary to emphasize the mediocrity, subordination and dependence that characterized manufacturing in relationship to the predominantly rural economy that we mentioned previously. It should also be noted that those who worked in the rural setting as wool weavers were more numerous than the salaried workers in the cities. Only those who worked in laundering, dyeing and selling had a larger work force in the city than in the countryside.

Given the fact that the metal industry was limited and that construction fluctuated, manufacturing at the time of Vincent de Paul was primarily based on textile. This predominance of textile was due to internal consumption and exportation. In requiring a significant work force, this provided a supplemental salary to several hundred thousand peasants. The textile industry, both massive and dispersed, played a much greater role that what would be imagined solely based on its production value, even though its value was only 5% of the gross national product and even though the total number of workers was only 5% of the population.

3. Transportation

Transportation, one of the means for mobilizing goods, was slow, uncomfortable and costly in 17th century France.

Transportation that was provided by the roads or routes or “royal highway,” besides being unreliable, was also expensive and slow. Either dust or mud, depending on the seasons of the year and the lack of repairs due to negligence made travel interminably pro¬longed. The average speed was about four or five kilometres per hour. The only form that was more rapid, the “mail transport system” could reach the dizzying rate of twenty kilometers per hour, but it required that the horse be changed at each stage. The most rapid transportation forms could travel between forty and fifty kilometers a day.

Numerous taxes or “tolls” increased the costs of transportation. Only merchants and official organizations sent merchandize by this method. And only the well-to-do travelled in horse-drawn carriages. These conditions explain the exploitation that occurred by businesses that monopolized the mail delivery system and transportation routes since the era of Louis XIII. Those exploited included Vincent de Paul.

The major form of transportation at that time was carried out on navigable rivers and by sea. If we take into account that the rivers were only navigable less than half of the year due to droughts or flood¬ing, we can see that even this form of transportation was quite limited. Moreover, all the river ports were controlled by agents who demanded multiple duties and taxes, especially along the Loire River. These duties and taxes were so numerous and complicated that the best specialists today have not been able to explain them.

Mediocrity, insecurity and the elevated costs of transportation helped to reinforce the reality that France at the time of Vincent de Paul was a nation composed of an irregular mosaic of peasants in predominantly localized provinces between which communication was poor. In addition, this helps to explain very precisely the difficulty of governing it and to what extent the decisions made at the central level had difficulty reaching the extended areas of the kingdom in order to be understood and carried out. This contributed to maintain¬ing the sense of provincial independence and individualistic passivity that was predominant in this era.

4. An antiquated and complicated monetary system

It is difficult to understand the monetary system of 17th century France. All that relates to money and its history is so complicated that it can only be spoken about with an “almost scandalous simplification.”

The livre (pound) of Tours, the French monetary unit used in the 17th century had no consistent monetary value. The value of the pound in grams of silver was about eighteen towards the year 1500, eleven at about the year 1600 and about eight between the time of Richelieu and Colbert. The value plummeted by twelve. Higher in value than the pound of Tours, was a “golden ecu” and “Louis gold” which appeared beginning in 1640. There were also small coins having less value than a pound, not of any particular interest for the upper classes. Nevertheless, this was the money with which people were paid, the money that at times could better their condition. Gold and silver money, the foundation of the riches of the country, was not very abundant in France because there was little precious metal available.

Several factors made this simple monetary framework com¬plicated. First of all, the value of each monetary unit was set by royal decree. This was an easy way of decreasing its value. Secondly, until 1640, the coins were poorly made, allowing skillful artisans to plunge them in acid in order to extract part of the gold or silver contained in them. In addition, different forms of foreign currency circulated in France, especially Spanish, English, Italian or imperial copper coins. This circulation of foreign currency, unlawful in theory, in the end was not only tolerated but became legal. This diversity of currency promoted frequent trading of money, even in opposition to the currency of the kingdom. At times it led to the disappearance of a market for gold coins or even at times for gold itself. All this created complicated transactions that were not always in favor of the French economy. Merchants, especially foreign traders, had particular prices set for monetary exchange: an imaginary ecu with a value of three French pounds, for example, represented the French currency on the foreign markets, principally in Amsterdam. It cannot be forgotten, however, that the Bank of Amsterdam, more stable than the rest, sustained and controlled the economy of all the United Provinces as it was the trading center for the world market. This was where merchants and French politics found wheat of the Baltic region, during times of “food shortages,” Swiss artillery and cork powder during war times, even herring for the season of Lent, and Spanish wool. Of course, they also found lenders charging high interest.

Let us note in conclusion that France in the 17th century had no State Bank, nor even a stable private bank. There were certain powerful merchants called bankers who carried out exchanges, provided loans at high interest rates and participated in complicated and unclear business affairs with the principal objective of profiting from the State that had neither budget nor regulated finances. There was nothing at all resembling a Stock Exchange at that time.

We know that economical analyses remain at the abstract level if they are not related to their social support. In the same way, the financial phenomena are only understood when they are situated in their social setting. In relation to this, it is certain that in the France of Vincent de Paul’s era there were very distinct levels of riches. And this is where financial problems interacted in very different ways:

- for the majority of French citizens, made up of the poorer and average peasant class, their fortune lay in harvests in all their forms. Everything else that they needed in order to live was obtained by trading products, by supplemental work, by other services received or by return of debts owed to them. They only had need of cash in order to pay the royal taxes. The method for acquiring this money was by the sale of small goods produced in their homes in acquiring commit¬ments of work, or by contracting debts with those who possessed the said money through the mortgaging of their land. In the popular setting, money shone because of its rarity, because it was commonly lacking or absent.

- financial problems in France presented themselves very differently in the highest levels of society, particularly among the powerful merchants and financiers. With one another, along with several ministers, they would lament about the rarity of stable currency in the form of gold or silver. One could question the truth of their complaints. The following serves as proof of this: whenever there were significant estates or inheritances difficult to manage, suddenly hundreds of thousands of ecus or Louis gold would appear, along with silver pounds. The same phenomenon occurred when spectac¬ular marriages were arranged, and especially when tenant farm’s royal taxes were paid to the king by the powerful financiers. In these cases, the notaries would come into the homes, into the courtyard of the wealthy or the minister of finance, with carriages or coaches transporting an abundance of gold or silver coins.

Only at the highest level of merchants and financiers did paper money, that is, letters of exchange or bills represent royal finances. These finances depended on the existence of merchandise and especially on credit, meaning trust between the merchants and financiers since they were known by all. Financiers were among the most renowned figures at that time. They represented the clearest proof of the inability of the French establishment to organize its budget and its finances. Even though they were the leeches of the kingdom, according to an expression of Richelieu, the Old Regime could not overcome them, just as they themselves could not overcome the State.

III. Social aspect

In the 17th century, the classes of society remained traditional. In the kingdom, a distinction was made among those who prayed, those who fought and those who worked, “these latter horrible, because they were necessary.” These distinctions created the “social ladder” in which the categories were the clergy, the nobility and the people, or the Third Estate. [1]

The foundation of such distinctions was rooted in the sense of dignity and estimation of the quality of services in accord with the mental perspective of that era. These ideas were brought to birth through the religious and military concepts of society and reflect a primitive economy. In relation to social tasks, these distinctions cor¬respond neither to economic categories nor to personal competencies. It is important to note, as we did in the introduction, that the concrete social reality was not in exact harmony with this hierarchical and priestly structure. The king’s favor and the economy produced in practice another social lifestyle that was ceremonial, less fixed and structured differently. [2] This means that an “order” or category, although single unto itself, included realities that were quite dif¬ferent. There was a single category of clergy, but within it, what hierarchies! In spite of its attempts during the Fronde civil war, the nobility never managed to organize itself like the clergy. In terms of the “Third Estate” whose name in itself is very revealing, this was a “negative category” defined exclusively by what it did not include: the service of God and “blue blood.” Nonetheless, within it existed a true barrier separating those who participated in the power from those who were excluded, the world of the nobility and that of the nameless, the elite from the masses.

The Clergy

The clergy of France, a traditional corporate body like that of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, played a significant role in the French society of the 17th century. This influence originated in the wealth that it possessed and in the financial resources that it used.

The goods that were part of the ecclesiastic and religious pro¬perties, in addition to the rent and taxes collected by members of the Church contributed to one-third of the total wealth of the nation.[3] If the nation’s economy did not significantly feel the effects of this wealth, it was due to the system of bestowal of benefices, commandeering of benefices, which placed the majority of this wealth in circulation. Based on the superiority of the hierarchy, bishops were considered powerful persons who had great influence on the policies of the king and on society. The pastor of the parish had the title of monsieur and collected tithes from his parishioners.

Aside from his religious role, the high clergy welcomed in their midst members of the nobility or bourgeoisie. With the support of the king and the confirmation by the Pope, various nobles and bourgeois sent their youngest children to the bishop’s residence and to the better convents where they lived off the allowances received as members of their class and from the land they possessed. With the exception of the lower clergy, consisting of the associate priests and those without a benefice or a specific ministry, the pastors of parishes in the urban and rural settings had a comfortable standard of living in comparison with the majority of peasants and laborers in the cities.[4] The differences between the “low” and “high” clergy clearly indicates that this social class was part of the traditional juridical order established in society in the same extent or even more than the other social groups.

The large numbers of priests and religious was another aspect of power and influence of the Church and clergy that represented 2% of the population. A survey conducted around 1660 showed that there were 135 archbishops and bishops, 40,000 pastors, 40,000 classified as either associate priests, chaplains, confessors of religious or priests without a benefice, 5,000 abbots or secular priors, and 10,000 canons. Together, they totalled 101,000 ecclesiastics of the secular clergy. The number of religious was 82,000, of whom 35,000 were in communities living off their allowances or work, and 47,000 of old or reformed mendicant orders that “lived and prospered by begging.”[5]

This summary indicates that in the Church in France at the time of Vincent de Paul, the clergy, the first “order of the kingdom” held great economic, juridical and social power.

The Nobility

The nobility is legally defined as the “second order of the nation.” This definition encompasses a very complex reality and a social group difficult to delineate.

The nobility, which represented between 4 and 5% of the popu¬lation, included persons in very diverse situations. As with the other social classes, the nobility was confronted by the socio-economic realities of the 17th century. This reality led to disintegration in the group, despite its attempts to maintain its unity as a class.

This group principally, if not exclusively, lived off its inheritance and its private income that it received through various channels. Some nobles drew royal pensions given to them via benefices or related to their functions or distinctions.

There is a saying that “All land has a master.” In speaking about the connections between the lord and the land, it should be added that throughout various regions there were also numerous “feudal” rights that were accorded according to local law. Throughout the expanses of these feudal manors, which included land not belong¬ing to the manor, there were laws and taxes collected anytime loans were made or peasants sold or bought property. In the Church, in which the lord had the responsibility to name the pastor, the noble was treated with great respect because of his position. His exemption from paying royal taxes, especially the taille tax due from all non-nobles, clearly distinguished him from the rest of the people.

The nobility strived by all their means to remain a “dominant” class through their influence in the realms of business and public life and to be “privileged.” They wanted to be distinguished from other classes in society through their marksmanship and through their lavish lifestyle, even if their means did not correspond to the seeming wastefulness. All this explains the myth that was created around the nobility and the awareness of their distinction. If the nobility were no longer well-to-do in 17th century France, they were no less envied than before. The proof is that the bourgeoisie continued to aspire to the nobility, and did not hesitate to pay large sums of money to the king to achieve this status.

In reality, the nobility were the “clients,” patrons or clientele, words that evoke a social system in which favouritism, fidelity and dependence were priorities.[6] The rank of the nobility in France only existed thanks to the king. At the same time, the growth of clients meant that those who wanted to increase their power practiced favouritism. This was the thinking among the “greats” who had achieved their status without a doubt by favor of the king, or more¬over, because they forced the king to bestow privileges on them out of fear. Richelieu, a client of the king, himself lord of another clientele, did all in his power to force the nobility to be submissive and depend¬ent on him. Economic dependence and political submission united to bring down and break apart the nobility.

The Third Estate or the People

A difference between the classes of clergy and nobility and that of the Third Estate is that the latter was characterized by the hetero¬geneity of its members since they were scattered into many different sectors on the social, cultural and economic levels.

- The bourgeoisie

The term bourgeoisie, or middle class in 17th century France encompassed different categories within the same “social level.” There was a distinction between the active bourgeoisie and those who were inactive.

The inactive bourgeoisie were composed of citizens of their own means independent from the State and the people, supported by the tenant farmers on their land and by the income of pensions or allowances, especially in Paris. With the other groups that made up the bourgeoisie, they owned between 15 and 20% of the land.

The active bourgeoisie, very united to the regime through a variety of activities, participated in the smooth functioning of the monarchy.

More important than naming all the different forms of bour¬geois — high, middle, low — it is interesting to at least point out that all of their allowances and income accounted for the majority of the wealth of the kingdom and that their social significance cannot be forgotten.

Like the nobles, the bourgeois were landowners and sometimes lords, the difference being that they owned less land and had fewer tenants. On the contrary, it is said that their administration was cleverer, more contentious and definitely more fraudulent than the majority of the nobility. In having in their possession sometimes thousands of receipts, credit slips or mortgages, they had the ability to increase their land holdings at times by reducing the land held by nobles and frequently by taking peasant lands.[7] Through advances of seed, grain, tools, materials and salaries, the tradesmen in the cities and the small peasants became completely dependent on the bourgeois. Moreover, they were often named as administrators of property of the nobility or the clergy, by which they made great profits and benefited from new revenues from this land.

There was another source of wealth in the hands of the bourgeois of the 17th century that is difficult to understand in today’s world. All public, juridical or administrative offices were given for life. The position was obtained via inheritance or through purchase. Under this system of buying and selling, public offices became the reverse of businesses. R. Mousnier studied in detail and in depth the increase of these subscriptions.[8]

By means of associations and companies, some bourgeois managed the taxes and royal duties of tenant farmers. This enterprise consisted of advances of fixed loans and recuperating the sums over time from the ordinary taxpayers. With this system, it is easy to under¬stand the power of certain bourgeois families and the opportunities they had to profit through the use of their capital. It is true that some among them could be considered usurers and thieves. However, their services were needed, because money was scarce and all the social classes, including the king, needed it.

Without a doubt, beginning in 1630 and until the end of the 171h century, the bourgeoisie had a very important role in the monarchy of France.

- Corporations of artisans

Corporations or artisan guilds were groups of managers, officials and workers in various professions: weavers, tanners, dyers, stone masons, carpenters, sawyers (lumber preparation), blacksmiths, butchers, cutlers (knife production), etc. These guilds were made up of two general groups: regulated trade and sworn trades.

The world of trade managers

The study of managers — of urban production — shows three forms of enterprises corresponding to three social forms, despite the apparent unity of the profession. First was the production salesman who without a doubt was economically independent; then the simple producer, a small manager who sought to preserve his autonomy but in reality was dependent on large merchants; and finally the manager who had nothing more than a weaving trade, whose wages were not in a privileged category.

Paid laborers in the cities

At the base of the economic ladder in an urban setting, the mass of paid laborers (more than half in Amiens, more than one-third in Beauvais, numerous elsewhere especially in Lyon and Paris)[9] lived packed together and lacking food, overwhelmed by the socio¬economic domination of the bourgeoisie merchants, located in the working class neighbourhoods and in miserable regions. Lacking land, furnishings, clothing, not being homeowners, their salary was their sole source of survival. But this salary, and even employment, was always uncertain.[10] Moreover, the entire system of money advances and loans from their managers placed these laborers in constant debt, completely under the submission of the power of their bosses.

Debts and illiteracy created for these unspecialized manual laborers a world of domination and dependence.

The poorest of all the laborers, excluded from a work contract because of advanced age or illness, lived on the margin of any organ¬ization or any guild.

The most preferred laborers, those who never experienced a single day of unemployment, received their salary between 260 and 290 days per year, based on an excessive number of feast days. This salary was from 10 sols in Beauvais and Amiens to 12 sols in the more prestigious cities such as Paris, Lyon and Rouen. These statistics, however, must be put in relation to the cost of living.

With this salary, the most advantaged laborer could only with difficulty provide enough bread for his family. Nevertheless, these conditions of life were best for the laborers of Beauvais. If some unfore¬seen event occurred: illness for the father, having four or five children, this family budget was thrown out of balance. In order to survive, the family would have to seek assistance from charitable organizations until economic stability and good harvests returned, which sometimes took years to occur.

The most disadvantaged laborers, whose salaries were from five to eight sols per day, did not have the possibility of buying the bread needed to be sufficiently nourished. The salaries of widows and young women were even more meagre at two or three sols per day.

Whenever the annual harvest was poor and especially if this occurred in consecutive years, the consequent rise in the price of wheat and especially of bread, led to the devaluation of salaries, even if the salary itself stayed constant. Even more unfortunately, salaries gen¬erally lowered during times of crisis. These reductions of salaries by ten to twenty percent represented a significant profit for the managers and merchants. The laborers had no choice other than to accept the salary decrease. In reality, it was better to have a regular and truly low salary than to have none at all. If a food crisis became worse, it would provoke a textile manufacturing crisis and a socio-economic crisis would be unleashed. The laborers would have no other option than to be partially unemployed and then completely unemployed, sometimes for prolonged periods. This lack of salary led to hunger, misery, and dependence on charitable institutions. During these periods, the “death” of the population decimated the laborers. The charitable institutions had very little means to fight against an evil rooted in the economic and social structure of the times. In reality, thousands of laborers’ families suffered extreme affliction whenever the whirlwind of death tore down their lives, plunging them into terrible misery.

The domination of management and commerce exercised by a smaller group of powerful merchants who took advantage of these laborers, causing unfortunate consequences on multitudes of artisans ¬manufacturers and laborers — reduced to begging, indigence, and for the most poor among them, to hunger and misery. All wealth came from struggles and conquests, which implied victors. At the time of Vincent de Paul, whatever caused death to some brought profit to others. To conceal this fact would be dishonest.

- The Peasants

The society, as well as the economy and the State, at the time of Vincent de Paul were supported by the most populous mass, the most highly productive and most dependent: the peasant masses. “One year of interruption in cultivation of the land would be death for all.”[11] With their labor, they procured the goods of the country, in cultivating the earth of which less than half of them were owners. Some ownership occurred because the system of lordships and manors was never complete. In addition, one-third of French land was very unequally distributed.[12]

As in all human societies, in the peasant class there appeared severe contrasts and infinite nuances. There is more known about the wealthy and the average laborers than the country peasants or small landowners. The poor peasants of the 17th century, just as in our time, are greatly misunderstood.

Given the organization of the rural world, the work and pro¬duction of peasants was placed into four categories: the rural community, the Church, the lord and the king. This last included the largest and most varied taxes. The fiscal requirements of the State and the lords, including the ecclesiastics or laity who absorbed the majority of the profits, subjected the peasant population to extreme misery and fre¬quent despair and revolt if the sale of their products was not profitable.

Loans made in cash could be paid more easily. For other loans, money had to be earned. In order to do this, the small and average laborers always became indebted to the same creditors. Constantly in debt, interest was always added from the very beginning. When it was time to pay the rural tax collector or to pay the rent for the farm, the peasants found themselves imprisoned by multiple creditors.

The poor peasants who were obligated to sell part of their inher¬itance in order to pay their debts and have enough to feed their families in times of food shortages or indigence suffered the immediate loss of their inheritance as soon as the demographic crisis was resolved. Hunger and misery claimed their land and at times forced them to farm other land as tenants, land that previously was part of their inheritance. This conquest of the land by the city and the bourgeoisie progressed in the same rhythm and at the same time as the debts of the peasants increased.[13] During the 17th century, the bourgeoisie continually sought out the land belonging to the peasants.

An understanding of the peasant world reveals three different social levels, despite an apparent unity of class.

The laborer was the peasant who had the necessary means, especially the tools to make use of the rural goods or farm that he pos¬sessed. Here it is important to make a general distinction between the landowning laborers and the tenant farm laborers.

The highest level in rural society was made up of wealthy labor¬ers, large settlers perceived as being lords, who owned between twenty and thirty hectares of land (one hectare is 10,000 square meters). A study of them and their way of life helps to explain the misery of the poor peasants, who were reduced to being their debtors and their employees. Not only did they rent the poor peasants their tools, but also lent them money. Their social rank came from their economic strength. Even if they were not always at a high economic level, they often controlled the lives of the peasants.

The average laborers rarely owned more than about ten hectares of land. With a pair of horses, often accompanied by a mare, they worked their land as well as the land of their poor neighbors, taking advantage of whatever land could extend their farming resources. While being financially worthwhile in good years, these tenant farms were a heavy burden in difficult years because rent constantly increased. The number of their flocks was never significant. For these average farmers, they would never be anything more than modest peasants with a pair of horses.

The classic classification system of the peasant world into the rural farmer and laborer leaves out another group of peasants who were quite numerous in certain regions of France. They owned small areas of land, and in farming other land that they rented they were able to raise small flocks of animals. They were able to make a living in this way, although a modest one. Their apparent economic in¬dependence was strictly limited to very good years. In years of poor harvest, they were not able to survive on the fruit of their land or on their labor, and thus they contracted debts. To this group of peasants can be added those who owned and worked several small parcels of land at the same time. This group made up about two thirds (2/3) of all peasants. Among them, many had to find other occupations in order to survive. Their lifestyle was not an easy one and their social status was very low.

Workers in the countryside—day laborers—were often very poor and “among the most miserable and unknown of all.” They were sometimes called “beggars” even if they had a home. What is clearly evident by the parish registries is that they died in great numbers whenever an epidemic or “cyclical famine” occurred. The beggars were at the most inferior level of rural society. Dependent on irregular jobs, they made up the largest number of poor persons. The peasant social structure prevented these counhyside workers from ever being able to rise up out of this economic and social misery.[14]

- Poor people

The meaning of the expression poor person in the 17th century was not solely an economic one. On a broader level, poor meant someone who suffered, someone who found him or herself in mis¬fortune, afflicted. In a stricter sense, the poor person was one who lived in a constant condition of “lack,” in “need,” in “shortage.” Furetiere, in his Dictionnaire gave the following definition of poor person: “one who does not have what is needed to support life.” Poor people are thus those who are at risk each day of falling below the minimum require¬ments for life.

A more precise definition of poor person can be found with J. P. Camus, bishop of Belley (1581-1652) when he wrote: “the poor person is one who has no other means of support than by his/her labor.”[15] This relationship between the poor person and the world of labor, between pauperism and lack of work came to light frequently in the time of the 17th century.

In reality, the 17th century considered all those constantly at risk of falling easily into poverty as poor persons, given the daily uncertainty they experienced in finding the means necessary to survive. This indicates and clearly explains that in the 17th century those who were threatened each day with poverty were called poor. With the least occurrence of a situation such as poor harvest, an agricultural crisis that would always lead to a textile or manufacturing crisis, with all the economic and social consequences implied in that, poor people found themselves hunted down and at times even overcome by these events. The world of poor persons was one of need, an absence of savings, especially food reserves. It was the world of those condemned whose lives were obsessed with being able to obtain their daily bread.

The world of poor persons is by definition the world of depend¬ence, by reason of their ignorance and their endemic indebtedness to the “power of the bourgeoisie” who strived with all the means available to “conquer their land.” The difference between poverty and begging is only in its degree and not in its nature. This idea essentially appeared in a study of the social reality of the 17th century. The proof was found in the fact that begging, thought to be an almost ordinary recourse among the lower classes of society, was a characteristic trait of the social structure of France at the time of Vincent de Paul.

- Beggars

The vocabulary used to define beggars not only reveals the mindset of society, but is highly significant for describing its social history. The beggar is one who cannot earn his/her own livelihood and is obliged to seek the assistance of others for survival. This signifies that he/she has fallen into a world of poverty and cannot rise out of it. That is why the normal recourse for existence is to be given over to begging. Jean-Pierre Camus is perhaps the one who again provides us with the most precise definition of the term beggar in the first half of the 17th century: he contrasts the poor person “who has no other means of support than by his/her labor” with the beggar: “who not only is deprived of all recourse, but is moreover reduced to such a state of misery that he/she is unable to make a living through work even if he/ she wants to, either because of being prevented due to suffering or illness or lack of employment, even if he/ she is in good health and has sufficient ability to work if a job was available.”[16] In the levels of society in hierarchical “orders” of “states,” the beggars in good health were located at the very lowest level.

In response to the social policy of the government and by an instinct of self preservation, groups of beggars sometimes joined into various bands or groups. The livelihood of these bands included begging as well as crime. The category of begging thus included the activities of common criminals practiced on a large scale. These criminal associations developed in great number in France in particular after the dispersion of numerous companies of soldiers or persons dismissed from their ranks who had been supported by the war or who had profited by the war as parasites.[17] The authorities became quite suspi¬cious that the world of beggars had created an internal organization. The most popular opinion that spread about was that this organization was structured on the model of bandits.[18] It is important to note that all beggars were not part of this, and were far from being criminals or those only pretending to be ill. However, idleness in itself was a crime in the 17th century —based on humanist and mercenary reasons — and thus begging carried with it in popular wisdom the idea that it was the seed of crime: “begging is the school of all wickedness.”[19] This simple fact was sufficient enough for the general public to treat beggars in an overall sense as criminals, tricksters and lazy persons.

- Dangerous vagrants

The definition of the term vagabond or vagrant developed slowly over time in the 17th century until vagrancy or wandering became a crime. When it was defined with greater precision by lawyers, the term took on clearer meaning. For the lawyer Simon, writing in 1642, “the vagabond is one who has abandoned his/her home and place of residence in order to steal and make a living through crime, and thus rambles from one place to another, lazy and more inclined to do evil than good. All of this is against good customs and mores, which is why the law pursues such individuals and takes from them the privilege of their residence.”[20] An edict of 1656 concerning urban security in Paris, defined even more precisely the term vagabond: “Having been declared vagabonds and disreputable, those who have neither profession nor trade nor means to survive; those who cannot testify to an honest life and to good conduct in the eyes of honest people who are known and worthy of faith and whose condition is honourable.”[21]

In the definition of vagabond appears the expression “people of disrepute” or “a disgrace.” This term is very significant in the vocabulary of poverty: it shows that French society in this era situated an entire group of poor persons on the margins of society. The poor people and the beggars were frequently part of society. The vagabond, on the other hand, was defined by his/her absence of social connect¬ions: one lacking a residence. It cannot be forgotten that vagrancy was a crime.[22] The disapproval of an absence of residence grew until the end of the 17th century, when the vagabond became similar to “a person of disrepute, a disgrace.”

“Persons of disrepute” are those whom no one wants to recog¬nize as their own, those for whom no trustworthy person will take responsibility.[23] Not having anyone to relate to was equivalent to remaining on the margins of society, not belonging to any corporate structure. This is a serious matter in a society where “supporters” and “corporations” created social connections. If we add that the vaga¬bonds and sometimes beggars lived willingly on the margins of society, that is: “without submitting to the laws of religion or reason,” we can imagine their social status. Since they created a social danger to public order, as their life was considered “abnormal,” meaning without respect of norms in practice in society; since they violated the eminent dignity of collective order, they were marginalized, as well as sought out by the police and condemned by the judicial powers.

The documents providing information about vagabonds come from the judicial offices, parishes and hospitals. This information helps us to have an outline of them. Two-thirds (2/3) of vagabonds were men between the ages of fifteen and fifty. Among them included wan¬derers who begged by showing ulcers or wounds or appearing to have some illness as they travelled from one place to another in search of a hypothetical job. Another category of vagabonds, more distinguished, were found among writers, school masters, roving musicians, false pilgrims who wandered from village to village and city to city under the pretext of piety, wandering clerics, priests passing through a region. A third category included gypsies. Over time, the military society created, or more precisely, restored another category of vagabond. This group was made up of swindlers who followed the military troops; these were bands of vagabonds and beggars who were loosely sheltered with the military and greedily awaited the moment of sacking after the occupation of an area. After having deserted or been expelled in large numbers during the winter, they would siege and devastate the countryside.

The greatest number of vagabonds, however, was formed of agricultural day laborers and small peasants. In a time when the fiscal tax was a distributive tax, the misery and the flight of certain citizens could have cumulative effects. Those who resisted the taxes for a time, after having revolted in large numbers against the oppressive fiscal expenses and having been overcome,[24] in the end abandoned their homes and lands, seeing themselves overburdened by taxes. This would occur especially in times when the soldiers burned their villages or carried off their harvests. In the France of Vincent de Paul, economic crises and high fiscal expenses, in addition to government policies based on war and waste, directly contributed to vagrancy and wandering. The “conquest of the land,” an enterprise of certain monopolizing bourgeois, obliged the small peasants indebted to creditors to sell their land and abandon their homes. For these peasants, the sole means of survival was to set out on the major roadways and to unite in bands of beggars, vagabonds and wanderers, organized to live off of stealing, sacking and alms gained by threats and violence.

Attitudes and behaviour towards poor people

The mental and social attitudes towards poor people on the part of those living in 17th century society at times forgot and at other times perceived the paradoxical reconciliation of the scandal of the experience of misery (real poverty) and the spiritual esteem of poverty (the virtue introduced in Christian life).

Unfortunately, in their attitudes and behaviour, individuals in society at the time of Vincent de Paul often dissociated poverty—as a spiritual notion and psychological reality — from its socio-economic context. From this arose the contradiction in this society between the proclamation of the “eminent dignity of poor persons” and the decision by royal decree of “confinement of poor persons.” Such a contradiction was rooted in the fact of having substituted the Gospel criteria of service of poor persons with the labor bargaining of the era, oriented towards creating a national economy.[25] The other basis was the existence of moral and religious criteria of a repressive and moralistic nature[26] developed to “regulate” and “govern” the life of poor persons who were on the margins of all social and religious rule. These criteria and attitudes explain the fact that certain works and charitable activities with a Gospel flavour to benefit poor persons were transformed into repressive operations, having a policy of control that led to the “con¬finement of poor persons” at the General Hospital. This confinement was decreed by a royal edict on April 27, 1656.

This edict set up and regulated the temporal and spiritual or¬ganization of the hospital. The execution of this edict was carried out with zeal by a company of archers. One can understand perfectly that this process was not at all appreciated by Vincent de Paul who judged it to be not only impossible, but inhumane.[27]

In reality, the General Hospital was an inhumane place because it was closed and separated. This separation signified that poor people were considered to be asocial elements. As such, they were confined like other asocial beings: prostitutes, those with mental illnesses, prodigal children. All those who lived in contradiction to good order, or who were involved in “criminal activities” or shameful ones, created a danger for the general system and were part of this marginalized population that had to be locked away. Poor people belonged to this world. They were locked away in order to be punished, corrected, prepared for reintegration into society, obliging them to work and satisfy the norms of the Church.[28]

This legislation which affected vagabonds and beggars as well as poor people, reducing them to misery through unemployment and food shortages, had a repressive characteristic. Could the life of idleness or depravity that vagabonds and beggars led justify this repression? The legislative texts as well as the supporters of confinement forgot to analyze the causes of pauperism. In forgetting this, society was prevented from distinguishing the differences. The consequence of this lack of analysis was serious: the condemnation all together and without distinction of the peasant, the worker, the artisan impoverished by socio-economic crises, as well as the beggar and vagabond who made a career out of begging and stealing. The centralized State with absolute power ignored or seemed to ignore the need to respond to the socio¬economic effects by addressing the causes and not by moralistic and oppressive measures. It was not a question of preserving the clear consciences of the parliamentarians and bourgeois, but of creating a solution to the economic situation of the people at the lowest level of society. The abstraction of the culture and moral rigor of the classical era had an influence and made a significant impact in the royal decision of confinement of poor people.

This desire to enclose poor people was sustained by the motives to do it and by a movement of ideas. At the same time, however, the application of this rigorous legislation by royal decree was met by opposition and resistance by a segment of public opinion.[29] Among them, in a very sensitive and concrete way, were simple people with very clear and evangelical spirits. Vincent de Paul was one of them. “The poor people who do not know where to go or what to do, who are already suffering and who become more numerous each day, they are my burden and my sorrow.”[30] For having listened to the cry of these poor persons, for having understood that their cause was God’s cause, for having committed and risked his life and consecrated it to the very end to the service of these unfortunate ones, roaming in misery, these poor persons were grateful to him and made him a great human being and Christian saint. But others will speak to you about all of that.


1. Cf. among others, J. Ellul, Histoire des Institutions de l’epoque franque a la Revolution (Paris, 1963); R. Mousnier, Les Institutions de Ia France sous la Monarchie absolue (Paris, 1974, 1980), 2 vol.; La Plume, Ia Faucille et le Marteau (Paris, 1970); P. Goubert, Etat et Institutions XVI’m'-XVIIPme sikles, (Paris, 1969).

2. Cf. R. Mousnier, Fureurs paysannes(Paris,1967), pp. 13-14; Problemes de stratification sociale, in Deux cahiers de la Noblesse 1649-1651 (Paris, 1965), pp. 25-49.

3. Cf. J. Orcibal, Jean Duvergier de Hauranne, abbe de Saint-Cyran et son temps (Paris, 1947), t. II, p. 2.

4. The rule of Richelieu for all affairs of the kingdom indicates that the salary for parish pastors be 300 livres per year, cf. D.L.M. Avenel, Lettres, instructions o’iplomatiques et Papiers d’etat du cardinal Richelieu (Paris, 1853-1857), 8 vol., t. II, p. 174; J. Meuvret, La situation materielle des membres du clerge seculier dans la France du XVIT”’ siecle, en Etudes dhistoire economie (Paris, 1971), pp. 251-268. Recent studies by P. Goubert on Beauvais, of A. Deyon on Amiens, of E. Le Rroy Laurie on Languedoc tell us that even the lowest clergy were not living in completely miserable conditions.

5. The number of religious reached 80,000 and in the survey the communities founded after the foundation date of the Ursulines were not included, cf. Le nombre des eccleslastiques de France. ce/ui des religieux et des religieuses, le temps de leur etablissement, ce dont ils subsistent et a quoi ils servent (s.l.n.d.) (Paris edition, 1876), pp. 40, 50, 51.

6. Cf. O. Ranun, Les creatures de Richelieu (Paris, 1966).

7. Cf. P. Goubert, Cent mille provinciaux au XVII’ siècle (Paris, 1958), p. 177-288; E. Le Roy Laduri, Les paysans de Languedoc (Paris, 1962), 2 vol., t.I., pp. 455-461; P. Deyon, Amiens, capitale provinciale (Paris-La Haye, 1967), pp. 21-29, 31-37, 39-49, 51-62.

8. Cf. B. Mousnier, La venalite des offices sous Henri IV et Louis XIII (Paris, 1971). “If my intention was to win the sympathy of the people instead of being considered useful to the State, I would maintain that it is necessary to end the sale of public offices and the annual right; everyone is greatly convinced that these are two sources of disorder in the kingdom, that the public voice accords crowns without examining if there is merit for them… I will continue to act in this way, there are too many disadvantages to discontinuing these two edicts (sale of public offices and inheritance of offices) to conclude that it is appropriate to do so.”: A.J. du Plessis, Card- Duc de Richelieu, Testament politique (Amsterdam edition), p. 136; cf. pp. 137, 138-139, 116, 130, 143.

9. Cf. P Deyon, Amiens, capita/e…. Op. cit. no. 241-243, 349; P Goubert, Cent mille, Op. cit., p. 279; J. P. Gutton, La societE et les pauvres. L’exemple de la generalite de Lyon.1534-1789 (Paris, 1971). The inhabitants of Paris in 1648 “were more than 400,000 of which 13,000 or 14,000 were managers and about 45,000 were workers and apprentices. The number of boatmen, porters and persons without a specific trade was not known: R. Mosnier, Quelques raisons de la Fronde, en La Plume…, Op. cit., p. 285. 10. Everyone is “poorly housed, dressed in an inferior manner, insufficiently fed, and lacking in instruction and courage”: G. Hanotaux, La France en 1614 (Paris edition, 1913), p. 380. “The Companies meeting in the Office of Saint Louis proposed, on July 17. 1648. the measures of prohibition: unlawful to import pieces of wool or silk made in England, fabric from Spain, Rome, Venice, because importation leads to unemployment of large numbers of workers”: R. Mousnier, Quelques raisons de /a Fronde, en La Plume…. Op. cit., p. 288; P Deyon, Amiens. capitale…. Op. cit., pp. 251-252. 72-77. On the subject of conditions of life and work in Beauvais, cf. P Goubert, Cent mille…. Op. cit., pp. 330-344,163, and in Amiens, cf. P. Deyon, Op. cit., pp. 202-218, 220, 340-345, 437, 439.

11. G. Hanotaux, La France en 1614… Op. cit., p. 398.

12. Cf. G. Hanotaux, Ibid., pp. 392-410; P. Goubert, Cent mille… Op. cit., pp. 177-252 especially pp. 177-208; E. Le Roy Ladurie: Les paysans de Languedoc, Op. cit., t. I, pp. 455-451, 489, 490-491; P Deyon, Amiens, capitate…, Op. cit., pp. 323-338; J. Jacquart, La crise rurale en Ile-de-France1550-1670 (Paris, 1975), t. II pp. 185-353, especially pp. 241-275; G. Cabourdin, Terre et hommes en Lorraine (Nancy, 1977), 2 vol.; P. Goubert: La vie quotidienne des paysans Francais au XVII’m’ siecle, (Paris, 1982), especially pp. 41¬55, 135-166.

13. Cf. P. Goubert, Cent mil/e…, Op. cit., pp. 177-208, 212, 213; P. Deyon, Amiens, capita/e…, Op. cit., pp. 323-324; E. Le Roy Ladurie, Les paysans de Languedoc…, Op. cit., t. I, pp. 485-491; J. Jacquart La crise rurale…, Op. cit., pp. 723-740.

14. The description of the “day laborer” given by Vauban in Projet d’une dix me royale, published in 1707, is classic: Within this humble class, especially in the countryside, there are a large number of persons without a specific trade, but that does not mean that they do not do much necessary work. They are called day laborers, of which the majority, with only the strength of their arms or little more than the work for the day or until a certain task is completed according to the wishes of the employer. They do all sorts of difficult work, such as cutting hay, harvesting crops, gathering grain, cutting wood, working the land and caring for the vineyards… and moreover, they assist stonemasons and carry out other difficult and tiresome labor. These persons can easily find all sorts of work part of the year, and certainly they earn quite a good salary during the hay season, wine making and other harvesting; however, they have none at all the rest of the year.”: Vauban, Projet d’unedix me royale(Paris, 1939), pp. 77-81; P. Goubert includes the same description of the province of Beauvais, but he notes that this is only useful for the less unfortunate, because “the most unfortunate are neglected by The unfortunate rural person escapes investigation. Only his existence is confirmed, while the number, often alarming, are mortally struck”: P Goubert, Cent Op. cit., p. 185.

15. J.P. Camus, Traite de la pauvrete evangeliqu'e (Besancon, 1634), p. 5.

16. Ibid., p. 5.

17. Cf. Isambert-Taillandier-Decreusy, Recueil general des lois francaises depuis Pan 420 jusqu’a la revolution (Paris, 1829), 29 vol., t. IX, p. 302.

18. Cf. A. Saval, Histoire et recherches des antiquites de la vile de Paris (Paris, 1724), 2 vol., t. I. pp. 513, 514, 515.

19. Cf. A Perre, Clcuvres (Paris. 1641), p. 668.

20. E Simon de Mereville, Traite de la juridiction des prevôts des marechaux (Paris, 1624), Park edition, p. 35.

21. Edit aui confirme le reglement sur le nettoiement des boues, la SOrete de Paris et autres vales (Decembre, 1666) en IsambertTaillandier-Descreusy, Op. cit., t. XVIII, p. 93.

22. Cf. Simon de Mereville, Op. cit., p. 35.

23. Cf. A. Furetier, Dictionnaire, art. pauvre; Huguet, Dictionnaire de la langue Franca/se au XVIresiecle; Dictionnaire de la langue Francaise de Littre, de Rober.

24. For Richelieu all disobedience constituted a “crime of the State” and his opinion was that “in the matter of State crime it is necessary to close… the door to pity,” “be relentless”: A.J. du Plessis, Card-Duc de Richelieux, Testament…, Op. cit., pp. 256, 255; cf. p. 186. Concerning the punishment of the “Barefoot” of Normandie, cf. M. Foisil, La revolte des nu-pieds et les revoltes normandes de 1639 (Paris, 1970), pp. 287-337. To understand the attitude of Richelieu with the uprising in Lorraine, cf. L.D.M. Avenel, Op. cit., t.V. pp. 39, 140, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 275, 277, 318. The words most frequently use are: “srike, sweep away Lorraine,” “chain the rebel soldiers,” “send them to the galleys.” To understand the government behavior with the Bordelais people, cf. R. Mounier, Lettres et memoires adressees au chancelier Seguier 1633-1649 (Paris, 1964), 2 vol.; t.11, pp. 992, 930-936.

25. Richelieu summed up perfectly this theory in a note written in 1625, entitled Pauvres enfermes. “Since many vagabonds and idle people, instead of working to earn a living, given the fact that they are able to work, and that it is their duty, are given to asking and begging, taking the bread that is due the needy and sick poor people, this inconveniences the citizens and deprives the public of the service they could receive from their work, we desire that in all the cities of the kingdom there be established a statute and a rule for poor persons, such that not only those in the cities, but also those in surrounding areas be confined and fed, and that the able-bodied be employed in public works”: D.L.M. Avenel, Op. cit., t.II, pp. 180-181.

26. Cf. Memoires o’es pauvres qu’on appelle enfermes, 1612 in L. Cimbert-F. Danjou, Archives curieuses de l’histoire depuis Louis XI jusqu’a Luo/s XVIII (Paris, 1837), 27 vol., t. XV, p. 243-244; Memo/re concernant les Pauvres qu’on arpelle enfermes, 1618: Ibid., p. 251¬252; Edit du roy portant etablissement de l’Hopital general, 27 avrll 1656, in Code de l’Hopital General de Paris (Paris, 1876), pp. 261-274.

27. Cf. L Robineau, Remarques sur les actions et paroles du feu monsieur Vincent man. pp. 151-153. These manuscript pages were published in Jose-Maria Ibanez, Vincent de Paul et les pauvres de son temps (Salamanque, 1977), pp. 359-360; cf. also Jose-Maria Ibanez, Vincent de Paul, realisme et incarnation (Salamanque, 1982), p. 232, note 32.

28. Cf. A. Codeau, Discours sur l’etablissement de l´Hôpital Cenéral (Paris, 1657), pp. 45-46, 49.

29. Cf. Ibid., pp. 27-77.

30. Letter of Vincent de Paul to Father Almeras, October 8, 1649, in P Collet, La vie de faint Vincent de Pau/(Nancy, 1748), 2 vol., t.1, p. 479. Cf. L. Abelly, La vie du venerable serviteur de Dieu Vincent de Paul (Paris, 1664), t. III, p. 120.