ANALYSIS OF ARTHUR YOUNG’S TRAVELS IN FRANCE
Submitted to Professor Ocana
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
Western Civilization 112
November 3, 2010
Arthur Young was born on September 11, 1741 in Bradfield, a village in Suffolk, England. After he dropped out of school and acquired a job in a mercantile house, for which he was not suited for, Young began his writing career at the age of seventeen. He was much more inclined to write than work in a more commercial capacity as he later became a great English agriculture writer. Although Young was such a fantastic agriculture writer he is most known for his social and political writings. Young was not very successful with the land from the start; however, after inheriting the land around his home after the death of his mother and through a series of failed farming attempts elsewhere in England, he began to learn quite a lot about agriculture. From this point Young began to write several books and journals about agriculture in and around England and his popularity grew tremendously.
After having made quite a name for himself in the world of agriculture, Young began to travel outside of England. Young first went to Ireland in 1776 and published his findings there four years later with Tour in Ireland. Young’s most popular excursion was to France, which he first visited in 1787. Young explored the country in great detail learning a good deal from the people and the land. Young meticulously documented the condition of the soil and other agricultural data as well as his opinions as to the political and social reasons for Frances’ agricultural failure. This information was published in 1792 split into two volumes titled Travels in France. The reason this work was so important then and still important today is because Young gives a remarkable account of the social, economic, and political problems and struggles leading up to and just after the beginning of the French Revolution. During the section of Travels in France that discussed his thoughts on the French Revolution, Young was enraged by much of what he saw. The issues that seemed to frustrate Young the most were unequal taxes, harsh penal codes, and a lack of justice in the court system.
The first major dilemma Young discusses is a system of unequal taxes. He begins by giving the reader an understanding of how the kingdom was organized. Young says that the kingdom was broken into generalities with an intendant appointed to govern them. The generalities were broken down further into elections which were governed by “sub-de-legue”; this position was appointed by the intendant. Needless to say, the intendant held a vast amount of power particularly with regards to taxation. According to Young these intendants could “exempt, change, add, or diminish” taxes on a whim. (Young) With this type of control it is easy to see why befriending the intendant might be advantageous. It was known that the friends and family, even very distant relatives could benefit financially from a connection to the intendant. Naturally people without this connection were very upset as, since taxes still had to be paid to the kingdom, they were the ones to shoulder this financial burden. There were exemptions allowed for the intendants, sub-de-legues, nobility, clergy, and the friends and family of these people. The poor of the kingdom felt as though the people with the most economic resources were exempted from paying taxes because they were fortunate enough to have those resources.
The second issue Young uncovers while traveling in Frances is the kingdoms’ unequal and unfairly harsh penal code. Young uses, as an example, the laws for salt smugglers. Taken from his Travels in France were eight extremely strict regulations covering the offenders accused of smuggling salt. The first law mentioned says that if...