Today, opponents of taxes got busy.
It had been only a year earlier, in 1792, when militias backed by the Paris Commune turned their cannons on the Tuileries palace and effectively ended King Louis XVI’s monarchy. The revolution had started a few years prior, prompted by the country’s concentration of land wealth and job opportunities at the top, while simultaneously going bankrupt while insisting on taxing its least wealthy citizens the most (and most often). Peasants, many of them starving, had joined with merchants in hopes of realizing cheaper bread and greater political voice. By the fall of 1793, the Terror was in full swing. The king was headless, and revolutionaries were busy executing and assassinating one another. Prices and the concentration of political power, however, stayed all but unchanged.
Things were no better in Lyon, France’s only other city with a population greater than 100,000. Onerous taxes meted out under a system called the octroi (dating back to Roman times) united peasants with merchants and old royalists, and they organized a counter-revolution against the revolution, replete with people’s associations claiming to run portions of the city, a centralized bakery to feed everyone, and an army to enforce huge tax increases on the wealthy and operate their own guillotine so they, too, could murder those in their ranks who weren’t suitably committed to the cause. On this day in 1793, a French army was directed to suppress the Lyon rebellion, which was accomplished within two months, thereby ensuring that tax policy would remain unchanged after the revolution. In fact, revenue would actually go down after hundreds of Lyonnaise were executed for their counter-revolutionary revolutionary thoughts (and many thousands nationwide). Most peasants would remain underpaid and unfed.
All sides claimed they were the true patriots. Sounds somewhat familiar, doesn’t it?