The cahier of the shoemakers of Pontoise (1789)


Some cahiers contained mostly self-interested economic grievances, such as this document, which was drafted by shoemakers in Pointoise, near Paris:


“Only one single tax, whatever name it is given.

Abolition of indirect taxes [and] of the gabelle.

Abolition of the mark on hides which makes it impossible for shoemakers to use the goods that they need, for the agents compel them to keep the mark and so they are not free to use their hides; if anyone is found to have a hide without the mark, because he needed to use that section of the skin, he has to undergo the most oppressive proceedings, without any counsel available, and the agents instantly demand whatever sum they feel like, you have to pay for wanting to work…

And then there is a huge increase because the butchers, the tanners and the leather workers are out of their minds, they have forced the price of shoes up to an exorbitant height and reduced the shoemakers’ trade till the masters only have half the number of workmen. This greatly distresses all shoemakers.

The mark on a hide used to be at six deniers per pound, now it is six times that; it has become so serious that a third of leather manufacturers are perishing in prison, others have their work banned, others’ whole fortunes have vanished, and in the towns, in the provinces, shoemakers now are nothing but retailers for the leather workers, for shoes have risen to such a price that many have to go without.

Stockpiling of grain and flour to be forbidden and [also] import from one province to another.

Militia to be abolished.

Reform of the administration of justice and to keep it short.

Troop billeting, only municipal officials to be exempt.

Abolition of pigeon-houses, because the birds cause such waste.

Destruction of all kinds of game, and all farmers to be allowed to destroy it by any means except firearms.

A single administration for forced labour service on the roads throughout the province.

Poorhouses to be abolished, and a charity board established.”