However, the political opinions held by the peasantry , in fact, preoccupy the Old Regime monarchy, although the officials responsible for monitoring them might not have described their job in quite those words.
The examples in the pages that follow are largely from the southwestern provinces of Guienne and Gascogne, administered by intendants in Bordeaux, Auch, and Montauban.
Although some trees were felled for construction, Marrot knew that the great majority of the wood being harvested was half-burned and hardened in a slow fire to produce charcoal, an activity that ensured the survival of the villagers through the long winter.
When the state officials began to pronounce that no one, not even the villagers of Brassac, had the right to harvest trees from this particular forest, Marrot became angry and spoke out.
Scenes such as this one were common during the revolutionary period.
The controversy over the Civil Constitution of the Clergy sparked countless discussions of religious policy in country taverns, and as the deputies designed new policies on taxes, grain prices, and land usage, the chatter in rural areas only increased.They are drawn from local administrative and police correspondence as well as from transcripts of sedition trials before the courts - documents that illustrate how peasants' verbal criticism of the Old Regime was perceived, monitored, and prosecuted.Old Regime attitudes concerning the peasantry and rural uprisings reinforced the common notion that rural subjects were apolitical.However, the story of Marrot suggests that the political awareness of the majority was already a reality when the Bastille fell.In the past fifteen years, we have made much of Jürgen Habermas' concept of an eighteenth-century public sphere, an urban space in which public opinion developed, flourished, and came to exert pressure on the authorities.There he encountered a group of village notables who were assisting in a formal inspection of the nearby forest by state officials.Marrot listened as the local authorities described how bandits had been known to take refuge in the woods and how difficult it was to keep the inhabitants of nearby communities - particularly those of Ganac, a rival village - from gathering wood in forest considered to be within Brassac's domain.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 3.0 License.Please contact [email protected] use this work in a way not covered by the license."We have always made charcoal here," he said, "and we will continue to do so - myself first in line - no matter what orders or prohibitions you might throw at us!" Marrot was arrested for "seditious speech" soon after his outburst; his sentence included a prison term and a fine as well as a formal apology to the owner of the forest.