GABELLE (French, from the Med. Lat. gabulum, gablum, a tax, for the origin of which see Gavelkind), a term which, in France, was originally applied to taxes on all commodities, but was gradually limited to the tax on salt. In process of time it became one of the most hated and most grossly unequal taxes in the country, but, though condemned by all supporters of reform, it was not abolished until 1790. First imposed in 1286, in the reign of Philip IV., as a temporary expedient, it was made a permanent tax by Charles V. Repressive as a state monopoly, it was made doubly so from the fact that the government obliged every individual above the age of eight years to purchase weekly a minimum amount of salt at a fixed price. When first instituted, it was levied uniformly on all the provinces in France, but for the greater part of its history the price varied in different provinces. There were five distinct groups of provinces, classified as follows: (a) the Pays de grandes gabelles, in which the tax was heaviest; (b) the Pays de petites gabelles, which paid a tax of about half the rate of the former; (c) the Pays de salines, in which the tax was levied on the salt extracted from the salt marshes; (d) the Pays rédimés, which had purchased redemption in 1549; and (e) the Pays exempts, which had stipulated for exemption on entering into union with the kingdom of France. Greniers à sel (dating from 1342) were established in each province, and to these all salt had to be taken by the producer on penalty of confiscation. The grenier fixed the price which it paid for the salt and then sold it to retail dealers at a higher rate.
See J.J. Clamagéran, Histoire de l'impôt en France (1876); A. Gasquet, Précis des institutions politiques de l'ancienne France (1885); Necker, Compte rendu (1781).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)