Hell’s Gate: Paris, an Open-Air Prison?

This wall walling in Paris makes Paris whisper”: in 1789, Parisians grumbled in anger against the new imposing wall, which completely surrounded the city. The wall was built using public funds in order to better collect the excise tax, the name of the tax on merchandise entering Paris. Everyone despised this tax: it only increased the price of popular consumer products. If most of the tollgates were destroyed by fire in July 1789 or later, some of them still exist today: like Hell’s Gate which gave access to the south of Paris and whose two tollgates we can still see today.

The Hell Tollgate, 1796
The Hell Tollgate, 1796

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After the abuse, liberty!

At the end of the 18th century, all women merchants dreaded abuse from the excise tax agents. Under the pretext of inspecting merchandise, they also took advantage of the situation and became sexual predators. Obligated to obey them, these women were often at their mercy: the privileges of the Ancien Régime often reinforced masculine violence… However, they fought this abuse with laughter: many images mocked the abuses of power by these petty agents… However, Hell’s Gate represented other events: on May 1, 1791, the removal of the excise tax and the opening of Paris’s entrances were celebrated here. Taxes were eliminated, as well as the tax agents, often detested by the people.

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