Paul-Louis Courier

épistolier, pamphlétaire, helléniste
photo1 photo2

The Larçay Forest

Paul-Louis Courier owner of the Larçay Forest

The Larçay Forest The Larçay Forest (photo JP Lautman)

On the 16th of December, 1815, Paul-Louis Courier bought the 618 acres of the Larçay Forest at an auction in Tours, for the amount of 115,000 F plus 2,592 F of fees.
The writer, who did not yet live in Véretz, was convinced the purchase was a good deal. He opened his heart to his wife about it in a letter written at Tours on February 1st, 1816: :
There are many people here displeased that I dared to buy this forest. They are the bigwigs of the area…
He had good reason to think his investment would be reimbursed within ten years. Day workers entered his service. They put away their tools in the “hunting lodge” of the woods.
In fact, the hapless owner was getting caught up in a system would sooner or later crush him totally. Confiscated from the archbishop of Tours in 1790, the Larçay Forest had become state property. From and even before this date, the common country people all around reaped benefits from the woods in accordance with users’ rights1...
Without surveillance – incidentally impossible to provide efficiently – for a quarter of century, the woods represented a source of supplies for the population: gathering of deadwood for heat or for the smithy of the farriers, cutting of trees for roof repairs, collecting of heathers for bread baking ovens...
Courier had a hard time with these customs which harmed him seriously. To control these habits and to avoid the abuses secretly encouraged by his political enemy, Mr Archambault-de Beaune, mayor of Véretz, he hired a gamekeeper. The first one was Pierre Clavier called Blondeau who took an oath on November 6th, 1818; the second, Sylvain Landré, known as Coupeau hired in the Spring of 1819 and the third, in the Spring of 1824, Louis Frémont. The latter, manipulated by close relations of his master2, will fire at point-blank the fatal gun shot that will kill Paul-Louis Courier on Sunday, the 10th of April of 1825, around 5 p.m.

The remains of the writer were found the following morning at the place where the memorial was eventually erected.

Source : Jean-Pierre Lautman

The difficult payment of the Larçay Forest

Memorial Forest of Larçay Memorial Forest of Larçay (photo JP Lautman)
It is in accordance with the law of the 23rd of September, 1814 that the Larçay Forest, former property of Tours’ archdiocese, then state property from 1790 to 1815, was sold on December 15th, 1815. It was « a wood-copse of 250 hectares (618 acres) to be pruned after 25 years ». This estate went for 115,000 F, to « Mr Paul-Louis Courier, Mr Paul-Louis Courier, former artillery officer, in Paris, rue des 4 fils, n°15, », though his legal address was at the office of the public notary Mr Odoux, in Luynes.
Paul-Louis Courier, according to the law, had two years to settle the price of his purchase (principal and interest). The ledger of the account opened with the buyers (A.D. d’I-&-L., Q13) tells us he will not be able to clear himself of the debt within the stipulated time limit. In 1816, he makes six payments with money orders (three) and in cash (three) for a total of 80,196.60F (on January 5th and 6th, February 6th, May 6th, October 20th, November 4th). The payments then stop. However, in a letter dated May 9th, 1817, the Head of the Registration and Estate Department warns the Director of Indre-et-Loire, Mr Febvotte, that the Minister deferred to a request of the “sieur Courier” to postpone the payment due date to June 1st, 1818. No payment has been made by June 1st but a letter from Febvotte to the tax officer of Tours, on May 5th, 1818, indicates that the Minister extended the term of payment until April 1st, 1819.
The payments start again in 1819. Not easily however. The 5th of March, Paul-Louis Courier lets know his intent to complete his payment of the woods in the fifteen days to come, which he doesn’t do. On the 1st of April deadline, he has not yet paid what he still owes. It appears that legal proceedings have been set in motion against him as evidenced by a letter from Febvotte. To get out of this perilous position, Paul-Louis Courier had to resort toto probably costly loans3.Let us not forget either that he bought la Chavonnière4. This assumption helps to explain the payments in money orders and cash made on the 16th, 19th and 20th of April for a total amount of 41,540.12 F. The settlement of the Larçay Forest is then approved by the Estate Department on the 11th of June, 1819; the buyer is told – oh ! administration’s humour – that a cash surplus of 8.40 Fr will be reimbursed to him.

Source : Jean Guillon

[1] [1] Since Roman law, confirmed by the feudal law, forest customs remained a constraint on the forests’ owners. The people living near the forests enjoyed rights relating to the use of the forest’s products. For instance: woodcutting, pasture, allowing pigs to feed on acorns and beechnuts... Upon careful inspection, the history of France appears like an endless struggle between the property owners who want to trim these rights and those who enjoy them. The Révolution dared not clash head-on with the country folk. Therefore the latter made use of the forests without being bothered. This “anarchy” could not find favour with the rural bourgeoisie. Thus, after joining their forces to bring down the privileges of the Ancien Régime, the interests of the low class and the middle-class conflicted radically. Courier suffered the cruel consequences presented by Balzac in his novel The Peasants (Les Paysans). We can read moreover in the first part of the novel the following sentence: “This advantage of picking was, alas ! the reason for the assassination of Paul-Louis Courier, who made the mistake of announcing the sale of the land and his project to take along his wife on whom several Tonsards of Touraine depended.” [Translator’s note: Tonsard is the name of a peasant family in the novel]. The forestry code aiming to protect the national forestry patrimony and to abolish the rights of users saw the light on May 31st, 1827. Dead two years before, Paul-Louis Courier was not lucky enough to benefit from this code.  Note1
[2] The two brothers Dubois had been in the service of Paul-Louis Courier, but one of them, too intimate with Mrs. Courier, had been dismissed, as a result of which they felt fierce hatred for their master. It is not unthinkable that they were secretly encouraged to foment the assassination of the Restoration’s adversary.  Note2
[3] In 1825, for example, Paul-Louis Courier owed 13,000 F to a Miss Marie Gouron, a person of independent means from the inner suburb of La Riche in Tours, who had the innocent habit of lending at high interest and for substantial guarantee.  Note3
[4] The bill of sale of La Chavonnière is dated April 21st, 1818, but it is stipulated that the 22,600 F are “to be paid for in ten years at the date of the bill with interest at 5% per annum, due every 6 months and also two cents of sticks of firewood for Isambert every year.” However, in 1825, the 22,600 F are still owed.  Note4