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In the context of the French Revolution, a venal office refers to an office sold by the state to raise money. These offices, which were mostly in areas of the judicial system, were retained in exchange for an annual tax of one-sixtieth of the value known as the paulette.

These offices provided access to power and opportunities for profit for the wealthy nobles who bought them. The more important offices, which were more expensive, also conferred on their holders personal noble status that became hereditary, generally after three generations.

Through venality of office, many bourgeoisie could hope for eventual noble status, and this provided an important avenue of social mobility for the expanding middle class.


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