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French Revolution

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The French Revolution

Hasan Mayda

Jan 9th 2014


France Revolution became an example to other monarchies, through the enlightenment ideals .France since the reign of Louis XIV, was already in great amounts of dept, and when Louis XVI took the throne, France was already poor due to wars that previous kings have fought. Louis XVI was not a good ruler in terms of solving economic and social problems that France was facing. Instead of solving economical problems, Louis XVI created more dept by borrowing money from other countries to fight against England. France before the revolution was facing economic crisis due to massive dept, the social structure was unjust in terms of privileges, and the enlightenment ideals that were present during Louis XVI’s reign also helped spark the French Revolution.

To begin with, France before the revolution was in financial crisis, which caused its citizens to revolt. “In the Seven Years War (1756-1763) the results were disastrous. Despite alliances with Russia and even traditional enemy Austria, his armies were humiliated by the upstart Prussians. At sea, the British destroyed the Atlantic and Mediterranean fleets which drove French power out of India and North America”[1]. This created a colossal dept because of the damage France endured. France needed money to recover its economy, but due to loss of colonies was not able to import goods. “The war had been paid largely by new loans rather than significant increase in taxation.”[2] Taxation was increasing but it offered very little help, as it brought very low revenue. Instead, most of the money that was used during the war was borrowed from other countries. The scheduled repayments of short term war loans brought France under great distress, as after the war France was in bigger dept and couldn’t pay back its loans. “Revenue for 1786 would be 475 million livres, while expenditure would be 587 million livres, making a deficit of 112 million –almost a quarter of the total income”[3]. The Economy of France was suffering because of dept it had; the income was following into France’s economy wasn’t enough to allow France to pay back its loans. Instead its dept was increasing every year as interest was placed on the loan.

Secondly, France during the seventeenth century had three estates/social classes which divided people in terms of privileges. The first estate was the clergy, who consisted of religious people usually, priests, monks, and archbishops...Etc.The church was many privileges such as tax exemption. “Instead of paying taxes the Church agreed to make annual payment, which it determined, known as the don gratuity.”[4]This angered the citizens because they believed that the church shouldn’t be as powerful as it is, and that wealth should not be integrated with the church. They believed that the church should be more generous, and the church shouldn’t get involved in worldly manner such as paying less tax than the other classes. The nobility has many rights, which included holding high ranks in the military and being able to carry a sword in public. Moreover, the most important privilege for the nobility was not paying taxes to the government.”Nevertheless, in most provinces, nobles continued to escape the oldest basic direct tax...”[5] This was the nobility was able to become richer, as they the majority of their income came from taxation and land ownership. The nobility saw this as a privilege as they scared about the fact that paying taxes will bring bankruptcy. Furthermore, the third estate consisted of the peasants who had no privileges and were forced to pay heavy taxes. Most of the third estate didn’t own their land but rather rented it from nobles, for a share of their yield.”Half of the peasants were sharecroppers who did not own their land but farmed it and gave half of their crops to the landlords instead of rent. About a quarter of the peasants were landless labourers, who owned nothing but their house and garden” [6]The peasants bore the burden as they were heavily taxes to the church, their landowners, and as well as the state. Peasants born into the third estate could rarely move into the nobility, as it meant that the peasants needed considerable amount of money to buy their way into the second estate.



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