French Revolution

The events of 1789 had a great influence on the future history. The majority of the third-estate Frenchmen were not satisfied with the economic, political as well as social conditions at that time. The bright minds of Enlightenment presented new ideas in the respective fields. The American Revolution also influenced the events in France. The French philosophers were one of the main reasons for the Revolution, because of the inequalities of the regime that they wanted to depose.

During the 18th century, France was a feudal country, where various classes and social problems were an inevitable part of French life. There used to be three estates – the first one included clergy, the second estate consisted of nobility, and the third one included bourgeoisie, peasants, and city workers. The first two were privileged classes and together owned nearly the half of all the land in France. The third estate included 97% of the French population, who had only 55% of the land. The proportions were horribly unjust.

People’s dissatisfaction with the political regime was one of the main reasons for the Revolution. The absolute government was in charge of France during the 17th and 18th centuries. All the power was consolidated in the king’s hands. Louis XVI ruled the French at the time of the Revolution. Together with his Austrian queen Marie Antoinette, he cared really poorly about the country. When the king went for block voting rather than head voting, the third estate people became completely disappointed at his ruling. The first and second estates collaborated against the third one not to let them become a danger for their power.

Englishmen Lord Acton identifies the American Independence as the beginning of the French Revolution. Practically, France had no valid government – that was an unjust, corrupted and insufficient group of incompetent politicians. Nothing could be done to bring the changes. The Parliament of France was called the Estates-General; however, its last meeting dated back to 1614 and couldn’t be gathered without the king’s consent.

The problems in economy, also caused by the French kings, influenced the Revolution. In the 18th century, the government wasted more money than earned, and, as a result, in 1788, the country became bankrupt. The life of the Frenchmen is clearly described by Arthur Young, an English analyst, who was in France in 1787-1789. According to him, the taxes were unfair and didn’t really concern the nobility landholders. The prices for bread were unbelievably high so that only the minority of people could afford it. This was caused by the war spending, which lasted for nearly 50 years out of the last 100. After supporting the Americans in the War for the Independence, France ended with a financial ruin. Kings’ whims also spent significant sums of money. Therefore, the unfair taxes were imposed, and as it was already said, the nobles hardly paid any taxes. Moreover, the French Church was one of the biggest landholders at that time and didn’t pay anything to the treasury as well. Later, Louis XVI wanted to introduce a new taxation system but failed because it was unprofitable for the French clergy. There were a few more attempts to introduce new reforms that were successfully rejected by the French nobility.


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