French Revolution Essay

2491 words - 10 pages

France was a nation ruled by an absolute monarch who had power beyond the grasp of any peasant, and just out of the reach of the aristocracy. King Louis XIV (1774 - 1791) of France was not willing to give up his monopoly that had existed for seventeen years. It was the perfect situation for his absolute government, and may have remained that way if he had been able to manage France’s finances successfully. More money had been spent on roads' canals and wars then were being collected through taxes. In addition the government lost control over the bourgeois class. The bourgeois (working class merchants) gained control by using the disorganized peasant class, members of the Third Estate, who presented their grievances in cahiers to the Estates General. The disbanding of the Estates General resulted in the formation of the new National Assembly governed by the Third Estate. This assembly wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens that described political changes and freedoms for the Third Estate. The constitution of 1791 also resulted in dramatic changes to the political structure. It, however, did not bring relief to those who most deserved it, the peasants. These events were the prologue to the French Revolution, the most important event in France’s history. The French Revolution was a direct result of overspending by King Louis XIV and Louis XVI, leaving France a financially unstable nation and ultimately resulting in a revolt by the Third Estate upset by the dwindling social and economic conditions.
Drastic overspending by the government of King Louis XVI left the treasury depleted of funds, and with little revenue coming in from taxes, France was experiencing the beginnings of a revolution. With the Seven Years’ War and American Revolutionary War, as well as the upkeep of the extravagant court of Versailles, the French treasury was left depleted. It is impossible for a government to run a nation without a healthy economy. Expenses were set down in March of 1788 at 629,000,000 livres and revenues at 503,000,000, leaving a deficit of 126,000,000, or 20 per cent of expenses. It was proposed that the difference should be made up by borrowing, but this action only paid off older loans and had no positive effect on the economy of France. The answer to this problem was to increase old taxes and introduce new ones. Louis XVI tried to decree new taxes to ease financial strain but parliament refused; Louis did not have the power to institute new taxes. Needing funds to carry out the day to day activities of France, King Louis XVI’s minister of finance, Jacques Necker, was called upon to solve the problem. He informed Louis XVI to call the Estates General to assembly in hopes that it would agree to an increase in taxation in return for limited royal reforms. This meeting was the last method Louis XVI had at his disposal to refill the treasury and when it failed, the absolute government he had grown accustomed to...

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