What Were The Main Causes Of The French Revolution

1861 words - 7 pages

The French Revolution was a period of radical social and political turmoil in France from 1789 to 1799 that greatly affected the French and modern history, marking the steady decline of powerful monarchies and the rise of democracy and nationalism. The trigger for the revolution was the autocratic government of the King, Louis XVI. With absolute power over the people, the King could make all laws, appoint government officials, wage war on whomever he pleased, and imprison anyone he wished. As a consequence the majority of the citizens became disgruntled and disillusioned with the state and problems that came about which later played a part in causing the revolution. The French revolution was attributed to a number of factors which are identified and discussed below.
First and foremost was the poor state of the economy. The financial mismanagement of the French economy was evident in the wasteful expenditure of money which contributed to the dangerously high levels of national debt. The debt was accumulated over the preceding years through excessive expenditure on luxuries by Louis XVI, including the Palace of Versailles. ?? Marie Antoinette, queen of France, spent incredible amounts of money from the treasury on luxuries such as jewels, clothes, city trips and gambling which further added to the debt. Marie Antoinette was nicknamed Madame Deficit because of her extravagance and her insensitivity towards the people. The huge debt was further magnified by the funding of wars such as their unsuccessful Seven Years’ War against Britain (1756 – 1763), as well as the funding of the Americans in their War for Independence. The structure of the Taxation system which was unfair and irrational also contributed to the poor state of the economy. Since France was not a trading country, it could not rely on tariffs to generate money for its extravagant expenditure and thus it had to increase the tax. Despite the clergy and nobles controlling 90% of the country’s wealth, they were exempted from paying taxes (except for a modest quit-rent or land tax) which was done entirely by the peasants and the middle class. The peasants were heavily taxed. There were five main taxes that were imposed upon the peasants. The first one was the taille. This is a property tax that would be paid to the King simply for living in the country. Next tax was called the corvee. The peasants would be required to labour without pay for the local noble or aristocrat. The gabelle was a salt tax. In those days, salt was very valuable and sought after. Any time a peasant would purchase salt they would be forced to pay a tax. The franc-fief was a tax that was required for a commoner to hold an establishment. This would make it very difficult for peasants to start a business or to make profit. Lastly was the tithe. This was technically not a tax but since the church and the state were one, it became a tax. It was a payment made to the church in honour of God. Tax farmers were private...

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