The French Revolution was a significant milestone in European history,remembered by many in historical and literary works. The situation in France, mostlyunder the leadership of Louis XVI, had a negative influence in France, thus creating aperfect climate for the French Revolution.
France was plagued by both debt, and poordecision making. prior to 1789.France was poverty-stricken and burdened with some of the highest debts. On the and Interior Minister Chretien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes (*The economicorigins of the French revolution, pg. 4).
Louis introduced some of the most oppressivetaxes and instituted financial reforms. Greater reforms were prevented by the oppositionof the upper classes and court. This opposition was so strong that Turgot was forced toresign and was replaced by Jauques Necker.
Lengthy wars, the support to the AmericanRevolution and the gross amount of taxes paid and the lavish spending of the courtcontributed to the huge national debt. The governments financial problems were madeworse after 1740 by the renewal of costly wars (the French revolution, pg. 9). The war ofthe Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years War (1756-1763) wereEuropean wars over the domination of central Europe and colonial and commercial warsbetween France and Great Britain (*Aspects of the French Revolution pg.
). At theirend, in 1763 France had lost almost all of its colonial empire in America and India. In1778 the French launched an attack against Britain in the American Revolution. Theywere hoping to weaken old rivalries and regain lost colonies. The hopes of the Frenchwere not realized and their participation in the war increased an already heavy nationaldebt. After Louis XVI granted financial aid (1778-81) to the American coloniesrevolting against Great Britain, Necker proposed drastic taxes on the nobility. Neckerwas forced to resign in 1781 (Louis XVI and M.
Antoinette ..pg 37) because of thediscontentment of the people. Charles Alexandre deCalonne replaced him in 1783 andborrowed money for the court until the borrowing limit was reached (* CanadianEncyclopedia ref: france, revolution ). The anger of the French people against taxes,debt and lavish spending on the Court resulted in the recall of Necker in 1788, who stillcould not prevent bankruptcy of the government. During the next couple of years thefinancial crisis steadily worsened, because the government was bankrupt.
Louis wasforced to call a meeting with a delegate of the Estates-General, ( a government groupconsisting of representatives of the clergy, nobility and commoners). Once in themeeting the Estates-General took power of the government. One of the other causes ofthe national debt was at the fault of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Louis XVI wasdescribed as not overly intelligent, weak and incapable king (* Encarta, ref: Louis XVI). But he was intelligent enough to get money from the government. It was well knownthat Louis was more concerned with his own personal affairs than with the interests ofthe court and the people.
Often work bored him and he left his work up to his advisorsan ministers. He preferred to spend a lot time and the peoples money on extravagantthings, and his wife. Rather than paying back previous debts and helping the situation,he increased taxes on the peasants and spent more money, worsening the predicament. By 1787, the national debt was 112,000,000 livres (* the French Revolution, Albert..
.pg. 25) and continued to get worse, sharpening the national debt even more. In the time leading up into and during the French Revolution there was classtensions, often between the nobility and the peasants. There were also poor livingconditions. Some say that these situations are not Louis XVIs fault but were problemshe inherited with the throne. So he cannot be blamed for the events leading into theFrench Revolution.
In this time period there were class tensions. The nobles had all theprivileges and rights. The peasants were stepped on from every angle. So what madethe nobles so desirable? There was glamour, distinction and recognition that the noblestatues brought. They had a range of privileges that they received.
Nobles tookprecedence on public occasions, and carried swords. (the French Revolution, sydenham,..pg 61)They were entitled to a trial at a special courts. They also enjoyed financialadvantages.
They paid no duties on transferring feudal property and nobility conferredexemption from the basic tax, le taille (* Oxford, pg. 27) The wealthy consisted of thenobles, clergy and the bourgeoisie and there was approximately 120,000 wealthy. Thepeasants and commoners (middle and lower class) however were on the bottom andconsisted of eighty percent of the population.
They struggled to survive and were heavilytaxed. The workers of France ate inferior bread to their betters, and wore clothing madeof cheaper material. They spent half of their earnings on bread and were plagued withunemployment. In Paris the gap between the very rich ( minority) and the majority ofpeasants was large. The crisis of the western world was felt mostly in France. Population increase was accompanied by the fragmentation of peasant holdings,inadequate increase in agriculture productivity and bad harvests after 1770. Both wagesof the commoner and the level of employment lagged behind the rising price of grain andother basic necessities.
Substantial sections of France were faced with decliningstandard of living. The result of this was death, emigration, and increased number ofbeggar, pauper and homeless citizens (* Revolution and Terror in France..pg20). Thepeasants were working hard or not at all, and the money they made was spent on breadand taxes. Many people were left homeless because they couldnt pay the taxes. Eventhough the whole situation was not Louis XVIs personal fault, the choices anddecisions he formed, made the situation even worse.
During Louis XVIs reign, he made some very poor decisions that could haveinfluenced the end result of the French revolution. Firstly, He was influenced greatly bypeople around him (* Canadian Encyclopedia, Ref: Louis XVI). He was described as notoverly intelligent, inexperienced and not completely dedicated to his duties. Through-out his reign (1774-1792) the king was helped/supported and even betrayed byNecker.
Necker made a lot of the kings decisions and persuaded him. He seemed to beon Louis XVIs side but then Necker published an account of the royal finances, whichrevealed the heavy costs of the privileges and favoritism. This action, not only wentagainst the monarchy, but earned Necker popular acclaim. Necker also helped Louisdecide that the commoners (third estate) would have as many voters as the First andSecond Estate (clergy and nobility) combined. But both he and Louis failed to make aruling on the method of voting (the head count was not granted). In 1770 Louis marriedMarie Antoinette, youngest daughter of Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria.
Sheinfluenced Louis to attend to the interests of Austria, and to ignore the financial crisis inFrance. She often stood in the way of Louiss proposed reforms by talking him out ofthem ( Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette pg 488 ). She talked him into firing Turgot,who may have been able to prevent the revolution. Her lavish life style and the fact thatshe was a foreigner made her unpopular with the public. She also influenced Louis tospend incredible amounts of money on her.
Secondly, due to the financial problems andthe conflict between classes, the year 1788 proved to be difficult for all. All classes werediscontent with the Ancien Regime and wanted a change. Louis XVI never tookadvantage of this situation to introduce new reforms and gain the support of the people. Thirdly, under pressure from nobility and other influential powers, Louis agreed to meetwith the Estates-General.
Instead this encouraged further criticism of the Ancien Regimeand provided a stronger force against the monarchy in France. All in all, Louis wasincapable of a strong decision. He should have been capable of overcoming hisproblems. Louiss powerful position should have allowed him to force taxes on thenobility. He should have never met with the Estates-General. Instead he should haveintroduced mild reforms to gain the support of the public.
Perhaps if Louis XVI had beena stronger person the nobility, the clergy and his wife wouldnt have influenced him tothe same degree.As we have noticed, there were many factors/causes that lead to the revolution. Many aspects were piled up and the only was down was the revolution. Many of theanswers to our questions are left unknown. If Louis XVI had not been King, would therehave been a revolution, or was it inevitable? Social Issues Essays