Reasons for the Revolution in France
For many historians the French Revolution marks the beginning of Modern History. But why did it all happen in the first place? How was Europe’s longest ruling monarchy dethroned almost overnight? The French Revolution was caused by many different factors, but three of the biggest include:
* Financial Problems- Francewas broke.
* The American Revolution- Those upstart Americans helped plant seeds of revolution in France.
* Outdated Social System- The Estates General in France were based on medieval laws and customs that no longer fit with modern day society.
Money- Where Did It All Go?
By 1780 half of the national budget in France went to pay interest on money the government had borrowed to financetheir part in the American Revolution. It didn’t help that most of that debt was borrowed from French nobility and wealthy bourgeois who refused to accept smaller payments. Another quarter of the budget went to the military. 6% went directly to the King to maintain his lavish court at Versailles. Less than one fifth of the national budget was for keeping the country in working order. There was nomoney for transportation, or general administration. The only way out of the crushing debt was to raise taxes, and the people who were affected most were the peasants. Needless to say, this did not endear them to their king or the aristocracy.
The American Revolution Inspires a Belief in Liberty and Equality
Many of the soldiers who fought in the American Revolution came back to France inspiredby the liberty and equality that had been established for all Americans (well, for white males, anyway) regardless of class or birthright. Marquis de Lafayette was one of the few aristocrats who held republican convictions and was unhappy about the gross inequities in French society. The American Revolution fit perfectly with the Enlightenment theories so popular in France. People rebelled againsta tyranny and then acted in a rational way to establish their own constitution and government. Unfortunately, people would not act so sane or rational in France, following the downfall of the House of Bourbon.
The Estates General Have Got To Go
The Estates General were established in the 14th Century. The First Estate was the Clergy, who owned about 10% of the land in France and comprised ofabout 100,000 people. The Second Estate was made up of the nobility. They owned about 25% of the land and were made up of about 400,000 people. They were lightly taxed, if at all. However, the Second Estate could impose taxes on peasants for hunting and fishing rights, baking bread or pressing grapes for wine. The Third Estate was made up of everyone else. There was a smattering of rich merchantsand educated doctors and lawyers in the Third Estate, and a few more artisans and unskilled laborers. However, the majority of the Third Estate was peasants, working in the countryside. While this arrangement worked in a feudal economy, it was no longer practical for modern day France.
98 % of people who paid taxes in France had absolutely no say in their government. That is bound to lead toproblems. Especially when aforementioned Americans base their own revolution in part on taxation without representation. Whenever tax reforms were introduced and included taxing the nobility, the Second Estate would shoot it down. During the reign of Louis XVI, taxes were repeatedly raised. High taxes coupled with food shortages and angry peasants are a formula for revolt.
The Storming of TheBastille
The Start of the French Revolution
Thr storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789, marks the beginning of the French Revolution and the downfall of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
1789 was marked by severe bread shortages in Paris. Thunderstorms had destroyed the previous year’s crops, making wheat scarce. Plus King Louis XVI’s throne-coveting cousin, the Duc de Orleans, had bought up...