France was an absolute monarchy. Louis XIV (1643 1715) was the envy of all other rulers in Europe. During his reign he had centralized the government and had encouraged trade and manufacture. His undoing was the long list of over ambitious wars that he had participated in. His successors Louis XV (1715 74) and Louis XVI (1774 93) also participated in lengthy and costly conflicts. France had suffered defeat in the Seven Years War against Britain (1756 63). Her army in Europe was crushed by the Prussians.
The involvement in the American Revolution was for revenge against Britain after the Seven Years War. A fatal weakness in the French absolute monarchy system, was its inability to produce strong monarchs. Louise XVI was not strong. On the eve of revolution all sections of French society had reason to be unhappy: The nobles wanted power that was taken from them by the monarchy The bourgeoisie resented the privileges of the nobles The Bourgeoisie and the Peasants criticized the tax system Ancien Regime refers to the old order in France; the social and governmental system that lasted until the Revolution. The Government order in France was an Absolute Monarchy. Due to the increasingly large powers of a monarch over society including: National System of Justice, Influenced the Catholic Church, The Right to decree Taxation and Leader of the military forces, the monarch has to be a string and stable person. Louis XVI was neither strong nor stable.
The population was divided into three estates. The Third Estate was made up of the bourgeoisie, wage earners and the peasantry. They were the majority of the population. The Third Estate was also known as the estate of the commoners. The Second Estate was for the nobility.
They numbered 400 000 with most of them being of minor rank. The First Estate comprised the clergy. The Upper Clergy were very wealthy and powerful and therefore they related to the First Estate. The Lower Clergy related more to the Lower Estates. The First Estate numbered around 100 000.
The first two states enjoyed privileges over the Third Estate. Although they were the richest, they were exempt from taxes. They were also the only members in society who could hold positions of importance such as Officers in the army. This caused great discontent within the Third Estate. There was great need for taxation reform in France before the Revolution. The inefficiency of only taxing the lower estate showed in the Governments budgets. The Government was experiencing large debts and eventually went Bankrupt.
This was made worse by the Nobles non-cooperation when it came to Taxation. The nobles were determined not to give up their tax concessions. This proved to be a great problem for Louis and his advisers. The peasants and bourgeoisie were also unhappy due to the large taxes that they had to pay. Due to over ambitious wars and extravagant spending on courts, Louis XIV and Louis XV had been successful in helping to bankrupt France.
Their extravagant spending on courts could be seen by the beauty and sheer size of Versailles. The cost of the wars was great in two ways. The French had suffered big defeats and therefore had lost men and supplies. They also had failed to gain any territory; in fact they often lost it. The worst war was the Seven Years War as this economically drained France and saw France lose most of her colonies to Britain.
The peasants had many grievances. One of the main grievances was the seigniorial system. This system allowed for greater income disparity in France and a real separation of classes. This often left peasants almost isolated compared to the rest of society. All peasants within France felt this at the time. The peasants were burdened with huge amounts of taxation that were nearly impossible for them to pay. This led to a rather discontented peasantry within France.
The French Monarchy was successful in running deficit budget after deficit budget. This was aided by large costs brought on from previous spending by Louis XV and Louis XIV. This did not stop Louis XVI from adding to the troubles. Instead of implementing tax reform Louis was insistent on not annoying the nobility. Therefore he had to borrow the differences in expenditure and revenue. These saws a constant loan cycle develop. When Turgot tried to stop this he was overthrown by Marie Antoinettes hatred of him and the nobilitys wish to see him fired.
This saw the more complacent Necker. The aristocrats were also exempt from taxes. When Turgot tried to change this Necker promptly replaced him. This shows the power that the nobility actually held over the King regarding tax concessions. A more powerful and strong King may have chose to crush the nobility or to force taxes upon them.
Louis did not. Instead France went without tax reform. Necker the French financial adviser was sacred of the Nobility. This saw him refuse to recommend tax reform. This is understandable after the demise of Turgot. Neckers fatal mistake had been in introducing a loans scheme that saw the public debt rise each year.
This put the financial situation of the monarchy in a very precarious position. The Aristocrats were denouncing the monarchys absolutism. The Nobility was long discouraged by their loss of rights. They worked back into surrounding the monarchy with themselves in positions of power. The special concern of the nobles was to see that the King did not introduce tax reform.
They wanted more political power to make sure events like this did not happen. While they denounced the monarchys absolutism they wanted to set up their own form of it. The Bourgeoisie also attacked it; they also attacked privileges of the Nobility. For centuries the Bourgeoisie had accepted a position of social inferiority to the nobility. Due to the increasing monopoly that the nobility were holding on privileges and the Bourgeoisies own improving conditions this caused many Bourgeoisie to despise the aristocracy.
They also despised the absolutism of the monarchy. They had been the most influenced by the Disposition of mind. The character of Louis also played an important role. It was well known that Louis was more concerned with his own personal interests than in the interests of the State and Court. Often this bored him and he left his work up to his advisers and ministers.
Or even worse he would make hasty decisions that would cause even worse consequences in France. In Addition, Marie Antoinette held great power over Louis. Often she stood in the way of his proposed reforms by talking him out of it. It was well known that she had talked him into firing Turgot, who may have been able to prevent the revolution through his economic reforms. She was also hated by a lot of the population due to her foreign birth.
This did not help her later when she was executed. Her pleasure loving also talked Louis into spending extravagant amounts on the court and her. Louis XVI should have been capable of overcoming his problems with the Aristocracy. His powerful position should have allowed him to force tax reform onto the nobility. He also should never have allowed himself to call the Estates-General. Instead he should have introduced mild reforms to gains the support of the public again.
Then he could do, as he wanted. If he had of been a stronger person he also would not have been as easily influenced by the nobility, his advisers or his wife. A few reforms would have prevented Louis from summoning the Estates General. Instead this encouraged further criticism of the Ancien regime and provided stronger force against absolutism in France. This was the beginning of the end for Louis.
Bitter conflict between the classes over the form it should take provided further problems. The Third estate wanted a vote by head count. They also wanted to double their numbers so that they would have a majority. Louis agreed to double their representation but not their voting counts. On July 14th, 1789, A Paris crowd stormed the Bastille. This proved to be a significant event in the revolution. The Bastille had long been regarded as a symbol of political oppression.
Here people were sent when they had opposed the Ancien Regime. The Bastille was initially approached for the gunpowder it held. In confusion however shots were fired and the huge crown stormed the Bastille. This demonstrated that the capital was in the Revolutionaries hands and the Kings regiments were withdrawn. The Paris Commune was established and the National Assembly continued to meet with the realization that they needed to meet the needs of the masses.
The Law of the Lamppost was used during this period. Profiteers, aristocrats, government officials and army officers were all hung from lampposts. The flight of the migrs followed these events. Most of the migrs went to the sympathetic countries such as Austria, Russia and Britain. They hoped to gain support from Russian and Austrian troops and German Princes.
The Austrian Emperor and Prussian King threatened war if Louis XVI was harmed. On July 13th 1789 there had been formed the Paris Commune (Municipal council) and the National Guard. The National Guard was comprised of 200 men from the six different sections of Paris. They were under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette. The units of the National Guard were responsible to the municipal councils.
These new councils were strongly bourgeoisie and were interested in protecting property from crowd violence. This gave the bourgeoisie a revolutionary force to use as a militia and police organization. It was designed to settle the rioting of the popular masses. Lafayette tried to protect the constitution from both the King and the mob. The first time the National Guard saw action was on the 14th of July 1791 when the Guard fired on a crown in the Champs de Mars and 50 were killed.
On the Night of the 4th of August the National Assembly met and the abolition of feudalism was brought about. Tears accompanied this as many of the members of the National Assembly gave up their privileges and looked towards equality. All exemptions from taxation, all feudal dues and tithes, tolls and pensions were abolished. On the 26th of August 1789, the National Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights of Men. The purpose of this document was to produce equality within France and to abolish the class system that was prevalent in France.
This meant that a man could achieve high status despite his parentage. According to the Declaration all citizens had the right to decide what taxes should be levied and how public revenue should be spent. Other fundamental human rights included freedom of speech, freedom of the press, religious liberty and freedom from unlawful arrest or imprisonment. Therefore the Declaration was essentially a democratic document. It proclaimed the sovereignty of the people. On the 5th of October 1789 a group of 7000 starving men and women marched on the court at Versailles. They were going to ask the King for some bread.
They camped outside the palace. That night some women broke into the palace and attempted to murder Marie Antoinette. She escaped and ran to the Kings room. The invaders stopped here, as the King was still considered sacred. Lafayette prevented any bloodshed by assuring that the King returned to Paris with the mob. Here Louis became a virtual prisoner in the Palace of Tuileries.
The National Assembly reformed the local government system. France was divided into 83 departments. Each of these had the same laws, customs, weights and measures. Internal Tariffs were also abolished in France. This greatly improved the economy of France. It also presented the country with more equality and abolished the certain privileged areas of France.
The main problems were that the Government failed to have a clear connection to the Local Governments and also the Local governments hardly had any revenue thus leading to bankruptcies. The System of Justice was also reformed under the National Assembly. This allowed for open public trials and the abolition of the hated Lettres de Cachet. This allowed for the trails of all people in the same court. Before the assembly they had been conducted in different courts depending on class.
Imaginary crimes such as heresy and magic were abolished. There was a court of final appeal for civil and criminal cases and a high court for cases of treason. The press was now free to criticize etc. The freedom of the press was absolute and this led to it becoming a form of propaganda. It was instrumental in the rise of principal figures such as Robespierre and Danton.
Early in 1789 revolutionary committees of sailors and soldiers were formed. This often caused conflict with the regular army and navy. In February 1790 the forces were made responsible to the National Assembly. This effectively took from Louis any chance of using the military to regain his position of influence. On the night of the 2oth of June 1791 the King and his family attempted to escape to the friendly borders of Austria.
This was encouraged by Marie Antoinette and was aided by her friend Count Axel de Fersen. They were however caught and returned to Paris. The King before leaving had left behind a declaration that complained of his lack of powers. He also condemned the work of the Revolution. Paris received him in silence when he returned. The Republican movement gathered great strength after this event. On the 16th of July the Government passed a decree re instating the King despite protests. The Constitution of 1791 established 6 main points: 1.Hereditary Constitutional Monarchy 2.A parliament consisting of a single elected chamber (the Legislative Assembly). 3.There was to be a separate executive (with no power to make laws) 4.All judges were to be elected 5.Suspensive veto for the King 6.The franchise was to be given to all that paid taxes equivalent to 3 days wages or more. Self-Denying Ordinance refers to the decision that the current members of the National Assembly could not become members of the Legislative Assembly.
The constitution was not popular to many in France die to the limited franchise. This meant that virtually only the propertied classes qualified for this. Why France became involved in War: A)Attitudes of opponents of the Revolution B)European Monarchs hated and feared the revolution. The interrelations of the Royal families of Europe made sure they remained pretty close. Therefore they supported each other in their respective Royal families.
When France presented the idea of abolishing absolutism and ultimately the monarchy the European monarchs became fearful that this would spread to their countries. Both Emperor Leopold II (Austrian Emperor and brother to Marie Antoinette) and Frederick William II (King of Prussia) issued the Declaration of Pillnitz which vouched to restore the old order within France. They promised to launch a counter-revolution greatly influenced by the French emigres. C) Attitude of the Revolutionaries D)The Girondin Advocates for war increasingly put pressure on the Legislative Assembly to declare war on Austria and Prussia. The Girondins and Jacobins were the radicals in the Assembly. They did not hold a majority at the Assemblys formation.
This lead to the Legislative Assembly presenting Austria and Prussia with a set of demands. When these were refused the Girondins gained even more support in their calls for war. The war was seen as a way to spread the revolutionary cause to all parts of Europe. This missionary zeal to spread the doctrine of liberty, equality and fraternity made sure the French had great enthusiasm. It was also seen as a chance to untie all of the …