The social, legal and social condition faced in France before the revolution or before 1789, when it was based on theories from the old days, was referred to as an ancient dictatorship. Peasants will be serving and giving the royal treasury their harvests. Since it was their harvest that was used to feed other groups of society, it was like the entire country was on their shoulder. There were a lot of social and economic disparities in society, when high-class citizens were strongly privileged and the royal treasury did not pay taxes.
The last king who served before the famed French Revolution was King Louis. He was born in 1754 in the palace of Versailles. He was the second born out of seven children. His mother was the daughter of Fredrick Augustus II, the King of Poland.
He became the Dauphin at the age of eleven when his father died and after that became the king when his grandfather died in 1774. He assumed the throne at a young age of 20 years. He remained the king of French until his execution in 1793. During his rule, he tried to reform France to reform and adopt the ideas that were presented by the period of enlightenment. He wanted to remove the serfdom, the taille as well to make France tolerance to non-Catholic citizens in his country. The French high profile authorities reacted with hostility towards these ideas and even opposed their implementation. King Louis also assisted the North American colonialists who were fighting their independence from the Britain. In the 18th century, France faced a serious economic crisis the King spent a lot of money on the palace of Versailles and failed to improve the financial situation of the country.
During his time as the king, France was experiencing a great division in the society. There were those who were referred to a privileged and those who were viewed as unprivileged. King Louis XVI was seen as weak as he failed to unite the people and end the political and social inequalities that were that were common at that time. This issues provoked the great discontent that caused the French Revolution.The revolution changed the aspect of the society. This essay will discuss more on the King Louis XVI and the French Revolution.
Before the reign of King Louis XVI, the social and political situation that existed in France was known as the ancient regime. Under King Louis XVI, everyone born in France was a subject of the kingdom and also was to be a member of France estate and province. The king wanted his country, France, to be great and powerful and was not so concerned with the men being from France.
French society in the pre-revolutionary Estates-General was divided into three orders: the Clergy, the Nobility and the Third Estate. The division was based on the land and their source of wealth. There were those who owned the land and those who cultivated it. The Clergy were also known as the first estate. They were in charge of national religious life and charitable activities as well as education of the society. France was majorly a Catholic country at the time, and mostly it was the religious leaders from Catholic Church that were also participating on the political issues of the country. The Clergy who was in higher positions as Bishops, Archbishops were the noble by birth and were entrusted with political power. They were a part of the decision makers in the palaces as well as advisers to the king. However, the lower class clergy such as priests was more involved in the lives of the common man in the society. The lower class clergy was also responsible for the collection of the tithes and the tenth part of the Agricultural produce that the peasant families had to pay for the church. The second order was the Nobility families. There were the French nobility and the Nobility of the Robe. French nobility lived with the royal family in the palace. They had the hereditary titles such as Duke, Count Baron, and Chevalier. Most of them were land owners and were rich.
The Nobility of Robe acquired their titles by purchasing them or by serving as the Bureaucracy. The third estate was made up by the rich Bourgeoisie. Their composition was homogenous. They comprised of the officers of the crown, lawyers, advocates, and those who formed the corporate body. They were also the doctors, the artists and even the handful writers in the society. Then there were the peasants whose responsibility by tradition were to support the upper class. They contributed greater part of their revenue and wealth to the royal treasury and also to feed the urban population. The division in the society was the primary cause of Revolution The poor would work so hard and contribute to the treasury as required of them by the tradition. However, the royal at times misuse these funds and causes the nation to go deep into debts and economic crisis. Funds were not being used for the interest of everyone in the society.
The French Revolution
The ancient regime was falling apart from the inside. There was lots of government mismanagement of resources, debts, class resentments as well as bad harvests. The country was facing worst economic turmoil. The period before 1798, French was involved in numerous wars. They fought England, other wars in European continent and war with America. All these were expensive as they were lots of funds used to finance the activities of war. These wars took about seven years and drained the finances of the country. They also helped America colonies to obtain their independence from Britain. They spend a lot of money and another resource in supporting these colonies. These added to their already massive debt level.
To pay for the cost of maintaining various governments’ offices, law courts, universities, the army government faced the bankruptcy by raising taxes; various departments were required to raise taxes. The Royal Ministers proposed that aristocrats should pay taxes as they were not paying taxes before. King Louis XVL, who was just 20 years old summoned the Estate General, the National Assembly, as well as commoners to try to find out the possible solutions to these financial problems.
When the King Louis XVI rejected the proposal of the Third Estate demanding that voting is conducted by the Estates General. The Third Estate then declared themselves as the National Assembly. They drafted the new constitution that signaled the end of the monarchy, and it was the beginning of the democratic process in the country.
King Louis XVL was weak and did not obey the constitution that was instituted in 1791. French people were also in need of equality. The inequality was more common in the old government, and they wanted change. It was the peasants who carried the burden of the country on their shoulders since their harvest is what was used to feed the whole nation. They were being taxed heavily. The clergy and the nobles were privileged, and they were exempted from direct taxes and even land taxes. It is the third estates that were made up of the peasant families who were paying taxes.
There were other inequalities as well. The peasants were subjected to out-of-date feudal dues. The animals of the nobles would eat or destroy the grains of the peasants, and they were not allowed to kill them. The farmers’ fences were broken during hunting, and the peasants would not raise their voices. They could not claim any damage from the government. These seemed senseless and unreasonable to the peasants, and they were not happy with all these.
Now the days of reckoning came. The treasury had been emptied by the wars that King Louis XVL was involved in. The last straw was the funds amounting to about 250 million dollars that they used to fund the fight for the independence of the American colonies. The queen also was known to be extravagant and at times refused to listen to finance minister’s advice on cutting expenditures. Foreign banks declined to help the French Kingdom with loans, and the public opinions were deeply agitated by the parliament of Paris, a judicial body that refused to enforce the new tax laws that were proposed by the king. The proposal stated that the noble families and the aristocracies were to pay taxes that they were not paying before. These were an effort to increase the funds to the royal treasury that would help the government run its activities. The harvest was also poor, and the peasants’ revenues and taxes that they used to pay were no enough for the bankrupt government.
The National Constituent Assembly could look to the population as a source of strength against the king and the conservative aristocrats
When the national assembly changed the constitution that signaled the end of the monarchy, those who suffered under the reign of monarchies were inspired and decided to revolt and fight for justice and equalities.
After the meeting of Estate Generals that occurred on May 5th of 1989, the revolution started. Those who represented the Third Estate were in the forefront of the revolution. They were later joined by the clergy and the noble families. The king shut them out of the place they usually meet. They then went to the Tennis Court to take the oath that would see them uniting until the give France a new constitution. King Louis XVL sent his guards and messengers to remove the Estate Generals from their hall to which they responded by claiming that they are there because of the will of people.
On July 14th, 1789, thousands of French citizens gathered in the streets of Paris protesting the reign of King Louis XVL and his ministers. The citizens broke into the Bastille state prison and released those who were arrested by the king. They then destroyed the symbol of despotic monarchy, the Bastille. The national assembly, which was comprised of the Estate Generals then decreed the ending of the medieval regime as well as the tithe. They abolished some of the major institutions that served the old regime and demanded the social reconstruction of their state. The peasants burned the castles that were used to store the records of Lords’ Memorial rights. Most of the noble families fled when the news of revolution broke. They went to countries like Germany, Switzerland, and Australia. They sent messages to the prince of Europe to help stop the revolution in France, or there was to be bloodshed when they returned home. The mistrust of King Louis XVL and his wife, Queen Antoinette continued. The mob even brought them to Paris from Versailles so that they could closely watch them. When King Louis XVL and the family tried to escape, they were captured before they could reach the border. They were brought back to Paris, and that became the end of the monarchy. On the 10th of August 1792, citizens invaded Tuileries and killed the guards; the royal family sought refuge at the hall of the legislative assembly. A decree was passed the same year September that abolished the royalty in France. The Republic was proclaimed. King Louis XVL was later beheaded then following year, 1793. The clergy wrote a letter stating that they were withdrawing their support for the revolution. This can be said to have been caused by the fact that the property of the church was being taken by the state.
The nobles were compelled to give up their superior rights and privileges. Nobility was abolished totally in 1791 when the new constitution that the National Assembly promised was finally completed. Part of the constitution was the declaration of human rights. That included the following points;
Everyone was born with equal rights
All the French citizen have a right to participate in electing their representative that would then make laws for the nation. Each citizen shall be free to write, speak or print their opinion provided it does not abuse these privileges.
Taxes shall be based on the amount of wealth that a person possess.
This declaration came to be known as the charter of democracy and the equality of all men before the law was its essence. Also, the private property was inviolable.
The board of public safety and the committee of the national assembly was recommended to rule France while a new constitution was being drafted. Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity became the motto of revolution, and later they became the national motto of France.
These committees’ net was spread all over the country, and they maintained their position through terror, and that is why this period was knowns as the Reign of Terror. The Queen and other Royalists have later executed ad they started an uprising. They were subjected to a mock trial or no trial at all. The calendar was also changed, and the year 1792 was the first year of the republic of French Republic. The names of the months were changed too.
Finally, those who opposed the Revolution, or its enemies who lived abroad were suppressed. Britain and Australia were the only nations that continued with the war. The leader of Reign of Terror, Robespierre showed no sign of ending the bloodshed, the rest of the convention took the matter on their hands. They arrested Robespierre and sent him for execution. The people of France were happy to be free from what they termed as the period of horror, the oppression they went through in the hands of the kings were finally over, and thus they could make their choices regarding governance without fear of interference from authorities. Even though the end of monarchy shows the rise of Reign of Terror, things were a bit different from the period of the King.
The French Revolution marked the end of Royalties and Monarchial rule in France. It was caused by the various trouble that France went through due to the poor decisions made by those in Royalties and high authorities. King Louis XVL was weak and was unable to make the required decisions to deal with various issues that the country was facing. His ministers oversaw the misuse of the huge amount of money including those that were used to assist the colonies in North America to gain independence from the Great Britain. They got involved in several wars that were not helping then but instead draining their royal treasury. King Louis XVL was also not able to bring unity among the different classes. The rights of peasants were ignored and violated several times. They were tired of inequality in the nation and wanted to fight for their freedom and liberty. The inequality is what brought the revolution the most. King Louis XVL can be said to have ignited the Revolution that was looming already due to the variation that was being experienced by different families, the noble, the clergy and the peasants. His government was also seen to be incompetent as it was not able to control the use of resources well to serve the interest of everyone in the society. When the nation went bankrupt, they then had to come up with a various solution. The disagreement at the table of finding such solution was the beginning of French Revolution that changed France to date.
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