In 1789 the French Revolution began, which would continue till the late 1790s. The aim of the revolution was to overthrow the monarchy and uproot the system of feudalism, and replace it with ideas of equality, liberty, and fraternity. The French Revolution occurred for various reasons, including poor economic policies, poor leadership, and exploitative political- and social structures.
Research Paper on French Revolution Essay
Causes of the French Revolution
The political causes of the French Revolution included the autocratic monarchy, bankruptcy, and extravagant spending of royals. An autocratic monarchy means that French society was governed by an all-powerful king or queen, believed to have been given divine right to rule by God. These monarchs were hereditary rulers, which meant that the son or daughter of the monarch would be the next ruler.
The Beginning of the French Revolution
As many believed the monarchs to be “representatives of God,” they did not question the orders of their rulers. But this unlimited power of the monarchs soon led to abuse. Under King Louis XIV’s reign, all monarchs could have anyone arrested and imprisoned by the Letter de Cachet. The monarchs did not care for their subjects, as even the innocent could be arrested and imprisoned at any time. This caused anxiety, panic, and fear in France. King Louis XIV was king from 1643 to 1713. After his death, his great-grandson, King Louis XV, became king at the age of five. Both his parents and brother had passed away in 1712. Philippe II was appointed who would govern till he came of age.
When King Louis XV finally took the throne, he was a lazy leader who lacked self-confidence and spent more time with his mistresses than with the affairs of the state. His national policies never had a firm direction. He became known as the “butterfly monarch.”His involvement in the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763) drained France’s treasury. While the country was bankrupt and many citizens were impoverished, taxes were generated to sustain a large army. King Louis XV contributed to France’s bankruptcy due to overspending on his luxurious lifestyle and wars. The next leader, Louis XVI (1774 – 1793) reign also set the stage for a revolution.
King Louis XVI is remembered as a simple man, but his wife, Marie Antoinette, lived in the lap of luxury. Louis XVI inherited the kingdom and all the debt of France when he became king. He failed to fix the financial situation. The expensive upkeep of his palace and the unnecessary spending of Marie Antoinette angered the French population. Especially as the tax system excluded nobility from paying tax while the poor paid for the royals’ luxurious lifestyle. King Louis XVI did not want to tax nobility; King Louis was unable to fix France’s financial situation, and his wife continued with her extravagant lifestyle.
While many were starving, the monarchy turned a blind eye. The defective administration of generations of monarchs set the stage for a French Revolution. The poor were no longer willing to pay for the monarchy’s extravagant lifestyles and unwise foreign policies. People were starting to revolt against the idea of “divine rule” and started to question the authority and wisdom of their monarchs.
French Revolution Essay: The Estate System as a Social Cause
The second cause of the French Revolution was based on the social structure of France. French society was based on the relics of feudalism, which divided the French population into three classes based on the Estate System. According to the Estate System, people’s status and rights were determined by the estate they owned. The three estates included the clergy, the nobility, and the peasants.The first estate consisted of the clergy, which was subdivided into two groups, the upper and lower clergy. The higher clergy were at the top of the hierarchy in French society, while the lower clergy were impoverished. The higher clergy lived extravagantly, exploiting people and exempt from paying taxes. The lower clergy was also employed as workers of the church, monasteries, and educational institutions, but not in high positions such as the higher clergy. The second estate consisted of the nobility, which included two groups, namely the court nobles and the provincial nobles. They were also exempt from paying taxes.
However, the provincial nobles actually cared for the people, while the court nobles only focused on leading scandalously wealthy lives. The third estate consisted of the peasants, which included the sweepers, farmers, and cobblers. They were the lowest classes in French society, who were forced to pay taxes to sustain the luxurious living of the first and second estates.But besides the unequal taxing given to the third estate, they were also unequally represented in court. The third estate represented 98% of the French population, yet they were outvoted by the first two estates. The third estate fought against this unequal representation. To fight against the current voting system, the Third Estate met on 17 June 1789 alone to change the title of the National Assembly.
Three days later, they met at an indoor tennis court and undertook the Tennis Court Oath, declaring that they would not end their fight until they achieved judicial, fiscal, and governmental reform. On 27 June, after 47 liberal nobles joined the Third Estate’s cause, Louis XVI accepted all three orders into a new assembly. The rise of the third estate against the Estate System and unequal representation due to the class structure also gave rise to the French Revolution. The poor were angered to pay for the luxurious lifestyles of the first and second estates. They were also tired of having 2% of the population veto all their rights and having unequal representation in court even though they made up 98% of French society.
Titles for French Revolution Essay: The Economic Crisis as a Cause
Another cause of the French Revolution was the economic conditions of France. King Louis XIV “Seven Years’ War” left France bankrupt. His foreign policies led to expensive foreign wars, which emptied the coffers of the royal treasury. After his death, he was succeeded by Louis XVI. Firstly, when Louis XVI took the throne, Turgot was appointed Minister of Finance in 1774. Turgot’s first duty was to rid France of its debt. He came up with a solution to appease the peasants and fix France’s financial situation by minimizing the spending of the royal court and imposing taxes on all three estates.
However, Turgot’s solution was dismissed after Marie Antoinette intervened. Turgot was fired, and Necker was appointed as the new Finance Minister in 1776. In 1783, he was also fired. Finally, Calonne was appointed Minister of Finance in 1783. Calonne advised the king to improve France’s financial situation by approaching European banks for a loan. The European banks were not keen to lend money to France, but Calonne was able to obtain a loan. Calonne’s solution proved problematic. When France finally did receive a loan, their debt doubled within three years from 300,000,000 to 600,000,000.
Calonne realized that his solution was not feasible and urged the king to impose taxes on all three classes. Finally, Calonne was also dismissed. King Louis XVI’s economic decisions finally set the stage for the revolution. The monarchy refused to impose taxes on all three estates, while the royals continued living in the lap of luxury. These decisions created economic instability in France. The peasants were angered, as while they were starving, they had to maintain the standard of living for the rich. The economic conditions in France were one of the main reasons for the revolution. Ultimately, there were three main reasons for the French Revolution. The Estate System, economic policies, and autocratic monarchy.