French Revolution (1).doc - French Revolution 1789-1799 By...

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French Revolution 1789-1799By the late eighteenth century, France was on the brink of revolution. The reasonshad been building up over many years, and mainly concerned the great dividebetween the nobility and the clergy, and everybody else. The French population wasdivided into three estates. The First estate was made up of the clergy. Itnumbered around 100,000 people. The Second estate was made up of the nobility.It numbered around 400,000 people. The Third estate was made up of thebourgeoisie, wage earners, and the peasantry. It made up the majority of theFrench population.The first and second estates enjoyed certain privileges that that the third estate didnot. Firstly, although they were the richest, they did not have to pay taxes. Theywere also the only members in society who could hold positions of importance suchas Officers in the army. This caused great discontent within the Third Estate.THE THIRD ESTATE- Peasants were forced to do military service. - Peasants could not hunt or fish on nobles’ estates.- Peasants had to pay taxes to their lord, the king and the Church.- Peasants had to use the lord’s mill, oven and winepress, and pay for them.- Peasants made up 90% of the population.THE FIRST AND SECOND ESTATE- Nobles had almost complete authority overpeasants.- Nobles did not have to do military service.- Nobles were exempt from most taxes.- Nobles collected tolls from people using roads andmarkets.- Many nobles and clergy lived in great luxury in chateaux and palaces.The Kings, through their ministers and local officials RULED ABSOLUTELY. This meantthat they had complete authority over France. The ‘parliament’ (States General) hadnot been called since 1614!As if the system of estates in France wasn’t enough to cause resentment among thelower classes, towards the end of the 1700s, France was experiencing otherproblems too.Problem 1 – MONEYBy 1787, the French government was bankrupt. It was 4000 million livres in debt.France had spent a lot of money fighting costly wars, but had nothing to show for it.Many people accused the royals, especially Queen Marie- Antoinette of spending toomuch money on luxuries. Others said that the tax system was corrupt and sometax-collectors did not hand all their taxes over to the government.In 1787 the King asked the nobility to help him reform the tax system. As wealready know, members of the first and second estate did not have to pay sometaxes. King Louis XVI wanted them to start paying some of them. It is not surprisingthat they refused to do so.Problem 2 – Bad harvest.Most people in France depended heavily on agriculture and farming in the 1700s. Inthe years 1787 – 1789, terrible weather, heavy rain, hard winters and too hotsummers led to three very bad harvests in France. This led to peasants and farmershaving smaller incomes, while food prices rose sharply. The poor harvests also1
meant that many French farmers became unemployed. Many poorer people werestarving, but could not afford food and could not find a job. Meanwhile, the nobility,

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