18 French Revolution

18 French Revolution - Western Civilization Chapter...

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Western Civilization Chapter Nineteen “The French Revolution” Discontent with the Old Regime The rising expectations towards government created by the Enlightenment, led to criticism directed toward government inefficiency and corruption, and the privileged classes. The social stratification model failed to correspond to the realities of wealth and ability in French society. The clergy (First Estate) and nobility (Second Estate) representing only two percent of the total population of 24 million. Were essentially tax exempt The Third Estate made up the rest of the French population & bore the Failure of Mercantilism The economic environment of the 18 th century produced a major challenge to the state-controlled French economy. As economic conditions worsened in the 18 th century, the French state became poorer, and totally dependent on the poorest and most depressed sections of the economy for support. Besides begin heavily taxed, the peasants were also forced to fulfill the feudal dues. A rising middle class also began to assert themselves, desiring political and social power commensurate with the economic power. Enlightenment Ideals The intellectual currents of the 18 th century were responsible for creating a climate of opposition based on the political theories of John Locke, Jean Rousseau, Baron Montesquieu, and other philosophes. The economic ideas of the French physiocrats and Adam Smith (the Father of Modern Capitalism) also promoted the general reform-minded direction of the century in France.
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Financial Mismanagement The coming of revolution in France seemed a paradox in a nation that was one of the largest and richest in the world. Population was approximately 24 million. Paris was considered the crossroads of Enlightenment civilization. Dissatisfaction with the way France was administered reached a critical state during the reign of King Louis XVI (1774- 1792). French Debt The deepening public debt was of grave concern: The colonial wars with England, 1778-1783. French participation in the American Revolution. Maintaining a large military and naval establishment. The extravagant cost of maintaining the court at Versailles. Unable to secure loans from leading banking houses in Europe, due to poor credit, France edged closer to bankruptcy. Louis XVI’s finance adviser, Jacques Necker, proposed the taxing of the nobility. Inflation Between 1730 and the 1780s, there was an inflationary spiral which increased prices dramatically, while wages failed to adjust accordingly. Government expenses also continued to outstrip revenues. The French tax system could not produce the amount of taxes needed
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18 French Revolution - Western Civilization Chapter...

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