1789: The Road to Revolution • “…the aristocracy opened the way to the bourgeois revolution, then to the popular revolution of the peasants – and found itself buried under the ruins of the Old Regime.” – Georges Lafebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution
The French Monarchy:1775 - 1793 Marie Antoinette & Louis XVI
Why is it important? • The Common Slogan, “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,” had and still has major influence. • Liberty (Freedom): The revolution ended the ancien regime (old order) - feudal order – in France and all of the privileges that went along with it. • Equality – The revolution sought to make all French citizens and French regions equal before the law. • Fraternity (brotherhood) – The revolution sought to create a brotherhood (nationalism) among the French through language and culture.
The Three Estates • Clergy (First Estate): officials in the Catholic Church • Privileges: • Its own court of law • Subject to none of the ordinary direct taxes • Made donations to the king. • Collected tithes on its property – about a tenth of the kingdom (from members of the third estate). • Closely connected to the monarchy whose “divine right” was symbolized through a religious coronation ceremony.
The Three Estates • Nobility (Second Estate): 400,000 out of a population of 23,000,000 • Privileges: • Able to carry a sword • Exemption from taxes like the taille (a tax on land ownership), and from obligations for road service and quartering troops • Nobles owned about a 20% of the land of France and received feudal dues or taxes (from members of the third estate).
The Three Estates • Third Estate: • about 99 percent – including all commoners from beggars and peasants to merchants and financiers (the bourgeoisie mentioned above). • Peasants made up about 4/5 of the “Third Estate” and owned about owned about 2/5 of the land. • Struggling peasants tried to make up for their poverty with extra work. This often came in the form of the “putting out system” in which women of peasant households did spinning and weaving which was sold off to be turned into finished goods. • Paid almost all of the taxes that funded the government like the income tax known as the capitation.
Origins of the French Revolution • Massive Debt • Bad crops and starvation • The Cultural Climate • The Enlightenment • Promoted rights and equality • Undermined confidence in tradition (especially “divine right”) • “Bad Press” – pamphlets, gossip sheets, exposes, and pornography • Portrayed the monarchy as a decadent, ridiculous despotism.
Origins of the French Revolution • Class Conflict • A growing middle class – the bourgeoisie – was becoming the economic backbone of France (its bankers, lawyers, merchants, artisans, and industrialists), yet they were being shut out of many pursuits like military leadership and certain industries like mining by nobles who had purchased privileges for themselves. • However, many of the nobles who secured these jobs were not paying many of the taxes that could have saved France from economic ruin. • Both the nobles and bourgeoisie began to demand more of a say in governmental affairs, especially as economic troubles worsened.
The Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution • To avenge his grandfather’s loss to the British in the Seven Years’ War, King Louis XVI provided financial and military aid to the Americans. • Both lead to financial deficits. And the American Revolution also created future French Revolutionaries like the Marquis de Lafayette, a close friend of George Washington.
Fiscal Crisis and Political Deadlock • Jacques Turgot, a financial minister (advisor), for Louis XVI wanted to reform the French economy. • eliminating many of the privileges for nobles • Limiting the spending on the Louis’ court (spending at Versailles). • Lessening the burden on peasants by eliminating the corvee (an obligation of peasants to spend time working on royal roads). • None of this set well with those who had benefited from such privileges, so Louis took the easy way out and dismissed Turgot.
Fiscal Crisis and Political Deadlock • Turgot was replaced by Jacques Necker, who approached the economic crisis by taking out huge loans at large interest rates to finance the government. This was only a short-term solution, however, as interest payment amounted to half of the royal budgets by the 1780s.
Fiscal Crisis and Political Deadlock • Another advisor of Louis’, Charles Calonne, wanted to create a new tax, the territorial subvention, to be levied on the production of all landed property. Callonne convinced the king to convene the an Assembly of Notables to get their agreement. • The Assembly of Notables (nobility) not only refused his request, they demanded that Louis convene the Estates General for the first time since 1614. The nobility was likely interested in gaining more political power for itself and maintaining their privileges.
Estates General • Estates General – a body representing the three estates (met in May and June of 1789). • Louis eventually agreed to call a meeting of the Estates General, which created a great deal of public enthusiasm as well as debate. Though they were 99 percent of the population, the third estate had traditionally only voted as one of three orders. Emmanuel Sieyes wrote perhaps one of the most important pamphlets focused on this topic, “What is the Third Estate?” Backed by the Enlightenment and increased economic power the Third Estate demanded more representation.
The Suggested Voting Pattern:Voting by Estates Clergy 1st Estate 1 Aristocracy 2nd Estate 1 1 Commoners 3rd Estate Louis XIV insisted that the ancient distinction of the three orders be conserved in its entirety.
The Number of Representativesin the Estates General: Vote by Head! Clergy 1st Estate 300 Aristocracy 2nd Estate 300 648 Commoners 3rd Estate