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Economical Reasons Behind The French Revolution History Essay

The French Revolution is one of the most important historic events in European history because it was already a major turning point in the change and the evolution of political systems, economic and social developments, not only in France but in all Europe and the revolution have had results that influenced the whole world for many years. Moreover, historians hold different views in the causes of the French revolution.

The General conditions before the French Revolution in France:

As for the general conditions in France before the French Revolution, the capitalist system in France was taking a lot of developments and growth, and the new system was wrestles with the feudal system. France has had the resources, vast agricultural, a popular industrial fabric, and also an operating foreign trade. The number of inhabitants has risen significantly from in 1726-1780 AD, and reflected negatively on the situation of the popular masses, because the prices have increased with the development of capitalism, and dropped the financial level of the masses and their standard of living, and began suffering from a difficult life, and began to work in order to eliminate of this suffering, this situation was the catalyst for the revolution, furthermore, the Conditions of workers and peasants, and the general public who were called the third estate was very bad and getting worse with time.

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The feudalism was no longer as it was in the Middle Ages, the peasants take charge of the land on which he lives, which are in formal terms the property of the feudal lords who give it to farmers for certain obligations, he would take a percentage of winning or working without pay on a farm in the feudal to a number of days, and that such commitments limit the potential financial and personal freedom. And the masses of the people were obliged to pay double taxes to the feudal lords and to the government and the king and the most horrible and revolting tax of these taxes was the salt tax that was called gabelle it was hateful for several reasons. Firstly only the Government has power over the sale of salt. Secondly the Government sells salt at high prices. Thirdly the government imposes on the people to buy salt, even if they do not need it.

The situation for these masses financially is very bad, as a result of capitalist development the bourgeoisie group appeared in France, and this group was working in order to participate in political power, and resorted to gain support from the popular masses, which took inciting against the government, and toke advantage of their situation in order to overthrow the existing political system in the France.

The French society is divided as well as the bourgeoisie into two classifications:

1- The nobility and the clergy, who enjoyed all the rights, privileges and were exceeded from taxes.

2- The general public by other names the third estates who were farmers and craftsmen, workers and bourgeois and they were deprived of all rights and privileges and have to pay taxes.

This smoothed the social abnormal situation on the French Revolution; nevertheless we will concentrate on the economical reasons that smoothed the way to the French revolution.

Economic reasons:

These reasons were represented in the system applied in France and the poor financial situation, which led to economic crises, and in order to clarify that, we say that the taxation system in the French Kingdom has been marked by the injustice and the inequality between individuals of the French society, in addition to the taxes multiplicity and the limiting payment to a specific category of the society's members.

The most important taxes that has been levied were head tax, income tax, real estate tax, salt tax, and tax of tenth, and other several taxes, However the problem was not limited to multiple taxations, but on the method of its collection.

The clergy men did not pay their share of taxes in full, for example, the clergy men did not do anything but pay the tax known as free grant, which was not a small amount, while the nobles did not pay tax except only twenties tax and the head tax. Moreover, the salt tax, in particular, was levied by an unjust way.

France had been experiencing a financial deficit in its financial budgets for a long period with roots and extensions to the days of Louis XIV, but this shortfall had became different in a way that no owner in the political system could stand to cover up or overcome it, because it had become clear to the eye, and began to reflect its results negatively on the conditions and situations of the French popular masses. Also, this had been increased by what the French Treasury had suffered from the burden of financing the American Revolution operations, in support of the Americans in their revolt against the British rule. In addition, the nobles had extra expenses, and expenditures of the retinue and the entourage that had become so unbearable.

We can take an example of the financial deficit in the French budget, the financial year that had preceded the revolution, and we mean 1788. The fees and the expenses of the Treasury had reached about 629 million French francs, while revenues to this treasury were not of more than 503 million in a shortfall of 136 million, which had constituted by 20 % of the overall budget. The expenditures of the palace and the privileges of some certain individuals from the developed social classes on the social ladder had been monitored about 6% of the total budget against the expenses of services and the education did not exceed 2%. This difference was clearly one of the reasons that led to the difficult economic conditions. Furthermore, reflected negatively on the social and the political situation because it was difficult to separate these causes from each other.

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Moreover, it was known that the poor economic situation in France was felt by the King Louis XVI, and he had a desire to repair the deteriorating conditions. Therefore, he had assigned one of the well known economists in France, Turku, as a general observer during the period 1774-1776 AD. Also, the foundation of the king's ideas began with several reforms that can be summarized as follows:-

The application of fair tax system on all individuals of the French society.

The launch of commercial freedom between the various mandates of the French monarchy, and between France and other countries.

Eliminating the demonstrations of corruption in the government departments, and assign tasks to the Trustees.

Limiting the powers of the church.

It was possible for these reforms and economic ideas to achieve success in the French economic if they were persevered. In addition, they have might lead to the failure of the French revolution, and the reform of the current situation. However, the economist Turku's course of actions had collided with the interests of the entourage and the upper classes, and by the assistance of the Queen, the king had been enforced to expel the economist Turku and his appropriation, and to cancel all its terms. Therefore, "Necker" had been appointed with the task of general financial controller in the French monarchy during the period 1776-1781 AD. Moreover, he tried to take action in some important reforms in the economic and the financial life of France.

"Necker" had tried to save the treasury from bankruptcy through loans held by less benefit than ever before. However, the entourage and the upper classes indicated dissatisfaction for two reasons:-

Depending on the rate reduction and the entourage and upper classes schemes.

His extraordinary step to prepare and write detailed reports on the financial affairs in France, then publishing it to the people

It included very hard facts; the people had recognized some of the secrets that were not knowledgeable for them earlier regarding the financial life, economic development, and the situation experienced by the retinue in France. The people's resentment had been increased, and he believed in re-examining the distribution of taxes at various levels, in the equality and the justice. He also called for equality between regions and the States in the French Kingdom. Moreover, considering the third estate, he believed that they will no longer tolerate any more tax burdens. And the fact that these views were in conflict with the nobility and the clergy, he had been expelled from his position. Therefore, afterward the task of the controller was assigned to another economist, "Kallon" in the period 1783-1787 AD, and he presented a reforming program included the following main points:-

Cancellation of income tax.

Lifting internal customs barriers between the U.S. and the French territories.

Imposing a tax on lands and not on persons.

He lifted the general public capacity of purchasing by reducing the head tax and the salt tax on the third estate.

But that program had not been applied truly due to its conflict with the power centers in the French Kingdom represented by the entourage, members of the upper classes, nobles, and clergy. Therefore, this economic program had been failed.

"Dien Prien" had succeeded "Kallon" in the position of Financial Controller who failed to achieve something due to the difficulty of the problem, its enlargement, and the incapability to face it and to develop a clear and a real vision to the problem. And also, the conflict of every reform program with the interests of the entourage, the clergy and the upper classes. He had already presented his resignation as to make "Necker" come again to the office of the General Controller in the French monarchy, and he remained in this economic position until the French Revolution.

The constant change of the General Controller position means that there was a genuine need to reform the economic and financial conditions, but this need was conflicting with the interests of the upper classes including nobles, clergy, and the entourage even with the royal court itself. Therefore, economic conditions had largely and distinctly participated in the wake of the French people, and push it to the revolution that changed all circumstances and conditions and according to clear and true perceptions to all the problems that were experienced by the French people.

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Thus, the poor economic conditions, which were due to wastefulness, the weakness of kings, and the inability of ministers to uphold the standard policy, led to a situation of economic disorder in the country, and the worsening of the state's liability.

"Causes of the French Revolution", Wikipedia, Bairoch (1989). "L'economie francaise dans le contexte european a la fin du XVLLLe siecle". Revue Economique 40 (6): 939â€"964.


Paul Halsall, Modern Western Civilization, Class 10: The French Revolution - Origins


Spark Notes, The French Revolution (1789â€"1799), France’s Financial Crisis: 1783â€"1788


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