French Pre-Revolutionary Government

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French Pre-Revolutionary Government

The ancien regime was an expression used to describe the system of

government, laws and institutions which preceded the French Revolution

of 1789. The system relied heavily on the 'seigneurial system', based

largely on the medieval feudal system by which the monarch had

absolute power, most of the clergy (first estate) and the nobility

(second estate) were very wealthy, and the peasants (third estate)

were oppressed by heavy taxation and made to work as virtual slaves

for their landlords. It was this system which was an important

contributing factor to the resentment which developed between the

poor, who made up three quarters of France's population at the time,

and the nobles, and eventually led to the uprising of the lower

classes and revolution in 1789. The ancient regime was an outdated

system which ignored the demands of social and economic progress in

favour of keeping the third estate in check and attempting to ensure

that France was a dominant power in Europe. In most European countries

the system of feudalism had died out in the Middle Ages. Although

there were still clear boundaries between rich and poor, this no

longer played a practical role in the political system. However in

France the rigid system which dictated the social and economic

standing of all the country's citizens, from the King to the poorest

peasant, was still very prominent. The King was second only to God,

while the clergy and nobles, many of them very wealthy, paid no taxes

and the peasants lived in poverty serving the landlords and carrying

the weight of the rest of France through the heavy taxes they were

forced t...

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restricted the growth of industry and trade and the increase in food

prices led to riots among the lower classes. The French government did

not seem to be able to manage their finances so that the economy would

improve and the people would feel fairly treated.

In conclusion, the ancien regime was clearly an outdated, old

fashioned system which was biased towards the wealthy and did nothing

to improve the French economy. Instead of making France more powerful

the ancien regime heightened tensions within the country and created

unrest among the peasants who began to resent the government for

taxing them, the landlords for treating them badly and the King for

failing to do anything to rectify the situation, resulting in

discontentment which increased over the years until it came to a head

in the revolution of 1789.
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