The French Revolution

Good Essays
At the end of the 18th century, France was the center of cultural sophistication. However, beneath the shiny surface, a storm was brewing. The absolute monarchy was broken; majority of France was starving and disgruntled with the system of government. As the Enlightenment took hold and ideas about the right kind of government began to spread, tension only began to increase. By the late 1780’s, France was in the middle of the French Revolution, thanks to weak leadership, the call for change across France’s social classes, and radical thinkers willing to make a stand.
By the time the late 1780’s dawned, France’s financial situation was bleak. Louis XIV amassed large amounts of debt through his costly wars and building the lavish palace of Versailles. After his death, France continued to fight costly wars; the most recent being the American Revolution, where they supplied 2.5 billion livres to the American cause. At the time, France was divided into three estates: the clergy (1st estate), the nobles (2nd estate), and the peasants (3rd estate). The first and second estates only consisted of 350,000 people combined yet held between 30 and 43% of the land. However, the two estates paid little to no taxes, meaning that the majority of France’s debt was left to be paid by the 22 million peasants who owned very little. France had a continually revolving door of finance ministers, all of whom advocated for fiscal restraint (at this point, 50% of France’s budget was spent on paying interest) and taking a more egalitarian approach to paying taxes. Louis XIV immediately rejected these notions, hence the string of them.
When Louis XIV inherited the throne, he was ill prepared to face the tumultuous situation. The monarchy was not as absolute...

... middle of paper ...

...he Jacobins gained the support of the people. However, it is when Louis tries to flee in June 1791, that the Jacobins get most of their support. Whatever respect and authority Louis had vanishes as he flees. Louis becomes “first servant” to the people and has no political authority left, leaving the door wide open for the Jacobins to take control of the government.
France only continued to spiral downward as the Jacobins grew in power. They were supported by the Parisian masses, which eventually allowed Robespierre to come to power in 1793. He, as a member of the Committee of Public Safety, saw thousands of “traitors” slaughtered for speaking out against the radical turn the revolution had taken. It was Robespierre’s death in 1794 that eventually ended the bloody revolution, though it left France in a bloody mess, leaving the way open for Napoleon to take control.
Get Access