French Pre-Revolutionary Government Essay

French Pre-Revolutionary Government Essay

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 The ancient regime was an outdated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In conclusion, the ancien regime was clearly an outdated, old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