European History - Was the French Revolution Preventable?

European History - Was the French Revolution Preventable?

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Was the French Revolution Preventable?


The French Revolution was a major transformation of the society and political system of France, lasting from 1789 to 1799. During the course of the Revolution, France was changed from an absolute monarchy, to a republic of supposedly equal and free citizens. The effects of the French Revolution were widespread, both inside and outside of France, and impacted all of Europe. At times the outcome of revolt led to social change and at times it just led to unnecessary bloodshed. Was this revolution inevitable? Was there something different that the government or people could have done to prevent the horrible atrocities of The Reign of Terror under Robespierre and his men? There are clear social, economic and political changes that could have been made too prevent this revolution from occurring when it did. However, although the government could have postponed this revolution, it was also somewhat inevitable, because of the great differences in the society of the peasants and the nobles divided the entire society. The government was also just trying to make too many things right at the wrong time and this is why they could possibly have not avoided the French Revolution.

Economically, many changes could have been made in the way that would have prevented such anger arising from the people. However, there are also a few problems that could not have been avoided. Economic decline in the 1770s may have frustrated some bourgeois in their rise to power and wealth, and rising bread prices just before the Revolution certainly increased dissatisfaction among workers and peasants. France also suffered from harsh economic problems. Poor farm harvests by farmers hurt the economy, and trade rules from the Middle Ages still survived, making trade difficult. At this time, the gap between the rich and the poor was becoming greater, with the poor becoming poorer, and the rich becoming richer. A central bank was nowhere to be found, there was no paper currency and in general, taxes were becoming greater for the peasants. In this economically challenged society what could have been done to change all of these economic problems from the beginning?

One of the major problems that the government should have dealt with long ago is the use of the funds that they did have. Under rulers in the past such as Louis the XIV, poor economic decisions were made. Louis the XIV did not invest wisely, he used major funds in trade and exploration causes that were not gaining the French anything, but they continued to invest in.

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Also, France became very involved with other surrounding nation's trade market. The French government also borrowed much money to pay for the wars of Louis XIV. Louis continued to borrow money to fight wars and to keep French power alive in Europe. These costs greatly increased the national debt, which was at the time, already too high. The problem with this is that the French were not profiting from the investments that they made, and this is what caused them to be in such great economic debt. This debt lead to the heavy taxation of peasants to make up for losses, and an eventual revolution. What could the French government have done to prevent these mistakes? They should have learned from their first mistakes and had not continued to suffer from them. Once they realized that they were not profiting from their exploits, they should have discontinued them. Also, France never should have fired their financial aid, just because things get better for a while. When France decided its aid was no longer needed because they seemed to have the problem in control, is when the problem came back again. Eventually under Louis the XVI, two men were appointed as aids, Turgot and Necker . Although these men did try to make change, most of the reforms were soon undone as the result of pressure from a variety of financial groups, and the government continued to borrow at high rates of interest through the 1780s.

By 1789 many French people had become critical of the monarchy, even though it had been largely successful in militarily defending France and in suppressing religious and political violence. The peasants resented the rising and unequal taxes, the persecution of religious minorities, and government interference in their private lives. These resentments, coupled with an inefficient government and an old-fashioned legal system, made the government seem increasingly bad to the French people. The royal court at Versailles, which had been developed to impress the French people and Europe generally, came to symbolize the waste and corruption of the entire French government. (Encarta) How could the Government possibly had made this situation better? Why did the government not respond quicker when the peasants wanted more rights?

The government was well aware of the problem that they were causing, and the unrest among the peasants, so why did they not stop the taxes and bring peace to the divided nation? It was not as easy as just stopping taxes because the French government was still in a large debt to other nations. Also at the same time the Government was trying to get the full support of the nobles, because they would need them to help make the country thrive eventually. Also since the Government could not have the backing of the peasants or all of the nobles, they need an estate that they could always rely on and have them vote the way they wanted. So in trying to make friends with the nobles, the rulers did not tax the nobles as heavily as the other estates because they were trying to gain their support. In the sense, the Revolution could not have been prevented because the French Government was trying very hard to please both sides, fixing the debt and pleasing the nobles. The government could not win this part of the problem because either way, one group had to give.

Economically speaking, the French Revolution could have been most likely not have been stopped, unless decisions in the past could have been changed. The excess spending by Louis the XIV caused this once great nation to fall into a deep period of debt and economic problems. In the long term, the liberation of the economy from royal controls, and the development of a uniform civil law code helped pave the way for the future. But the effects of war on the French economy offset the positive effects of these changes because the economy in general was probably set back a generation.
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