French Revolution

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Modern European History Jonah Haines 1293 Mr. Potts

ìPrivilege not poverty caused the French Revolutionî
To what extent do you agree?

The French Revolution was essentially a class war between the emerging Bourgeoisie against the Privileged class, this meant they saw the Privileged class as the only hurdle between themselves and equality within French society. Many of the ideas they pursued stemmed from the enlightenment and they believed that in order to gain their full economic, social and political potential and gain equality, the Bourgeoisie had to eradicate the privileges that were halting their rise in society. To do this they had to seize power for themselves and gaining power within the government and making badly needed changes, such as, improving the tax system, creating a fair system of production where profits went to the producer, improving the whole fiscal system of the government, improving the geographical divisions of France and the problems they caused, plus many more. The revolution was a fight for equality and recognition by the Bourgeoisie, it was not a revolt against poverty, for many of the French people had been living in poverty for centuries and had learnt to live with it.

France had prospered in the Eighteenth century. France had had no major famines or plagues, its population had increased, there had been no wars on its soil, industry such as textiles was doing well and offshore trading had increased enormously. It was the Bourgeoisie that had enabled this abundance of wealth and they were emerging as the economic power inside France. But their new found power was being smothered by the privileged class. The privileged class of nobility and clergy, who owned the bulk of the land, were using their ancient rights to plunder most of the profits that were made by the lower classes. This meant that the;

ìProsperity came only to those who held fairly large estates, who exercised feudal rights, or who could manipulate farm rents.î1 The only people who fell under these categories were the Nobles of the robe and the clergy. So in order to get the prosperity equally divided in society and thus profit themselves, the bourgeoisie had to get rid of the privileged classes ancient rights. To do this they had to revolt against the government, that supported the privileged classes and which was reluctant to make the necessary reforms. It is seen here that it was the Bourgeoisie were struggling against the Privileged class for their rightful share of profits that was taken away by the privileges of the upper class, not a fight by the peasants who were living in poverty.

Taxes and prices were another battlefield for the Bourgeoisie and the Aristocracy to fight on. The tax base in France fell on the middle class who were the producers. Some of the taxes in France were: the Taille which taxed commoners, nobility exempted, the Capitation which was a poll tax on where you lived and what services you used, nobility exempted, the Vingtieme was a five per cent tax on all income, again the nobility didnít have to pay. There were also taxes on salt and a tax whenever a person passed over a provincial border, these taxes meant that a large cut of their profits from their work went to the government. This was made worse when the government found itself in major debt. Because the government supported the Aristocracy, who didnít pay taxes, the middle class was taxed even more. This created resentment for the Aristocracy because they were the ones who were getting all the money through their privileges yet it was the lower, poorer, classes who were getting taxed. This spurred an even bigger will for equality. To solve this problem their had to be an equal society where taxes were paid according to wealth or land and most importantly by everybody. To achieve this the Bourgeoisie had to be able to...
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