Causes of the French Revolution
The French Revolution was a long lasting, ten-year period beginning in 1789 and eventually ending in 1799. It marked one of the most important events in history, leading to many transformations throughout France. At the time, France was the most powerful state in Europe but it still took part in the Revolution. During this era, France had been socially unstable. Although dividing the classes into three estates seemed as if it were a great idea, these estates were treated unequally. While the other estates enjoyed their privileges, the Third estate did not own any equal rights. To add to this inequality, the third estate was given numerous economical issues. Citizens of the third estate had to pay all the taxes imposed by the king as the other estates were exempted from it. These economical issues were also greatly influenced by the rise in the staple diet of the people, bread. This inflation of prices within their foremost food contributed to the cause of the Revolution. Due to the discrimination of the three estates, France was politically unstable. Nobles significantly appreciated their privileges; being exempt from paying taxes, having absolute power, having political freedom, and voting out the people of the third estate. The common people had to input great labor and pay heavy taxes while their voices went unheard politically. The Revolution was a time of transformation and inequality. France’s social, economic, and political disparity led to the innovation and transformation of the French Revolution.
To begin, France was socially unsteady. The third estate differed far off from the first and second estates. The first two estates consisted of clergy and noblemen, while the third estate consisted of merchants, businessmen, lawyers, and peasants. This was an unfair and unequal society that contributed to the French Revolution. The third estate is known to have a higher population but fewer privileges. Unlike the third estate, the first and second estates had political power and authority. They did not have to participate in the payment of taxes nor did they need to serve in the military. “1% of the people [First Estate] owned 10% of the land. 2% of the people [Second Estate] owned 35% of the land. 97% of the people [Third Estate] owned 55% of the land” (Document 2). During the Old Regime, the first two estates made up only 3% of the population, yet they owned 55% of the land; this was nearly the amount of land the third estate held. In fact, the third estate made up the well majority of the population. Ninety seven percent of the people were apart of this estate yet they received unequal privileges. As stated in The French Revolution- Origins, “First Estate: The Clergy-1% of pop, with 10% of land. They had wealth, land, privileges and they levied a tax on the peasantry.” (Paul Halsall). The clergy, or first estate, clearly had greater freedoms than the peasants. They received acres of land and great wealth. Also, taxed the peasants. While making up only 1% of the population, the first estate still owned 10% of the land. This created many uprisings that fought to maintain equality between each of the estates resulting in the French Revolution.
To contribute to the disparity, the third estate was presented with economical issues. The people of this estate were to pay taxes while the wealthier nobilities were exempt from taxes. The nobles owned land and received little financial income. Although people of the third estate owned fewer land, they were forced to pay heavy taxes. As educated professor and historian, Steven Kreis, mentioned in The Origins of the French Revolution, “By 1789, France was still paying off debts incurred by the wars of Louis XIV, that is, wars of the late 17th and early 18th century. Furthermore, a number of social groups and institutions did not pay taxes of any kind. … And of course, it was simply brilliant planning to continue to tax the peasants -...