Causes and Outcomes of the French Revolution
A common theme of the historical French Revolution of the late 1700s is the bloodshed associated with a new execution device developed by Antoine Louis, the guillotine (Acton). This negative connotation of the Revolution resides in the minds of the French and people all around the world. Although the French Revolution has contained a fair amount of bloodshed, its aftermath on the French nation was overall positive for the French people. There were several contributing factors to the beginning of this revolution and even though theorists have divergent opinions on the factors that started the rebellion, there are three widely accepted causes: financial status of the country, overpopulation, and the relative unfairness of the French political system. By the end of the French revolution the French people had gained a new leader, new rights as people, abolished feudalism, and got rid of the corrupt government that the people had struggled with for years. After being a considerably rich state the French government fell into a large amount of debt after losing several wars during the 1700s, during which a great deal of land in Canada and a majority of their Indian territories were also lost at the peace of Paris in 1763 (Doyle). During this time France had also provided money and military support to assist America in the American Revolution against the British in the 1770s which depleted a great deal of their wealth (Greenlaw, Economic). In order to diminish Frances debt the government relied on the revenue made from taxing the lower class. At this time France was divided into three classes; nobles, clergy and everyone else (the underclass). The underclass was made mostly of peasants and manual workers; work then would consist of longer hours for less pay. Frances taxing ideas were not based on a system of equality, but instead focused on taxing the underclass while the higher wealthier class made gains from these taxes (Doyle). Members of the upper class Bourgeoisie, composed of the nation’s small minority of noblemen, clergy, merchants, and professionals, found increases to their wealth due to an overall economic growth in the 18th century (Greenlaw Economic). Because of these trends, the underclass became less willing to support the current political system, known as the ancien (old) regime, which was lead by the wealthy. This traditional system consisted of three estates which all voted on legal issues. These three groups consisted of France’s three social classes; nobility, clergy, and the commoners. Because the nobility controlled the clergy, nearly all the voting in the old regime was done in favor of the nobles, who composed only five percent of the French population (Acton). The beginning of the revolution started with the serious change in the political workings of France that attempted to give the higher classes more power. In 1789 at the city of Versailles, members of the three Estates had an argument on whether or not they should make decisions by siding with the popular vote, thereby giving the common class the advantage being that they had a substantially larger number of representatives. Because the representatives of the common estate was larger than the other two and often started arguments in favor of siding with the popular vote, the royal officials, who were in favor of the upper two estates, decided to lock the lower class representatives outside of their meeting hall in order to give them no say at all on June 20 1789. In retaliation, the third estate arranged to rendezvous in the royal tennis court and pledged not to disband their group until their demands were met. Their main goal was to overthrow the old political system with a new constitution. This pledge, later known as the Tennis Court Oath, only temporarily paid off, as the French King convinced the other two classes to join the side of the third group, while he secretly called the military forces...
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