Modern Europe 1684-present
If They Are Hungry Then Let Them Eat Cake: The Extremities of the French Revolution
Throughout history, many civilizations started out with some form of a monarchy, that type of government in which one person rules a country. The most common monarchy was a royal family. Monarchies have proven to be successful where the ruler has been competent, rules in a way which strengthened their nation, and acted in the best interests of its citizens. Some monarchs strayed from these principles, and, instead, acting from greed, focused on their own personal satisfaction or gain. In France, this self-interest resulted in an enormous national debt, suppression of the lower class citizens, and high taxation of poor citizens. Historically, when this occurs, the citizens have risen up in revolt as they are no longer able to sit idly by and allow this type of rule to continue. The two most famous revolts were the American and the French Revolutions. The success of the Americans in gaining independence from King George greatly influenced the French to have a revolution of their own. Although the people of both countries sought freedom from monarchal rule, they differed in their goals and the means used to achieve those goals. The outcome was that the French Revolution was more extreme, more radical, and more violent than the American battle.
The purpose of the Patriots in America engaging in an organized battle with King George was to establish their own democracy on the new land for themselves. They had no desire to change the existing system of government in England. In the end, the English monarchy agreed to the separation. However, the French citizens, on the other hand, wanted a democratic ideology for their entire nation. They sought to change every segment of France, including the social structure, the economy, the political system, and the legal system. The existence of the feudal state in France, with an extreme difference between the classes, was a contributing factor to the chaos that occurred during this revolution. Although King Louis XVI showed some support, at times, for the people, he never wanted to give up his power or control of his country. As a result, the people were forced to use extreme measures to gain equality and try to bring France out of financial and political turmoil. Fear, suspicion, and desperation drove the revolutionaries to commit violent and fanatical acts to gain the attention for their cause.
At the beginning of the revolution, France suffered enormous national debt, caused by Louis XV and Louis XVI’s willingness to partake in multiple wars, including the Seven Year War and the American Revolution. Compounding the problem was the royals’ excessive spending and extravagant taste. While the monarchy and the nobles were enjoying lavish parties and living in luxury, the commoners and peasants were starving and unemployed. In an attempt to reduce the debt, Louis XVI levied a five percent taxation on all citizens, who were already paying the highest tax that had ever been imposed. This money went to the government and clergy and provided no benefit to the people paying the taxes. The lower class did not have the means to pay this taxation, but they were forced by law to pay a tax which they couldn't pay. Anger and resentment rose and added to their hatred for the current governmental system. The French citizens loved their country, but they were powerless to take any action to save it from being destroyed by debt. Their nationalism spurred them into action.
There is a point when a person’s hatred is so intense that it clouds their judgment and common sense. It does not happen over-night, but it gradually builds up over time. The French people had been tolerant with the monarchy for generations. But, it became apparent that the monarchy had no respect for nor did he care about the welfare the lower classes. Instead of living modestly and...
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