The French Revolution was a significant milestone in European history,
remembered by many in historical and literary works. The situation in France, mostly
under the leadership of Louis XVI, had a negative influence in France, thus creating a
perfect climate for the French Revolution. France was plagued by both debt, and poor
France was poverty-stricken and burdened with some of the highest debts.
financial side, Louis XVI was aided by: Finance Minister Anne Robert Jauques Turgot,
and Interior Minister Chretien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes (*The economic
origins of the French revolution, pg. 4). Louis introduced some of the most oppressive
taxes and instituted financial reforms. Greater reforms were prevented by the opposition
of the upper classes and court.
This opposition was so strong that Turgot was forced to
resign and was replaced by Jauques Necker. Lengthy wars, the support to the American
Revolution and the gross amount of taxes paid and the lavish spending of the court
contributed to the huge national debt. The governments financial problems were made
worse after 1740 by the renewal of costly wars (the French revolution, pg. 9).
The war of
the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years War (1756-1763) were
European wars over the domination of central Europe and colonial and commercial wars
between France and Great Britain (*Aspects of the French Revolution pg.). At their
end, in 1763 France had lost almost all of its colonial empire in America and India. In
1778 the French launched an attack against Britain in the American Revolution.
were hoping to weaken old rivalries and regain lost colonies. The hopes of the French
were not realized and their participation in the war increased an already heavy national
debt. After Louis XVI granted financial aid (1778-81) to the American colonies
revolting against Great Britain, Necker proposed drastic taxes on the nobility. Necker
was forced to resign in 1781 (Louis XVI and M.
Antoinette ..pg 37) because of the
discontentment of the people. Charles Alexandre deCalonne replaced him in 1783 and
borrowed money for the court until the borrowing limit was reached (* Canadian
Encyclopedia ref: france, revolution ).
The anger of the French people against taxes,
debt and lavish spending on the Court resulted in the recall of Necker in 1788, who still
could not prevent bankruptcy of the government. During the next couple of years the
financial crisis steadily worsened, because the government was bankrupt. Louis was
forced to call a meeting with a delegate of the Estates-General, ( a government group
consisting of representatives of the clergy, nobility and commoners). Once in the
meeting the Estates-General took power of the government.
One of the other causes of
the national debt was at the fault of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Louis XVI was
described as not overly intelligent, weak and incapable king (* Encarta, ref: Louis XVI).
But he was intelligent enough to get money from the government. It was well known
that Louis was more concerned with his own personal affairs than with the interests of
the court and the people.
Often work bored him and he left his work up to his advisors
an ministers. He preferred to spend a lot time and the peoples money on extravagant
things, and his wife. Rather than paying back previous debts and helping the situation,
he increased taxes on the peasants and spent more money, worsening the predicament.
By 1787, the national debt was 112,000,000 livres(* the French Revolution, Albert.
..pg. 25) and continued to get worse, sharpening the national debt even more.
In the time leading up into and during the French Revolution there was class
tensions, often between the nobility and the peasants. There were also poor living
conditions. Some say that these situations are not Louis XVIs fault but were problems
he inherited with the throne. So he cannot be blamed for the events leading into the
In this time period there were class tensions. The nobles had all the
privileges and rights. The peasants were stepped on from every angle. So what made
the nobles so desirable? There was glamour, distinction and recognition that the noble
They had a range of privileges that they received. Nobles took
precedence on public occasions, and carried swords. (the French Revolution, sydenham,
pg 61)They were entitled to a trial at a special courts. They also enjoyed financial
advantages. They paid no duties on transferring feudal property and nobility conferred