Paper on French revolution

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french revolution



Q/ How important was Louis XVI in the collapse of the Ancien Regime?
King Louis xvi was an important factor in the collapse of the ancien regime in France
during the year of 1789. Although the king not fully responsible he still played a small
role in the ancien regime’s collapse, this is attributed to his lack of experience, his
irresponsibleness and lack of intelligence. The main reason for the collapse of the ancien
regime was the widening gap between the rich and the poor of France. The rich people,
comprising the king and church made up the first estate; whist the nobility made up the
second estate. These two estates controlled most of positions of public office and paid no
taxes. Peasants of which lived terrible lives; often in poverty and starvation dominated
the third estate. The French government at this time was nearly bankrupt; this was a
result of excessive court spending, low revenue razing and economic
mismanagement. King Louis xvi was ill suited for the leadership of France and
possessed a very complex personality. Although Louis seemed quite kind and generous by
nature, his manner was most usually brusque, cold and formal, marked by fits of ill humor
and sharp retorts. King Louis’s keeper of the seals had said,

“ I had never known anyone whose character was more contradicted by outward appearances.
He was really good and tender hearted. You could never talk to him of disasters or
accidents without seeing a look of compassion come over his face, yet his replies often
hard, his tone harsh, and his manner unfeeling. Hesitant, reserved and ungainly, his
appearance too was unprepossessing.”1

Throughout his life he was often hesitant, undignified, clumsy, reticent and
self-doubting. He appeared to people to have no will of his own and, only to act under
pressure. Had the king have any choice in the matter of being king, he certainly wouldn’t
have: he once remarked to one of his ministers who relinquished office,

“ How lucky you are! Why can’t I resign too? “2
Still impressionable and sensitive, his true feelings remained concealed behind a façade
once blunt and severe. As kind hearted as ever, the king could not bring himself to be
gracious to his courtiers, to offer them sympathy in times of grief or illness, to speak
to them other than off handedly or with harsh banter and tactless.

The king had no interest in the state affairs of France. Laboriously painstakingly, the
king occupied himself for hours with petty details, minor cash accounts and lists of game
killed in forests. As though to avoid the wider, complicated problems that the state was
experiencing; showing a total lack of interest in most matters. When the king took some
sort of interest in state affairs, he was always influence by his noblemen; and hence
doing no thinking for himself nor showing his own opinions. The first estate
controlled most of France, and controlled most areas of French society. During the Ancien
regime the church was unrivalled in terms of social, economic and spiritual power. The
first order, or estate of the realm owned nearly 10% of all land in France; estimated at
an area of 20,000 square miles. The income from the land, property and tithes totalled
over 150,000,000 livres a year. As the most privileged constitution in the state, it paid
no direct taxes; instead negotiating a free gift to the crown once every five years.

The vast majority of Frenchmen opposed the church. The church was riddled with corruption,
and was least concerned about the spiritual views it was meant to be preaching. The Church
clergy in France numbered no more than 100,000 people, yet it controlled all aspects of
French society. The church as an institution was not only rich but powerful, the church
held considerable influence over government policy. Nearly all schools in France were in
the hands of the church, which in addition also had it’s own courts of law. The church
also controlled most sources of information, since it had taken upon itself the role of
and responsibilities of censorship.

Despite the rich rolling acres most of the clergy were poor. The parish priests of the
clergy lived on low wages, and did there job because they believed in God; and because
they felt they were called to serve the peasants and underprivileged. On the other hand
their colleagues, the bishops and other high up church officials; did it because they were
born into the job. The bishops and other high church officials were of noble birth, and in
fact did it for the high wages and privileges. The bishops often had no belief in god and
were agnostics, and left the job when they felt they had to, often leaving to marry or for
other reasons.

The second estate was very rich and possessed many privileges like members of the church
did. The nobility were exempt from many taxes, this was granted on the reasons that they
were members of a military caste and paid their taxes in blood. However nobility was no
longer associated with the profession of arms. Some financial and judicial officers
ennobled their owners, which added a nobility of the robe.

The majority of peasants & bourgeoisie despised the nobles. The peasants were infuriated
with the nobles more so than the bourgeoisie, because they were the most heavily taxed and
worked. Having being obligated to feudal dues for the nobles and .





















Although Louis XVI (1754-93), king of France (1774-92), who lost his throne in the
French Revolution and was later beheaded by the revolutionary regime.

Louis was born at Versailles on August 23, 1754, the grandson of Louis XV. The deaths of
his two elder brothers and of his father, only son of Louis XV, made the young prince the
Dauphin of France in 1765. In 1770 he married Marie Antoinette, youngest daughter of
Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria. On Louis's accession, France was impoverished and
burdened with debts, and heavy taxation had resulted in widespread misery among the French
people. Immediately after he was crowned, aided by such capable statesmen as Finance
Minister Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, baron de l'Aulne, Interior Minister Chrétien
Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, and Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, comte de
Vergennes, Louis remitted some of the most oppressive taxes and instituted financial and
judicial reforms. Greater reforms were prevented, however, by the opposition of the upper
classes and the court. So strong was this opposition that in 1776 Turgot was forced to
resign and was replaced by financier Jacques Necker.

After Louis granted financial aid (1778-81) to the American colonies revolting against
Great Britain in the New World, Necker proposed drastic taxes on the nobility. He was
forced to resign in 1781, and statesman Charles Alexandre de Calonne, appointed finance
minister in 1783, borrowed money for the court until 1786, when the borrowing limit was
reached. The anger of the French people against taxes and the lavish spending of the court
resulted in 1788 in the recall of Necker, who, however, could not prevent the bankruptcy
of the government. In 1788 Louis was forced to call for a meeting of the representative
governmental body called the Estates-General, the first gathering of that assembly in 175
years. Once in session, the Estates-General assumed the powers of government. On July 14,
1789, the Parisian populace razed the Bastille, and a short time later imprisoned the king
and royal family in the palace of the Tuileries. In 1791 the royal family attempted to
escape to Austria, but they were caught and brought back to Paris. Louis swore obedience
to the new French constitution in 1791, but continued secretly to work against the
revolution and to plot intrigues with France's enemies. In 1792, when the National
Convention, the assembly of elected French deputies, declared France a republic, the king
was tried as a traitor and condemned to death. Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21,
1793, in the Place de la Révolution (now Place de la Concorde) in Paris.

Historians consider Louis XVI a victim of circumstances rather than a despot similar to
the former French kings Louis XIV and Louis XV. He was weak and incapable as king and not
overly intelligent. He preferred to spend his time at hobbies, such as hunting and making
locks, rather than at his duties of state, and he permitted his wife to influence him
unduly.

major transformation of the society and political system of France, lasting from 1789 to
1799. During the course of the Revolution, France was temporarily transformed from an
absolute monarchy, where the king monopolized power, to a republic of theoretically free
and equal citizens. The effects of the French Revolution were widespread, both inside and
outside of France, and the Revolution ranks as one of the most important events in the
history of Europe.

During the ten years of the Revolution, France first transformed and then dismantled the
Old Regime, the political and social system that existed in France before 1789, and
replaced it with a series of different governments. Although none of these governments
lasted more than four years, the many initiatives they enacted permanently altered
France’s political system. These initiatives included the drafting of several bills of
rights and constitutions, the establishment of legal equality among all citizens,
experiments with representative democracy, the incorporation of the church into the state,
and the reconstruction of state administration and the law code.

Many of these changes were adopted elsewhere in Europe as well. Change was a matter of
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