Origins Of The French Revolution

This essay has a total of 1091 words and 5 pages.

Origins Of The French Revolution

Long-term government financial chaos played a lead role in the cause of the French
Revolution. This point is supported by William Doyle, in Origins of the French Revolution.
Government debt and lack of available funding seriously deteriorated authority and credit,
leading to extreme measures in taxation, thereby acting as a catalyst of the French
Revolution.

Doyle makes his point by arguing that France was approaching a state of fiscal ruin as far
back as August 20, 1786, indicating that "Calonne, comptroller-general of the royal
finances, first came to Louis XVI and informed him that the state was on the brink of
financial collapse," at that time. (p.43) Although Doyle enforces the point that there are
no concrete records to support the state of the government at that time, there are figures
derived by Calonne, after extensive research on his part, that present the dire financial
situation of the French government. The evidence shows a debt of approximately a quarter
of the annual revenue, steadily rising, through increased short and long term loans.
(p.43)

Debt was not a new problem for France around the time of the Revolution. According to
Doyle, previous wars and conflict left the government finances in serious trouble.
Expenditures grossly outweighed revenue. In an attempt to rectify the situation, proposals
were put in place to save money, however, debt reduction was seemingly impossible and
reduction in armed forces funding would put France's stability at risk. Taxation appeared
to be the only release from debt, therefore, there were substantial rises in direct and
indirect taxation. The problem with that solution was that all that could really be done
was to "redistribute the burden so that it fell more equitably and was levied with more
accuracy." (p.46)

Bankruptcy might have been an option for France, but to declare such a thing would put the
creditability of the government at risk. In order to maintain the ability to borrow funds
and retain the honor of a stable government, Doyle points out that France could not embark
upon this option at that time. A banker, Necker, gained control over royal finances in
1777. He was able to raise funds from a variety of sources, and thereby was able to
"finance a major war without any new taxation." (p.49) The problem here was that so much
had been borrowed that when Calonne took over financial control he found no funding and
low stocks. In order to preserve the royal reputation and prevent a public concern, what
money there was, was spent on lavish unnecessary items and new projects. Calonne proceeded
to borrow even more money, further increasing a potentially devastating situation. Doyle
points out that Calonne may have realized the terrible financial situation had the king
created a central treasury and formal records and accounts. By the time Calonne could
compile and report on the royal financial state, it was far too late for repair.

In thorough agreement with Doyle's points on the dismal financial status of France's
governing institution, I believe this created an uprising of turmoil and discontent among
social classes. Attempts at absolutism by the monarchy were to impose a series of new and
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