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French Revolution

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The French Revolution caused some very positive ramification to the society in France and other parts of Europe. Some people believe that the French revolution did more harm than good for society. France followed in America's footsteps towards their own revolution. A major shift power would be seen within the short time period of 1789-1799, and with it a large advancement away from the absolutist government of France.

During the late 1700's France was the most powerful estate in the world. The effects of the country's revolution would soon spread from France to the rest of Europe and finally result in a continental war. The French Revolution was based mostly on the Third Estate's desire to obtain liberty and equality. (Carlye) France's social system was set up in such a way that it was only a matter of time before a revolution took place. The economic classes of France were set in three estates. The first estate was the church or clergy, the second estate was the nobles, and the third estate consisted of peasants and the uneducated. France's economic system allowed for the highest taxation of the third estate while the clergy members were exempt from taxes, and the nobles paid little or no taxes at all. People who are starving and can barely afford to survive can only pay so much before they refuse to pay anymore. It is not surprising that the third estate was driven to immediate action with Louis XVI's demand for higher taxes. (Hampson) Ideas of liberty and equality sprang up with the onset of the American Revolution and paved a way for the third estate to change France's system of government. Philosophers such as Voltaire spread ideas of reform that excited the peasants to believe there was a chance for a better life.

Along with the social causes of the revolution, economic and political events brought about the desire for change as well. Economic conditions such as poor harvests made the price of food rose to such high prices that half a worker's wages were spent on trying to feed the family alone. The taxation system took money from the peasants, yet they did not reap any of the benefits that were supposed to come from their money. For example, King Louis XVI lived such and extravagant life that three percent of the nation's GNP was spent on royal family lifestyle. (Carlye) Wars also played a major role in depleting the nation's funds. The cost of maintaining a standing army exceeded half of France's expenditures. The taxes were not used however to improve infrastructure, health facilities, schooling, or general life of the third estate from which all the money was being generated. These economic hardships set the stage for some major changes in France. Louis XVI did try, but was unsuccessful in reforming the political system of France. (Mathews)

When King Louis XVI came into power, he realized that these problems existed. Louis appointed a man by the name of Robert Turgot ease the financial crisis of France, but he had difficulties when he tried to introduce a major reform.



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