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FRENCH REVOLUTION

ASSIGNMENT ONE

Modern European History Jonah Haines 1293

Mr. Potts

Ð"¬Privilege not poverty caused the French RevolutionÐ"®

To what extent do you agree?

The French Revolution was essentially a class war between the emerging Bourgeoisie

against the Privileged class, this meant they saw the Privileged class as the only hurdle

between themselves and equality within French society. Many of the ideas they pursued

stemmed from the enlightenment and they believed that in order to gain their full

economic, social and political potential and gain equality, the Bourgeoisie had to eradicate

the privileges that were halting their rise in society. To do this they had to seize power for

themselves and gaining power within the government and making badly needed changes,

such as, improving the tax system, creating a fair system of production where profits went

to the producer, improving the whole fiscal system of the government, improving the

geographical divisions of France and the problems they caused, plus many more. The

revolution was a fight for equality and recognition by the Bourgeoisie, it was not a revolt

against poverty, for many of the French people had been living in poverty for centuries and

had learnt to live with it.

France had prospered in the Eighteenth century. France had had no major famines or

plagues, its population had increased, there had been no wars on its soil, industry such as

textiles was doing well and offshore trading had increased enormously. It was the

Bourgeoisie that had enabled this abundance of wealth and they were emerging as the

economic power inside France. But their new found power was being smothered by the

privileged class. The privileged class of nobility and clergy, who owned the bulk of the

land, were using their ancient rights to plunder most of the profits that were made by the

lower classes. This meant that the;

Ð"¬Prosperity came only to those who held fairly large estates, who exercised feudal rights,

or who could manipulate farm rents.Ð"®1 The only people who fell under these categories

were the Nobles of the robe and the clergy. So in order to get the prosperity equally

divided in society and thus profit themselves, the bourgeoisie had to get rid of the

privileged classes ancient rights. To do this they had to revolt against the government, that

supported the privileged classes and which was reluctant to make the necessary reforms. It

is seen here that it was the Bourgeoisie were struggling against the Privileged class for

their rightful share of profits that was taken away by the privileges of the upper class, not

a fight by the peasants who were living in poverty.

Taxes and prices were another battlefield for the Bourgeoisie and the Aristocracy to fight

on. The tax base in France fell on the middle class who were the producers. Some of the

taxes in France were: the Taille which taxed commoners, nobility exempted, the Capitation

which was a poll tax on where you lived and what services you used, nobility exempted,

the Vingtieme was a five per cent tax on all income, again the nobility didnÐ"­t have to pay.

There were also taxes on salt and a tax whenever a person passed over a provincial

border, these taxes meant that a large cut of their profits from their work went to the

government. This was made worse when the government found itself in major debt.

Because the government supported the Aristocracy, who didnÐ"­t pay taxes, the middle class

was taxed even more. This created resentment for the Aristocracy because they were the

ones who were getting all the money through their privileges yet it was the lower, poorer,

classes who were getting taxed. This spurred an even bigger will for equality. To solve this

problem their had to be an equal society where taxes were paid according to wealth or

land and most importantly by everybody. To achieve this the Bourgeoisie had to be able to

voice their views and opinions, thus they had to be able to hold office in government. But

the privileges of the nobility stopped them from doing this. Therefor it is shown that the

Bourgeoisie were fighting the Privileged class against their privileges which were making

their taxes rise and stopping them from being able to make the necessary changes through

the government. Again it is seen that poverty was not a factor in this issue because the

Bourgeoisie was fighting against privileges that made them the highest tax payers, not

because they were living in poverty due to the taxes they had to pay.

The prices of goods such as bread, were increasing rapidly. This was due to numerous

reasons, the governments debt problem being

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