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What caused the French revolution - Research Paper Example

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The first estate comprised of high-ranking religious leaders or clergymen, who had the privilege of paying no taxes to the monarchic government. The second estate comprised of nobility that were primarily landowners and paid no direct taxes. …
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Download file to see previous pages On the other hand, “the nobility were exempt from taxation; the clergy were entitled to the privilege of taxing themselves, in the form of free gifts… [and all these were for the] benefit of the privileged classes, and to the detriment of the people” (Mignet 4). Such prevailing conditions, which did not change for many generations, created a deep-rooted resentment in the minds of the common people. On 14th July 1789, few people from the working classes and a handful of soldiers took control of the famous prison of Bastille in Paris, which soon changed the entire history of France. A number of underlying factors triggered the seizing of Bastille, of which the chief ones were, persistently increasing taxes (the economic factor), the Old Regime (the social factor), and to a certain extent philosophical inspiration from Enlightenment theories and the American Revolution. However, the more apparent and immediate reasons that triggered the revolution were increasing prices of food items (bread), removal of third estate from the meeting hall and Louis XVI’s ordering of Swiss guards into Paris. Here the most important factors were the economic and social causes related to the Old Regime. France at that time was socially categorized into three different estates. The first estate comprised of high-ranking religious leaders or clergymen, who had the privilege of paying no taxes to the monarchic government. The second estate comprised of nobility that were primarily landowners and paid no direct taxes. The third estate, which comprised of the rest of the population (the urban middle class, the urban lower class, and the farmers), paid all the taxes. Thus, the ones that had the least, paid the maximum taxes (royal taxes, feudal taxes, and even work related taxes) and through this process lost almost half of what they earned as wages (Frey and Frey 2). During this time, France suffered a series of defeats against Britain in various battles, which placed a huge burden of debt on France. It caused a fall in public morale and increasing social unrest owing to the increasing economic pressure on the common people (pressure to increase the revenue to service the debt). The third estate that was already paying high taxes was further burdened with more, and with the second estate refusing to pay any form of taxes, the situation turned worse. With expenditure being more than the revenue, King Louis XVI decided to hold all reforms and did nothing to improve the worsening situation (Frey and Frey 3). Another factor that triggered the French revolution was the American Revolution, which showed how absolute monarchy could be overthrown and democracy established. The third important factor was the various philosophical teachings and writings of this era (the era of Enlightenment), such as, writings of John Locke, a philosopher whose works advocated freedom from persecution. An increasing number of French citizens became influenced by notions of natural rights (humanitarianism, fraternity, liberty, and equality) and the rather ambiguous notions of State based Contract theory, as conceptualized by Turgot, Diderot, Voltaire, other social scientists and philosophers of the Enlightenment era (Peyre, 63-65). The American Revolution showed that it was actually possible to use Enlightenment theories to make a government function effectively (Mackey, 57). Some of the American revolutionary leaders, such as, Benjamin Franklin had spent a great deal of time in Paris and mixed liberally with the intellectual society in France. Besides this, long-term contact between French army and American revoluti ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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