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The French Revolution v2


Amy Koenigsknecht

on 23 February 2010

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Transcript of The French Revolution v2

The French Revolution The French Revolution has often been seen as a major turning point in European political and social history. The institutions of the Old Regime were destroyed. A new order emerged, which was based on individual rights, representative institutions, and a concept of loyalty to the nation rather than to the monarch. The causes of the French Revolution include both long-range problems and immediate crises. The Old Regime Before the Revolution, the country had a vast system of laws. France had a large administrative network, but it was difficult to have a centralized administration. The various regions of France had their own local laws and institutions. There were 13 royal appeals courts. In these courts the judges exercised what they saw as their right to review royal laws to make sure they corresponded with local traditions. These judges’ seats were purchased and the judges did not necessarily feel any obligation to the monarchy. Largely due to this system of laws, the French King Louis XVI’s power was not as absolute as he might have wished. His complex relationship with the courts throughout France was one of the long-range causes of the French Revolution. Louis XVI, (1754–1793) was the king of France from 1774-¬1791. He was overthrown during the French Revolution and France became a republic. He was the only king of France to be executed. The Three Estates Another long-range cause can be found in the condition of French society. Before the Revolution, French society was based on inequality. France’s population of 27 million was divided, as it had been since the Middle Ages, into three orders, or estates.
The First Estate consisted of the clergy and numbered about 130,000 people. These people owned approximately 10 percent of the land. Clergy were exempt from the taille (taw-Yee), France’s chief tax. They were also radically divided. The higher clergy, usually from aristocratic families, shared the interests of the nobility. The higher clergy included cardinals, bishops, and heads of monasteries. The parish priests were often poor and from the class of commoners. The robed figure on the right side of the cartoon represents the clergy, the First Estate. The clergy, represented by the Catholic Church, also held a great deal of social and political influence, despite being few in number compared to the entire population. The Second Estate was the nobility. It was composed of about 350,000 people, but owned about 20 to 30 percent of the land. The nobility played an important, and even a crucial, role in French society in the eighteenth century. They held many of the leading positions in the government, the military, the law courts, and the higher church offices. The nobles sought to expand their power at the expense of the monarchy. Many nobles said they were defending liberty by resisting the arbitrary actions of the monarchy. They also sought to keep their control over positions in the military, church, and government. Nobles also still possessed privileges, including tax exemptions, especially from the taille. The armored figure on the left side of the cartoon represents the nobility, the Second Estate. Nobles held a great deal of political and military influence in France but represented less than 2 percent of the population. The Third Estate, or the commoners of society, made up the overwhelming majority of the French population. The Third Estate was divided by vast differences in occupation, level of education, and wealth. The peasants, who made up 75 to 80 percent of the total population, were by far the largest segment of the Third Estate. They owned about 35 to 40 percent of the land. However, their landholdings varied from area to area, and over half of the peasants had little or no land on which to survive. Serfdom no longer existed on any large scale in France, but French peasants still had obligations to their local landlords that they deeply resented. The crouched figure in the middle of the cartoon represents the commoners in France, the Third Estate. These people represented the large majority of French society. These relics of feudalism, or aristocratic privileges, were obligations that from an earlier age that were often connected to the land and not specific families. These obligations included the payment of fees for the use of village facilities such as the flour mill, community oven, and winepress, as well as tithes (voluntary contributions) to the clergy.
Another part of the Third Estate consisted of skilled craftspeople, shopkeepers, and other wage earners in the cities. These people, too, struggled to survive. In the eighteenth century, a rise in consumer prices that was greater than the increase in wages left these urban groups with decreased buying power. Their struggle for survival led many of these people to play an important role in the Revolution, especially in Paris. The circular object that pushes down on the middle figure represents the monarchy, who is burdening the people with taxes. The images that indicate the monarchy are the crown on top and the fleur de lis. On the Eve of Revolution:
Europe in 1789
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