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23.1 - The French Revolution Threatens the French King
 

23.1 - The French Revolution Threatens the French King

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The beginnings of the French Revolution.

The beginnings of the French Revolution.

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    23.1 - The French Revolution Threatens the French King 23.1 - The French Revolution Threatens the French King Presentation Transcript

    • Revolution Threatens the French King
      • It’s the 1770’s in France
      • At this time, France’s citizens are divided up into three different estates
        • First Estate
          • This was the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church.
          • They made up less than 1% of the population, but owned 10% of the land and paid about 2% of their income to the state.
        • Second Estate
          • This was the nobles.
          • 2% of the population, but owned 20% of the land. Oh, and they didn’t pay taxes. Nice.
        • Third Estate
          • The other 98% of the population.
          • They too were divided into three different groups.
            • The bourgeoisie were usually merchants and artisans. They could be rich but had to pay taxes and didn’t get the privileges of the nobles. They were into the Enlightenment.
            • The city workers were poor wage-earners.
            • The peasants made up about 80% of the overall population and paid out nearly half their income to various entities.
      • So you have about 2% of the population owning 30% of the land and paying almost nothing in taxes while the other 98% is largely poor, disaffected, heavily taxed, shut out of the political process, and is being influenced by Enlightenment ideals of democracy, social contracts, and overthrow of sovereigns.
      • Not to mention the successful revolution those nice Americans just had. It just needs a spark.
    •  
      • Another part of the problem was the royal family.
      • The king, Louis XVI, while reasonably popular, was terribly indecisive. Modern scholars think he may have suffered from clinical depression.
      • During his bouts of depression, his queen, Marie Antoinette, took control.
        • Marie was very unpopular. She was Austrian, flaunted extravagance, and resisted French social etiquette to the point of shocking the elite.
          • In her defense, however, Marie was married at age 14 just hours after meeting Louis for the first time (Louis was just 16, painfully shy, ate a lot, and their marriage was reportedly not consummated for seven years) and the French etiquette in the royal court was ridiculous with the royals always on display.
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      • Thrown into this volatile mix was a bad economy
      • First off, the crown was spending a lot.
        • Like most kings, Louis 16 was spending a lot on wars, including helping out those nice American revolutionaries.
        • Louis and Marie were also spending a lot on their own personal luxuries, which was bad enough in itself, but also looked bad to others. Marie actually had no real concept of the value of money.
      • The system of taxation, while unfair, was also inefficient and unbalanced.
      • One finance minister even proposed further spending to inspire confidence in the state’s finances, though he also wanted better taxation.
      • Louis tried reforming the tax system, but the noble assemblies resisted him.
      • Finally, the Estates-General is called in 1789 at Versailles.
      • Estates-General
      • This was an assembly of representatives of all three estates.
      • Each estate met separately and submitted one vote each on proposals. The first and second estates, with similar interests, could defeat the third estate.
        • This didn’t sit well with the third estate. Especially, since they thought they had won a victory by getting double representation.
        • So the third estate demanded to meet as one body with each deputy having one vote, which would swing favor to them.
          • One of their leaders was the Abbe Sieyes who released a pamphlet asking, “What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been up to now in the political order? Nothing. What does it demand? To become something herein.”
    • Sieyes - Would like to become something herein.
    •  
      • The third estate thus forms itself into the National Assembly, with the power to pass laws for the people.
        • This was pretty radical in itself and the Assembly declared itself the power in France.
        • They got locked out of their chamber, barged into an indoor tennis court and took what has become known as the Tennis Court Oath.
          • The oath: We swear never to separate ourselves from the National Assembly, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the realm is drawn up and fixed upon solid foundations.
          • Again, revolutionary in that they were declaring power derived from the people and not the king.
    •  
      • Louis tries to make nice with the National Assembly and even orders the other two estates to join them.
      • He’s also getting paranoid and distrusts his guards and starts using mercenaries who the people distrusted.
      • Other events take place and the unrest grows.
        • Eventually the Bastille is stormed.
          • The Bastille was a prison and a symbol of the ancien regime. It was also a weapons depot and the mob wanted the weapons and gun powder.
            • It wasn’t much of an active prison at this point and was slated for closure. At the time, it had only seven prisoners: four forgers, two lunatics, and a pedophile.
      Vive la revolution! You want some candy?
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