Throughout the eighteenth century, little had happened to improve the conditions in which the poorest people in France lived. Describe the factors leading to the development of a rootless and potentially revolutionary class
Peasants constituted 80% of the French population and even though they owned some land, only a few owned enough to be self-sufficient. Most of the peasants lived in poverty. Unlike wealthy nobility who enjoyed unlimited privileges and collected feudal dues, peasants had to find additional sources of income.
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In addition, there were urban poor – people without land and job who stole and begged for a living. The rural population was rapidly increasing and the growth has intensified the competition for land and increased the pressure on local suppliers. As the result, the wages in the labor market decreased and people were further impoverished. In addition, peasants had to pay heavy taxes – 10% of the annual crop went to church, in particular. Moreover, every year they had to give several hours of free work on road maintenance. Urban workers were even in the worse situation because of the high unemployment rate and high prices. Many of them died because of hunger.
Show how the laissez-faire economics and administrative reforms of Turgot and Calonne were unsuccessful. Discuss the sources of opposition to their policies
Turgot was a man of great ability. He wanted economies in useful expenditures and he planned to increase revenues by levying taxes. Nevertheless, he encountered opposition from the queen and other wealthy people who profited from widespread financial abuses. Turgot introduced the total freedom of grain trade, however, the price of bread increased. Moreover, he abolished craft guilds and unpaid labor on road construction and replaced it with the tax levied on all landowners. Calonne was supported by the economic plans of Turgot, however, he failed as well. He strived to revive the economic activity but he has failed to overcome the hostility of the court. His program covered several fiscal and administrative reforms; nevertheless, none of them was supported.
René de Maupeou, as chancellor for Louis XV, had introduced a series of judicial reforms in 1771. Discuss the reforms briefly (see chapter 13) and show how their repeal by Louis XVI added to the unrest in the kingdom on the eve of the Revolution
Louis XVI initiated a number of judicial reforms, however, their effect was opposite to intended – they added to social unrest in the kingdom. The king has separated social classes and the reform was working only for some groups of the population. The elections took place in confusion and most of the elected officials were the clergy, parish priests, and nobility. Other deputies were lawyers who sought reforms as well. The population was increasing, the land prices and rents were doubling, and peasants were forced to move to the towns. They became casual workers or beggars. The judicial reforms did not bring relief either to peasants or to urban workers. Taxes, debts, dues, and social inequalities promoted poverty. The needs of the lower classes were not taken into account and people were ready to rebel.
Discuss France’s involvement in the birth of the new republic of the United States and the effects, both immediate and long term, for the French nation
The American Revolution gave France an opportunity to take its revenge on England. The American Declaration of Independence was greeted by the French. France provided assistance to the former colony of England in the form of subsidies and armaments drawn from the royal arsenals. French government signed a treaty of trade and alliance with the newly formed American government. France recovered its strength and declared war against England. Nevertheless, when the British asked the Americans to negotiate, countries conclude a separate preliminary peace. The War of Independence gave birth to the democratic principles in France and, at the same time, laid the foundation of the French Revolution.