Origins of the French Revolution I. The Estates First Estate = Clergy Second Estate = Nobility Third Estate = Everyone Else II. The King and his Entourage • Louis XVI did not know much about governing. • He was given to fits of enthusiasm, followed by timidity, weakness, indecision, and retreat. • From his queen he could expect nothing but trouble. II. The King and his Entourage • Marie-Antoinette was obsessed with her appearance and busied herself with feasts, balls and indiscretions. • She liked to spend money without a thought in the world on her own pleasures and that of her friends. • Her infrequent intervention in government affairs resembled whims and were often made at inopportune moments. III. The Financial Crisis • By the time Louis had reached the middle of his reign France was deep in debt. • Nevertheless, excellent ministers worked on the reforms they felt were necessary to save France from financial ruin. III. The Financial Crisis • Jacques Necker: • Swiss banker • Argued that the problem was not that bad. (if American debt was taken away) • In 1781 he published his Account Book for the King, revealing that a large amount of money was spent on royal pensions and court favorites. • Necker was dismissed in May of 1781. After he left office it was hard for later officials to raise taxes. III. The Financial Crisis • Charles Alexandre de Calonne: • Encouraged internal trade, to lower some taxes, and transform peasants’ services to money payments. • Intended to establish new local assemblies to approve land taxes. • All of his policies would have undermined the political and social power of the nobility. III. The Financial Crisis • Charles Lomenie de Brienne: • Chief opponent of Calonne • Astonished to discover how bad the finances of the country were. • Sought to impose a new land tax. • The Parlement refused to pay, and reduced its existing contribution. IV. The Wind from America • The American revolution offered the French government and people a chance at redemption and revenge against the British. • However, this revenge simultaneously brought glory, ideas, and a deficit that could lead straight to bankruptcy, all important elements that led to the Revolution. IV. The Wind from America • Application of Enlightenment ideals • Experience of French nobility sent to aid Americans • Benjamin Franklin • Crushing Debt V. From Estates General to National Assembly • The initial split between the aristocracy and the Third Estate occurred before the Estates General gathered. – 1st Estate demanded equal representation – Voting should be conducted by order not by delegates • Both demands exposed the hollowness of the aristocracy's alleged concern for French liberty and revealed its determination to maintain its privileges. V. From Estates General to National Assembly • The Tennis Court Oath – Locked out of the normal meeting place the National Assembly moved to a nearby tennis court. – There its members took an oath to continue to sit until they had given France a constitution. – Louis XVI ordered them to desist their actions, but shortly afterward a majority of the clergy and nobility joined the assembly. V. From Estates General to National Assembly • The King capitulated and formally recognized the National Assembly. • Had nothing further occurred, the government of France would have been transformed. – Government by privileged orders had ended. • The Revolution in France against government by absolute monarchy had begun. VI. The Fall of the Bastille • Parisians feared that the king’s royal forces were going to sweep into the city and arrest revolutionaries. The violence of the Paris mob was not • The mob attacked the Bastille in order to capture gun the National Assembly. condemned by powder and weapons. The Fall of the Bastille would be the first of many • They killed the prison’s warden and placed Violent riots in the French Revolution. his severed head on a pike.
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