A Brief Account Of France's Financial Difficulties Leading Up To The First Revolution, As Traced Through Several Ministers Of Finance. (Includes Works Consulted!)

2596 words - 10 pages

Carmine Lengua, Jr.3D-1Money TalksAfter the death of King Louis XIV, France became more and more of a mere shadow of its former self. Her weaknesses began to overshadow her strengths and the people sought control more and more. Despite the fact the Louis's two immediate successors, Louis XV and Louis XVI, made minor improvements to his government and administration, neither "was able to recapture the dynastic glories of Louis XIV" (Jones 167). Although people's true feelings came out very soon--indeed almost immediately--after Louis XIV's death, he had most definitely molded France into a credible nation. The state began to lose influence in world affairs without him. A few bright events were overshadowed by the general decline of the country. With a once great nation now in decline, it is understandable that a period of great sociopolitical unrest ensued. The nobility began to try to assert its "inherent" authority. The members of the noble class began their initiative to topple the monarchy. Their main objective was, as a matter of fact, the well being of France; however, they wished to remain in their position of prominence and status above that of the common man, and to run the government (Lefebvre 36). They struggled to achieve this end, and after several years it finally seemed as though they might have done so. Although there were many prerequisites--including but most certainly not limited to Louis XIV's taming and domestication of the nobility--the immediate financial difficulties, and all the events that occurred in direct or indirect response to them up to the convocation of the Estates-General, were the true harbingers of the First French Revolution.A major problem, perhaps the most prominent one, in France in the latter half of the eighteenth century was one of finances. Despite the fact that every major power of the late eighteenth century was in a diminished state, it was in these times that the problems in France began to take a course that would ultimately lead to revolution. The aristocracy had always been strong and privileged. Successive royal ministers said that to alleviate the debts incurred over the course of the Seven Years' War and France's involvement in the American Revolution the nobility would have to be taxed. Naturally, the aristocrats resisted this new push for taxation as an infringement on their traditional distinctions. The first in a line of ministers setting out to reform France was René Maupeou, appointed in 1770 by Louis XV--less than five years before his death. Maupeou quickly began his mission, dissolving all of the provincial parlements and scattering their members across France. If he had stopped after doing only that, there would have still been a substantial nationwide outcry. He had proven the vulnerability of the parlements, for "Frenchmen now knew what power their king might deploy if he had a mind to" (Doyle 39). Maupeou proceeded to pursue his program of reform but he never got a chance...

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