Describe The Financial & Political Problems Facing The French Government Before 1789

1058 words - 4 pages

The French government had many problems financially and politically before 1789 that built up over a number of years and a number of monarchs. The problems stemmed from a growing disorder in the finances, aristocratic privileges, new revolutionary philosophies, power struggles, and a weak monarch.Due to lengthy and very costly wars, Louis XIV and Louis XV played a big hand in bankrupting France. The French had suffered big defeats and therefore had lost men and supplies. They also failed to gain any territory. France suffered defeat in the Seven Years War against Britain, had its army crushed by the Prussians and was unsuccessfully involved in the American War in an attempt to seek revenge on Britain.It was not only these extravagant costs of very unsuccessful wars, but France's whole financial system was extremely inefficient. At the forefront of the system were ministers. During the American War, Jacques Necker was made Director-General of Finance because of his ability to obtain loans for use in paying for the war. Necker did this successfully, but he lied about France's financial surplus and had everyone believing that France could spend money when, in reality, it was in huge debt, and therefore he allowed Ministers of War to spend non-existent money. Due to this, debts just continued to mount unknowingly to the rest of France, and around fifty percent of income was needed to pay for interests on loans and money spent. Necker was dismissed in 1781 and the politics and efficiency of the French financial system was unstable for years after that, with ministers resigning or being released, and the parlements even being exiled from Paris and government paralysed which led to the reformation of the Estates General that produced the cahiers list of complaints towards the king.The French Government desperately needed to introduce tax reform into its system. The clergy were exempt from all taxes; the nobles paid little tax and all the taxes were placed on the bourgeoisie and peasantry. But only taxing the Third Estate was very inefficient and could not contribute enough to the French Government's budgets. If this were to continue the deficit would only increase, but the Government had three main problems preventing the introduction of tax reform. Firstly the tax collection system was poorly run and inefficient as the government allowed private companies to collect taxes, and so not all the money was collected or not all of it reached the treasury. Perhaps if the First and Second Estate were taxed, the problem of inefficient tax collection would not have mattered as much. But another problem was that the nobles were determined not to give up their tax privileges. This caused a great problem for the king, who because he was weak, allowed the nobles to influence him in dismissing any ministers, such as Brienne, that were pushing for tax reform. It was not just a case of further increasing the taxes placed on the Third Estate either to help decrease the...

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