The Abolition Of The Feudal System In France

1453 words - 6 pages

In 1789, thousands of starving peasants abandoned the lands of their ancestors as the price of bread rose to eighty percent of the average peasant’s income (Kreis). Blazing buildings marked the path they took to the source of their woes in Paris. They attacked any food cart they passed. The outline of their skeleton could be seen from under their filthy, thread-bare clothing. Their impoverished condition had reached its climax. Their desperation led them to action. They over took the largest fortress in France, the Bastille, in search of weapons. Members of the Bourgeoisie had formed the National Assembly three weeks prior to the storming of the Bastille to begin to address the grievances of the peasants (Dabney). On August 4, the National Assembly met in Paris, and, with one enthusiastic fell swoop, they agreed to abolish the feudal system forever, thus gaining the support of the mob. “The Decree of the National Assembly Abolishing the Feudal System” created equality between the nobility and citizens, ended the Church’s authority over the state, and pledged to work with King Louis XVI to rectify the injustices of the people.
The first decree written declared the elimination of feudalism in France (Roberts). Serfdom and servitude were abolished without compensation to the lords. Peasants were no longer restricted to work in the fields. They also were no longer required to pay the taxes and fees mandated by their masters. The nobility had no control over their vassals now. Peasants set out to discover their fortune and explore their talents in the free-market.
The Comte de Virieu, a member of the National Assembly, subsequently suggested the right to control pigeon houses be terminated (Herbert). Because pigeons destroyed crops, the lords had confined all the pigeons. However, the people felt it was unfair that only the lords were able to maintain and hunt pigeons. The second decree demanded that all pigeon-houses be controlled by the citizens, allowing them to determine when the pigeons should be locked up and when they should be hunted (Roberts).
Logically, the abolition of the “right to hunt and to maintain unenclosed warrens” followed (Roberts). The lord’s game stock, deer, rabbits, and other animals, continuously destroyed thousands of pounds of crops. In three years, the deer at Farcy ruined all but twenty of originally 500 peach trees planted there (Aveling). However, it was against the law for farmers to protect their fields by killing in the royal forests. The extremely harsh punishments for poaching started with hands being cut off and ended with death. Yet, some were desperate enough to take the risk for a small bowl of rabbit stew. The third decree forbade anyone, including lords, from hunting on any lands other than their own (Roberts). Royal forests and hunting rights were dissolved. The Assembly also promised to ask the King to pardon anyone guilty of poaching. With this rule, hunger rapidly decreased among the poor.
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