Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The French Revolution Essay -- European History

The French Revolution The French Revolution was one of the most traumatic events in human history. Over seven million people may have died as a result. The immediate reason was the financial crisis caused by French support for the American Revolution. France invested 2 billion pieces of silver to win the war. Her tax system could only support the government during peace. A war called for extraordinary measures. This was the beginning of the first phase of the revolution, which is referred to as the Aristocratic Revolution. The aristocrats saw this crisis as an opportunity to reassert their power. The French Finance Minister, Necker (1776-1781) didn’t use new taxation to finance the war, he borrowed the money. In 1781, he published the Compte Rendu – which was the first budget the people of France had ever seen. It showed a budget surplus of ten million pieces of silver and Necker was hailed as a hero of the Enlightenment throughout Europe. His budget, however, was a fabrication. France was actually 80,000,000 pieces of silver in debt. When Calonne became finance minister in 1783, he found over half of France’s income went to pay the interest on the debt and the debt was increasing at the rate of 100,000,000 a year. Soon France would not be able to borrow any more money. She had to either repudiate the debt or find new taxes. Repudiating the debt was out of the question because governments have to be able to borrow money. They need to borrow to bridge the gap between the yearly arrival of tax revenues. The only course open was to find new taxation. The problem was who to tax? The peasants and artisans were already taxed to the limit. New taxes would have to be put on the aristocracy and the clergy. The Parlement registered new edicts and the nobility controlled it. The problem would be getting the taxes through the Parlement. Calonne called together an assembly of notables in 1787, hoping to gain momentum for reform. The notables refused to back the new taxes, because they didn’t believe there was a deficit. The notables believed Necker’s Compte Rendu. Calonne and Necker traded charges and insults and King Louis XVI fired Calonne. Louise XVI hired the head of the notables – Brienne – to be his new finance minister in 1787. Brienne reviewed the budget and realized that Calonne had been telling the truth, but when he presented his case to the notables, ... ...ear, not popular support. Executions continued to increase (258 in April of 1794, 345 in May, and 688 in June) and differences in the Committee became irreconcilable. On July 27, 1794 Robespierre was shouted down in the National Convention while giving a speech to answer attacks against his policies. Cries of "Down with the tyrant" were raised and Robespierre's arrest was decreed. Robespierre and his followers escaped, but were later captured. He and 19 of his followers were executed July 28, 1794. The frontispiece from this anti-Robespierre work, Almanach des Prisons, depicts the results of the Reign of Terror under Robespierre's leadership. The various stacks of heads are labeled as follows: "Clergy," "Parliment," "Nobles," "Constitution" (supporters of the Constitution), "Legislature," "Convention," and "People." Note that the largest stack is for the "People" or general public, rather than for the clergy or aristocracy, emphasizing one of the claims against Robespierre's regime. The figure on the scaffold is Robespierre guillotining himself! ________________________________________

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