The Origins and Course of the French Revolution 1774-95 la. Study all the Sources: Use your own knowledge to assess how far the Sources support the interpretation that finance was the maln problem of the French Monarchy by 1789. By 1789 the financial crisis in France had resulted in the country accumulating an astonishing national debt of 113 livres. The crisis came about primarily because of an inefficient and unfair tax structure, outdated medieval bureaucratic institutions, and a drained treasury which was the result of aiding the Americans during the American Revolution.
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Additional causes Include long wars with England, overspending, and an inequitable tax system which placed the burden of taxation on those least able to pay, the Third Estate. Other issues troubled the monarchy namely the resistance of the Parlements and the Assembly of notables as suggested In Source A, the opposition against unjust taxation, argued by Source C and the weakness of Louis XVI as a monarch himself as suggested by Source D. Ultimately the interpretation that the financial crisis was the most prominent problem faced by the French Monarchy is he strongest, supported by Sources A, B and E, the crisis caused the most chaos.
Before all the else the financial crisis was unequivocally the most imminent and forthcoming issue faced by the French monarchy, this interpretation is strongly supported by Sources A, B, and E. Source B is most directly focused on the financial crisis and reveals the ‘suspension of all repayments of capital and reducing Interest payments’. The source also deals with the failure of the King to carry on government despite a ‘revenue of six hundred millions’.
Thomas Jefferson reveals here that the ack of money was ‘beyond the French government’s ability to solve’ proving how Inevitable and dangerous the flnanclal crisis was by 18th August 1788 let alone how bad It got after Necker’s dismissal In 1789. Furthermore for Jefferson to suggest that there was a necessity of a change to their constitution’ consolidates this interpretation further. He implies that the situation in France was so desperate that even he, a foreignobserver was aware that France needed to restrict the power of the monarch who ‘led to a declared bankruptcy’ because of a ‘shortage of money.
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Both Sources B and E highlight how the war burned a huge hole in French finances forcing them to borrow millions from allies. The accumulationof debt from taking out numerous loans to pay for almost all the gunpowder during the war as well supplying their army and fleet (which was the only one able to resist the British fleet at the time) ultimately caused a financial crisis as early as 1786. Source B communicates that the monarchy took to ‘suspending all repayments of capital and reducing interest payments’ whilst Source E explains how the war had been paid for argely by new loans’.
Linking on from this Source A shows that Calonne tried to pass reforms In order to remedy the financial situation because It was a huge problem but the assembly of Notables opposed them as they did not wish to bear the burden of 1 OF3 Increased taxatlon. I ne successlve Tallure 0T reTorm plans unaer lurgot, Necker ana Calonne, the resistance of Parlements and the Assembly of Notables, the criticisms of the royal spending and the link between financial problems and the summoning of the Estates General with all that entailed for the weakening of royal power.
This point is backed up by both Sources A and C the stress there was on privilege stood in the way of reform of finance. Source A portrays both Calonne and the Notables unflatteringly with Calonne depicted as a monkey implying his foolishness and the Assembly of Notables portrayed as ducks conveying their arrogance and the unwillingness of the privileged classes to reform themselves. The caption of Source A says We don’t want to be eaten at all’, implying the nobles did not want to be taxed more, and Source C similarly desires ‘all nobles be taxed in the same way. When
Source A was published there had been a huge increase in book and pamphlet production in the reign of Louis XVI and there a large number of critical engravings such as this one, ridiculing eminent figures. The engraving is likely to be read and understood by a limited number of people and is polemical in intent; it is also very typical of the ‘enlightened’ in that it is critical and challenges authority. Source A is useful because it conveys public opinion that the financial crisis was indeed a huge problem for the monarchy, however it is limited because it lacks detail and xplanation.
Source B is strong because it is a source from a foreign observer who may be dependent on reports from critical sources. However it is limited in that the tone is adamant and one-sided, suggesting bias, Jefferson may well bring a distinct view of the superiority of republican over monarchical government. Finally Source E is probably the most useful in the context of this question because it is balanced, well supported and delivers clear reflection, on the other hand it can be described as limited because it was published in 2001 by a historian who would not have seen and hus been able to compare the issues facing the monarchy.
On a final note the financial crisis was by far the most pressing issue facing the monarchy; it had the most potential to cause revolution which would have ruined the monarchy because it angered the people and left millions in poverty, making them desperate for change by whatever means. , yet the privileges as Source C shows had become a major concern at local as well as national level. What could have changed is the awareness of financial problems and their implications.
After Necker’s Compte Rendu, there was an unparalleled public nowledge of royal finance, helped by the spread of books and a better-educated reading public, Helped, too, perhaps by the influence of the philosophes as claimed in Source D. However, this is from a revolutionary writer who had been a leading Jacobin and was himself influenced by radical literature, so perhaps this is not typical. It may be unlikely that the peasants in C were much moved by ‘enlightened thinkers’ and their more practical grievances might be more typical outside urban centres than the picture painted by D.
D does link finance, resentment about rivilege, the enlightenment and the weaknesses of the King, and candidates may have contextual knowledge to estimate how accurate this analysis is. Writing in prlson, Barnave In source D Is not concerned wltn nls own posltlon, out ne may oe seeing the situation in 1789 in the light of his own political ideas. Source E offers a neat summary, bringing in the point that war was a key factor. Considering that help to the Colonists was a major cause of the situation that Jefferson describes in Source B, he does not seem very grateful to Louis WI.
This reflection may spark off some omment that the American War did bring back some radical ideas into France and may have caused some to reflect that Frenchman had fought for Americans to have freedoms which they themselves lacked. E agrees with C that the system of government locked up resources and prevented the effective use of France’s wealth. So it could be argued that war was the key to all that followed (E) or that it was not so much finance but the weak political system that could not cope with it (B,D,E) or that not finance per se but privilege was at the root of problems (A, C).See More on French Revolution