The nobles, who numbered , out of a total population of 26 million, consumed 20 per cent of the national income and with the king owned 75 per cent of the land. The burden of taxation kept the urban as well as the rural population down while the nobility and the clergy were exempt from all taxation. The immense, magnificent and costly household of the court with its fabulous subsidies for the long train of royal favourites represented an endless squandering of the national wealth.
The great nobles, particularly the families presented at court shared in the 33 million livres a liver was the equivalent of about a franc expended on the household of the king and princes.
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Marie Antoinette was said to own more than horses, 28 million livres went in pensions and 46 million livres went to pay 12, noble military officers — more than half the military budget. No military training was required to become an officer. A courtier with less than 10, livres was considered poor.
By the servicing of the public debt took up 60 per cent of the total state revenue of million livres. They paid for their life of luxury by taking numerous sinecures such as the offices of provincial governors. Only the nobility had access to the higher posts, while the bourgeois was excluded. All sorts of personal privileges widened the chasm between the two upper estates and the rest of the people who were called the third estate.
The second estate, consisting of the church magnates, owned about 25 per cent of the land. By all of the bishops were noblemen, most of whom lived at court, sometimes openly living with mistresses in a style indistinguishable from other members of the nobility. The small-fry of the clergy had their pittance increased just before the revolution to livres for parish priests and livres for curates. The ruling class was becoming demoralised, the state was simply an object of exploitation that was being squeezed dry, state offices were sold, bribery was common, the administration of justice was a mockery.
The peasants were fleeced through taxes and feudal obligations and were always on the verge of starvation. Although 92 per cent of the people lived on the land, agriculture was in a wretched condition. A series of bad harvests and crippling taxation resulted in peasants leaving the land and about one-third of the soil lay waste.
The ruined peasants fled to the towns and were treated as beggars. The peasants were the beasts of burden of this society. Tithes to the church, rent, forced labour the corvee , taxes, service in the militia. Poverty may lead to riots but poverty alone cannot bring about social upheavals.
These always arise from a disturbance of the balance between the classes. The overall wealth of the country had increased gradually. Foreign trade since had increased nearly per cent and the export of industrial products had increased per cent. The textile industry in the years prior to the revolution increased per cent. Marseille and other towns became centres of industrial growth although it was small-scale and machinery did not play a big part.
For example, wine transported from Orleans to Normandy rose in price 20 times because of these taxes. This hindered the development of trade and was deeply resented. The middle classes the bourgeoisie possessed the greater part of the fortune of France, whereas the privileged orders were ruining themselves. This growing wealth and expectation made them acutely sensitive to their inferior legal status.
The middle classes owned the money but they also acquired the moral power. They wrote for the great public, scoffing at every facet of the old order of things, especially the religious idea in the name of reason and enlightenment. Liberty and equality became the slogans raised by the bourgeoisie to win the masses. Their zeal was devoted not to celestial but earthly bliss, but not for everyone for liberty was understood to be for the wealthy class only and equality meant only formal equality before the law. The philosophical ideas of the enlightenment reflected the demands of the bourgeoisie for political and social rights.
Within the bourgeoisie there were several layers: those who lived off the old regime like the tax collectors and financiers, who did not want the golden feudal egg destroyed; and the manufacturers of luxury items whose customers were largely among the nobility and the clergy. It was the trading and industrial capitalist, bloated from colonial trade and the slave trade, who had most to gain by removal of feudal obstacles to trade and the abolition of the absolute power of the king and the privileges of the nobility.
These latter two demands united the population in common action. What does it demand? What ought it to be? Finally, in the clash came. The financial affairs of the state were in a desperate condition. The impoverished people could pay no more and as a last resort the Estates General was called.
This was an obsolete feudal body that had not met since The Third Estate, led by the bourgeoisie, faced with obstruction to reform from the king and the privileged estates, walked out and declared themselves to be the National Assembly. The king sent for 20, troops to disperse the assembly by force.
The assembly shouted defiance but this would have been short-lived if the people of Paris, organised into a bourgeois-led National Guard had not on July 13, , seized arms from the Invalides and the following day stormed the Bastille, an armed prison. Paris was aflame, the king retreated and recognised the popular organ the new and revolutionary National Assembly.
This was the signal for peasant risings, with burning of title deeds and seizure of land all over France.
A crowd marched on the palace; one shouted, "We are going to cut off her head, tear out her heart, fry her liver and that will not be the end of it". Group Subscription. Due to the events of the late eighteenth century, a French national citizenship emerged, and many questions were raised about the implication and extent of this new citizenship. Intellectual forces were dominant, not class conflict or materialistic forces. In collaboration with. Tackett, The Coming of the Terror , 3—4. Grant, Jay Rodan.
Even before the news reached the provinces the artisans burned toll gates; revolutionary municipalities were set up throughout France. On August 4, , the assembly introduced progressive taxation and abolished personal servitude for the peasant, although other feudal obligations had to be redeemed by monthly payments. Until the law came into effect the peasants were to continue as before — thus except where the masses took action things remained as they were before.
Church tax privileges were removed and church land was confiscated. The law should be the same for all. All citizens have the right to co-operate either personally or through their own representatives in its formation. Having failed to satisfy the peasants, the assembly turned to the interests of the trading and industrial bourgeoisie — as represented by the leading group in the assembly — the Girondins. The next two years saw a growing alliance between the uppermost layers of the bourgeoisie and the moderate elements of the nobles and the church for mutual resistance to the further progress of the revolution.
They tried to make the government form a constitutional monarchy, with the parliament representing only the very wealthiest. Citizens under the Girondin constitution were divided into active citizens, those wealthy enough to pay taxes — they got the vote — and passive citizens, who were all the rest, who were excluded from all political rights.
A new tax law put the burden on the small traders. However, the revolutionary tension in society was too strong to be kept down. The bourgeoisie, having won recognition of their interests, sought to stop the revolution. It is not ridiculous to speak of the sovereignty of the masses. With the connivance of the Girondins, the king continued counter-revolutionary plots with foreign feudal rulers, and an attempted escape by the king from Paris was frustrated by revolutionaries.
At the end of disorders broke out throughout the country because of rising prices and scarcity of food. At this point the main tasks of the revolution had not been achieved. The king remained the centre of counter-revolution, feudal burdens on the peasants had not been abolished. The condition of workers, artisans and large sections of the petty bourgeoisie Girondins were afraid to complete the tasks they were interested in because they feared the mass determination to carry the revolution further than their own interests required. To prevent this, the Girondin now defended the old order.
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Tackett, The Coming of the Terror , 3—4. Munich: Oldenbourg, , — Tarde , Gabriel , The Laws of Imitation [ ], trans. Alcan, Jung , vol. Read , Herbert , trans. Hull , R. These remarks appear in the preface, which was not included in the English translation of this volume: Bon , Le , The Psychology of Revolution , trans. Miall , Bernard New York : G. Putnam's Sons , In turn, explanations of the actions of the revolutionary crowd need to take into account the role of the surrounding environment, which creates an overriding mindset capable of imposing itself on individuals and dominating them.
Thus, people sometimes spread rumors simply because people spread rumors, and people rise up in revolt because everyone is in revolt. Fernbach , David London : Verso , Gueniffey , Patrice , La politique de la terreur.
Michelet , Jules , The People [ ], trans. Smith New York : D. Appleton and Co. Wahnich, In Defence of the Terror , 66— Wahnich, In Defence of the Terror , chap. Tackett, The Coming of the Terror , 5. Quoted in Tackett, The Coming of the Terror , Tackett, The Coming of the Terror , This perspective was not the product of deranged minds.