Mention any three ways in which Louis XVI helped to contribute to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

French Revolution

In the early year of 1789, the city of Paris was in a state of alarm. The rumours spread like a fire that the King would open fire upon the citizens. People of the city started gathering and they started breaking a number of government buildings in search of arms. The commander of the Bastille was killed in the armed fight and all the prisoners were released. People had a strong hatred against the Bastille as it stood for the despotic power of the king. People started to protest against the high price of bread. A series of new chain of events began which finally led to the execution of the King in France.

Out Break of French Revolution

In France, the monarch community didn’t have the power to impose taxes. They had to call a meeting of the Estates-General, a political body to which the three existing estates sent their representatives, to pass proposals for the new upgraded taxes. Louis XVI, on 5 May 1789, had called an assembly to pass proposals for new taxes. The representatives from the first and second estates were present and the members of the third estate was represented by its prosperous and educated members. According to the principle of the assembly, each estate had one vote. But, representatives from the third estate demanded that each member should have one vote. The demand was rejected so members of the third estate walked out and started to protest. They swore not to disperse until a constitution drafted for France that would limit the powers of the monarch.

Due to the severe winter, bread price rose heavily and people had to spend hours in long queues for essentials. The rumours were spread that the lords of the manor hired bands of brigands to destroy the ripened crops. Due to this fear, the peasants started looting hoarded grain and burnt down documents containing records of manorial dues. Louis XVI accorded recognition to the National Assembly and accepted the principle that his powers would from now on be checked by the constitution framed. The Assembly then passed a decree abolishing the feudal system of obligations and taxes on 4 August 1789. Tithes were abolished and lands owned by the Church were confiscated.

  • When King Louis XVI was nominated as the new king, he found an empty treasury
  • Long years of continuous war had completely drained the financial resources of France
  • Other than this, there was the cost of maintaining an extravagant court at the immense Palace of Versailles
  • France had lent a helping hand to the thirteen American colonies gain their independence from their common enemy, that is Britain
  • The war added more than a billion livres to a debt that had already risen to more than 2 billion livres
  • The lenders who gave credit now began to charge 10 per cent interest on the loans. So the French Government had to spend an increasing percentage of its budget on the payment of interest itself
  • The regular expenses such as cost of maintaining an army, the court, governmental offices and Universities was increasingly becoming tiresome
  • Raising taxes did not satisfy, as the French society was divided into 3 estates and only the 3rd estate had to pay taxes
  • The population of France was also growing massively which further lead to a rapid increase in the demand for food grains and other essential commodities
  • The production of grains did not match the pace of the rising demand. Hence, the price of bread, the staple diet of the majority rose community rapidly
  • Most of the workers were employed as labourers in workshops, whose owner had fixed their wages. Those fixed wages did not keep track of the rise in prices
  • Therefore the gap between the rich and the poor kept on increasing
  • Due to these dissatisfied factors, it led to the outbreak of the French Revolution

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