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Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “The French Revolution” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

The French Revolution

French Revolution broke out not due to a single cause alone. It was the outcome of social, economic and political factors combined together. In bringing about the Revolution, the intellectuals played a significant part. Through their teachings, writings and discussions, they stirred the masses and awakened them.

The French rule was maladministered and disorganized. It was a hotbed of nepotism as the prize posts were given to the aristocrats and the nobles. They even did not know how to rule over people. They were not even conscious of their duties. The district officers were holding their posts only nominally. Every province, no doubt, had a Governor at the top but there was no council to advise him. There was no provision for any sort of election in this country and the Assembly of one place differed in this respect from another. The powers of one Assembly vastly differed from another. The laws of the land also differed from place to place. Before the laws could be enforced they were altered. These laws differed in complexion. Hazen says that “What was lawful in one town might be illegal in a place no more than five miles distant. Almost four hundred bodies of law were in force in different parts of France.

State officials were notorious for maltreating the commoners, they inflicted unimaginable horrors on them. There was no one to check them from such atrocity. There was not even one single able, experienced and powerful monarch who adorned the throne of France after Louis XIV. Louis XV was a coward, spendthrift and foolish and it was due to his stupidity that certain Indian and American colonies slipped from the grip of the French. The international prestige of France was very low and the treasury looked absolutely depleted. People in France lost all faith in the integrity of the Crown.

There was no possible check on the autocracy of the Crown. His will was law. He was an undisputed master of all conceivable powers. His authority was unquestioned. The people of France hardly enjoyed any right. If a person was found guilty of untoward behaviour with the nobles or a member of the Royal family or clergy, he was thrown into prison for an unlimited period without any trial. Anyone could be thrown into prison without a proper judicial trial for an unlimited term. Voltaire and Count de Mirabeau, the great philosophers were put behind the bars without trial. The concepts of justice and freedom were flouted openly and blatantly. The public was denied the right of speech. The people were now fed up with the autocracy of the Crown.

The expenditure of the royal count had crossed all hull’s. The entire revenue which flowed into the royal coffers was lavishly squandered on the luxuries enjoyed by the kings, queens and the courtiers. Louis XIV got Palace of Versailles constructed at a fabulous cost of thirty crore rupees.

The commoners were groaning under the heavy burden of the State taxation. The aristocrats, the members of the royal household the nobles and the clergy who enjoyed special privileges were free from every kind of tax. The heavy burden was borne by the commoners. The poor peasantry had to pay separate taxes to the Crown, the clergy and the landlords. Three days in a week the landlords extracted from them labour for which they were paid not even a single farthing and at the top of it they got from them poultry and grain from their yield. Those farmers who refused to do unpaid labour had to please the Crown by remitting Quit Rent to the Royal Treasury. On the death of a freeman or his selling land one-fifth of the income gained by it went straight to the State coffers, in addition to what was paid to the clergy. They had also to pay income tax and toll tax. The officials of the State extracted taxes according to their individual whims. The peasants had to pay salt tax. They had to work also on the road for which they were not paid at all. They had to pay about eighty per cent of their income towards taxes. Therefore, there was a general discontent among the farmers and the proletariat.

There were about seventeen courts of law in France at that time, but there was hardly a book on law available in that age. There was register of laws in the law courts and the laws given in them had been legislated by the sole will of the Crown. What was applicable at one place was not applicable at another. the judge gave their verdicts but these were hardly executed.

The rule of Louis XVI was corrupt disorganized and autocratic. 1nere was universal discontent due to his evil death. The monarch was coward, weak and lethargic by temperament. Therefore, he could not affect any reforms by removing the disgraceful organizations of the time. Consequently, the fire of revolution went on shouldering. Had the monarch been able, experienced and farsighted, he would have easily been successful in converting the autocratic rule into a constitutional monarchy. Instead of doing so he went ahead with all his ridiculous idiosyncrasies which totally alienated the sympathies of the commoners. People grew hostile against him. Wolseley Haig, once said that the bloodshed in France and the great conflagration called Revolution was due to the ugly deeds of Louis XVI.

Queen Antoinette, who was extremely pretty and luxury-loving, dominated the monarch so much that she could make him agree to do whatever she fancied whether just or unjust. She badly interfered in the state affairs and the government administration. She did not restrain herself from squandering money even after visualizing the economic decline of France. The commoners hated her like heil and called her ugly names dragging her honor into mire. Robertson writes about her, `Marie Antoinette was that ignorant, frivolous, and prodigal daughter of the Hapsburgs to whom France seemed only a bottomless purse to be drained for her pleasure.” Grant and Temperley write about her, “Her Austrian origin was disaster both to herself and to her husband. It made her unpopular in the country when France again came into antagonism with Austria.” During the Revolution she was constantly denounced as the Austrian woman. In brief Marie Antoinette and her vast influence over the husband proved disastrous for her husband and France.

In those days there was no representative body of the people, which could look after the interests of the people or at least present their viewpoint. The people had therefore no voice in the running of their administration. This made the educated people of France sore and they felt that revolt against the present set up was the only way out. Social causes were also responsible for bringing about the Revolution. There was considerable social inequality. At that time France was divided into two classes. First and the foremost consisted of the aristocrats included the nobles and the clergy as well as big ecclesiasts. Then came bourgeoisie which embraced in its fold the peasantry, the merchants, the shopkeepers and the commoners. They did not enjoy the special privileges which were enjoyed by the aristocrats. They were groaning under the burden of heavy taxation, and their life was not happy.

The class consisted of the aristocrats, the nobles and the ecclesiasts, constituted one per cent of the entire population of France. Still they were dominant and the holders of the land. One-fourth of the land of France was occupied by the nobles and one-fifth of it by the clergy. They were tax-free. Huge hunting tracts of forests were reserved for them. Their pets and the cattle freely grazed the crops of the poor peasantry, and the latter had to bear the brunt of this great loss. Due to it the peasantry and the proletariat bore grudge, hatred and rancour against them.

The young sons of the nobles were given all the high and important posts in the State and the Church. They had full freedom to appropriate the annual income of the church amounting to about thirty crores of rupees and all the property attached to churches. Therefore, like the nobles, the life of the clergy had also become luxurious. They were also free from State taxation. They were not prone towards their religious duties and rituals. They frittered away their time in the conspiracies of the court, luxuries, singing and dancing.

Reveling and junketing was the sole vocation of their degenerated life. Prof. A. Hazen says, “These highly lucrative positions were monoplised by the younger sons of the nobility… many of whom indeed resided at court and lived the gay and worldly life.’

The priests of the lower order were recruited from the peasantry. They hated the high ecclesiastics because of fabulous wealth and gay life. They sympathised with the commoners. It was due to this that they were in league with the revolutionaries in the turbulent time. Hazen writes that the triumph of the popular cause in the early days of the Revolution was powerfully aided by the lower clergy.

The clergy was divided into two parts—the first part was known as bourgeoisie and the other as the commoners. The former had made an immense progress although they were more or less similar to the commoners. This class consisted of traders. merchants, artists, litterateurs, physicians, lawyers, writers, low government officials and bankers. In fact, the wealth of France, its trade and intellectual pursuits were monopolised by them. They lent money to the nobles and were drawing them in their fold. They also lent money to the government whenever they needed it. The major burden of the State was on their shoulders. Bourgeoisie were seriously affected by the bankruptcy of the coffers of the French Government. Being educated, the philosophers of the age influenced them terribly. They were highly dissatisfied with the State rule and the social order of the day.

The disturbed economic position of France was one of the chief factors of the ensuing revolution. The national debt had risen beyond control due to the wars waged by Louis XIV. He had spent a fabulous sum of thirty crore rupees over the royal mansion which he built in Versailles, twelve miles from Paris. It was famous for its grandeur all over Europe. Even its maintenance cost was awfully heavy.

Due to the financial mess created by Louis XIV, there was maladministration. Because of heavy expenditure on army, particularly in the Seven Years’ War, the national debt of France had risen incredibly. Louis XV tried to meet this deficit as long as he was able, but after the Coronation of Louis XVI the condition of French treasury became awfully appalling. Besides, wealth was being lavishly squandered by Marie Antoinette. That was a heavy drain on the finances. It needed immediate reforms. The monarch was a puppet in the hands of courtiers. his queen and the influential. When the able ministers proposed to levy taxes on the nobles, they were deprived of their posts by the aristocracy of the age.

At that time when France was groaning under a heavy debt of eight crore dollars, and the budget too was showing a deficit of two and a half crore dollars. In order to find a way out Louis XVI summoned a council of eminent French citizens. The council proposed taxes on the nobles, but the members demurred at this proposal arguing that the final problems could be tackled only by the States General.

It was because of it, that Louis XVI had to summon the State Council or the States General in 1789. It was enough to ignite the revolution. The commoners of the lower strata set the whole thing ablaze. According to Robertson, the very mention of the State’s General was enough to set France ablaze. It was as if a fraudulent firm, unable to meet its liabilities, had been forced at last to lay its affairs before a meeting of its creditors.”

The political, economic and social conditions of France had become degenerated. At this critical juncture the thinkers of France exposed the excesses of the Crown and the clergy as well. They revealed the defects of the administration and created in them a sense of hatred against the nobles and the clergy of higher strata. They were now dissatisfied with the present state of affairs. The revolution now looked imminent. D. M. Ketelbey observes that “writers of all kinds prepared the French Revolution”.

Montesquieu had already established that the theory of the divine right of the kings was baseless and that the king was to be chosen according to the will of the people. He laid emphasis on the thought that in France like England there must be constitutional sovereignty, and this alone will be good for the people. Voltaire awakened the people of France by his critical and satirical writings. He exposed the high-handedness of the clergy and the nobles. Rousseau in his book Social Contract writes, “The French monarchs have dragged the subjects on to the brink of revolution by their arbitrary and, tyrannical acts: Rousseau brought the concept of democracy home to the people. According to him, the democratic government was the best government from the point of view of administration. He propounded the theory that the king was but an elected being of the people and that he could only hold his status of sovereignty till the people had faith in his integrity. It resulted in the smouldering of the feeling of revolution in the hearts of the French people. They were now thinking of overthrowing the monarchy.

England was an old enemy of France. When the people of America rose in revolt against the English rule and started the War of Independence, it was France who rushed to the help of the Americans. It proved to be a fatal blow to the French power because it became a cause of financial deterioration. The soldiers returning to France from America spread revolutionary thoughts. Marriot is of the view that French people were now fully convinced that there could be no effective reforms in the country without doing away with the special privileges of the nobles. The then administration of the country had proved quite impotent for their dissolution. Now they were to gear the powerful engine of the revolution to end the melancholy state of affairs for good. Webster appropriately said that, this war of American Independence became an eye-opener to the nations of Europe and in particular gave leaders to the French Revolution.”

The monarch with the consent of the then administration wanted to make up the deficit with the new taxes which the administrators threatened to impose on the subjects. But the Supreme Court of Paris gave the verdict that no one but the State Council or States General was empowered to impose new taxes. Thus the monarch was obliged to summon the States General. It was, obviously, nothing short of inviting the Revolution itself.

It was at this critical time a terrible famine raged through France throughout 1788-89. A large number of the subjects died of starvation. When the States General was holding its session at Versailles, Paris was undergoing heavy sufferings and the hungry and the naked people of France were crowding about in the metropolis looking for any employment which might come handy. They were under the impression that the monarch had stored up all the produce of franca at this palace. Therefore, they stormed the royal manson of the Crown at Versailles, and brought the king, the queen and their son to Paris. It was the beginning of the conflagration of Revolution. The King henceforth was in the custody of the unruly mob.

As is evident, the conditions of the people of France in those days were very miserable. France was, in fact, a very fertile land for staging a Revolution. H.G. Welts says, the clergy and nobility were protected from taxation by a system of exemption that threw the whole burden of the State upon the middle and lower classes. The peasants were ground down by taxation; the middle classes were dominated and humiliated by nobility.” Davies says, “The writings of Voltaire and Encyclopedist had been widely read and their teachings accepted with enthusiasm, so that there was a general disposition to regard kings and lords as oppressors who had no real right to the tyrannical powers which they claimed.’


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