Which was the more important issue in the French Revolution: financial crises or political issues? Find out this and more in this addition to The French Turmoil: Vive la France!
In France, there was no central bank, and the monarchy depended more than ever on private interests.
In the meantime, Necker continued to float more loans.
Whether or not she really snarled “Let them eat cake” when told the people had no bread
Necker’s calculations of […] finances were far-fetched.
Parlements were certain to oppose fiscal reform […] distrusted Calonne.
Louis XVI exiled it’s members to the city of Troyes.
Alright, these quotes come from a high school history textbook, A History of Modern Europe by John Merriman. Even if you’re not
in high school European history class, you should still check this book out. The Financial Stability and Political problems France had during this time heavily influenced the beginning of the revolution. Now, it’s obvious from the start that Louis XVI’s popularity over an extension of time turned into…well garbage, and eventually led to his downfall.
Jacques Necker, a Switzerland-born man, was made finance minister of France under Louis XVI in 1776. In less than a year, he changed his title to “dictator-general of the finances.” This man did an outstanding job, by dividing poll taxes more equally and attempting to fund the massive debt France was in. Now, you could wonder how this man affected the revolution. In 1781,
ministers and nobles (the first and second estates), convinced King Louis XVI to dismiss Necker from his duties as dictator-general of finances. Necker tried reassuring creditors and political influences that reform was unnecessary, and with that, bankers decided that Necker’s figures were wrong – and did not loan the monarchy anymore funds. Didn’t France rely on private interests?
Necker was replaced with Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, who would demonstrate that Necker’s figures were wrong. However, Calonne spent more money than Necker would and put the royal monarch’s treasury in deep debt.
But enough with the textbook analysis on Necker and Calonne. This isn’t a history or economics class, so why treat it like one?
The French Revolution, still bubbling at the banks of the Monarch, was influenced heavily by various political and economic issues. But, what was worse? If you compare and contrast the two bases of trouble, you’d be able to estimate the vast influence of both.
That’s right, it’s easy to see that financial crisis was a short term cause for the revolution, and political issues were the long term cause. Without Calonne being the financial minister, perhaps France wouldn’t have been shoved back into debt. Now, we get the the interesting stuff. The Nobles, you know, the guys who have all the damn money in France and the guys who go to freaking war for France, had a slight revolt when the king proposed taking away their privileges, as you may remember from the last post the second and first estates didn’t have to pay taxes.
Of course, if you didn’t have to pay taxes for your entire life and all of a sudden were told you’re helping pay for a debt your class really didn’t cause, you’d be a little pissed off too. Now, instead of sitting down with the nobles and explaining why he needed the taxes with better words, or, I don’t know, maybe COMPROMISING WITH THE NOBLE CLASS, King Louis XVI through a hissy fit and exiled the members of the Noble Revolt to the city of Troyes.
Okay, big boy, now your military generals and perhaps some of the richest men in your kingdom who could help you pay your debt are exiled. How does that make you feel, Mr. Divine Rights? Pretty bad, I bet. Compromise may not be in a monarch’s vocabulary, but its damn obvious that it should be.
Financial downfall may have brought France’s economy down to its knees, but the eventual hatred against Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI will be the long term cause for the death of the Old Regime. Next week, we’ll take a look at the Estates General of 1789, and in later additions to The French Turmoil, we’ll look into the Storming of the Bastille, Bastille Day, The Great Fear, the Early Days of the French Revolution, and much, MUCH more.
Vive la France!