Economic Troubles in France

During the late 18th century, France experienced times of social, political, and economic unrest. Factors such as poorly distributed taxation, and war-time funding would cripple the monarch and push citizens to rebellion against King Louis XVI. In order to resolve such issues, the Generals-Estate gathered to fix the worsening situation in France. This plan would backfire, however, when the Third Estate rebelled against the monarch. The rise of the citizens against the government would mark the beginning of the Revolution in France. Shortly following the rebellion of the Third Estate, the citizens would take forcefully take control of the Bastille marking the symbolic start of the French Revolution.

Estates General
Estates General Meeting (Couder, Auguste. Inaugurazione degli Stati Generali. 1839. Versailles, Musée national du château et des Trianons.)

Prior to the citizen rebellion in France, the economic situation of France was in a ruinous stage. Once flourishing from foreign and domestic trade, the French economy took a drastic turn in the wrong direction. Bad crop seasons crippled the French economy because they were no longer exporting an acceptable amount of goods to support their governing body.  The French government was in a time of great economic need due to war debts and poor taxation. Prior to the failing agricultural times, France was still paying off debts accumulated in the Seven Years War and debts acquired through the help of funding the American Revolution. This burden to the French government caused the citizens of France to grow increasingly angry with the monarch. These economic shortcomings would contribute to the events that would eventually cause the Revolution in France.

Jacques Necker was the Finance Minister of France during the late 18th century under Louis XVI. He was very successful and very much liked by the people of France during his time controlling the finances of France. When the economic troubles began to engulf the French state, Jacques Necker reacted accordingly. Necker analyzed the French taxation system and began to plan a new model to bring France out of recession. Necker proposed his new taxation model to King Louis XVI in 1789 to no avail. Necker’s new model consisted of less tax breaks for the wealthy in order to raise money to drive the economy out of despair. This idea was strongly opposed by the monarchy and the French nobles out of greed. The proposal was so strongly opposed that King Louis XVI fired Necker from his position of Finance Minister. This not only caused the economic problems to remain intact, but also caused a social upheaval among the French citizens who liked the work of Jacques Necker.

Jacques Necker (Duplessis, Joseph.
Jacques Necker (Duplessis, Joseph. Portrait of Jacques Necker. 1871. Versailles.)

The economic struggles that arose in the late 18th century provoked the French citizens to rebel against the monarchy. Poor financial decisions on the part of King Louis XVI led France into upheaval. These poor decisions began with the accumulation of war debts between the Seven Years War and the American Revolution followed by the poor crop season. These times of economic struggles called for a reformed taxation system proposed by Jacques Necker that King Louis and the nobles rejected. All of these events provoked French citizens to rebel against the monarch and begin the French Revolution. The event that symbolizes this rebellious movement toward the French monarch, and will forever represent the iconic push toward reform will be the Storming of the Bastille on the morning of July 14, 1789.

The Storming of the Bastille (Storming of the Bastille. Versailles.)

-Mark Coates



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