The causes of the French Revolution can be attributed to several intertwining factors:
The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration is the Holy See.
Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and adapting or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, mathematics, and art, and is normally considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans. Reason, or an aspect of it, is sometimes referred to as rationality.
All these factors created a revolutionary atmosphere and a tricky situation for Louis XVI. In order to resolve the crisis, the king summoned the Estates-General in May 1789 and, as it came to an impasse, the representatives of the Third Estates formed a National Assembly, against the wishes of the king, signaling the outbreak of the French Revolution.
In political science, a revolution is a fundamental and relatively sudden change in political power and political organization which occurs when the population revolts against the government, typically due to perceived oppression or political incompetence. In book V of the Politics, the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle described two types of political revolution:
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly, which existed from 4 June 1789 to 9 July 1789, was a revolutionary assembly formed by the representatives of the Third Estate of the Estates-General; thereafter it was known as the National Constituent Assembly, though popularly the shorter form persisted.
The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.
The essence of the revolutionary situation which existed in France in the 1780s was the bankruptcy of the king, and hence the state. This economic crisis was due to the rapidly increasing costs of government and to the overwhelming costs incurred by fighting two major wars: the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War.These costs could not be met from the usual sources of state revenue. Since the 1770s, several attempts by different ministers to introduce financial stability had failed. The taxation system was burdensome upon the middle class and the more prosperous peasants, given that the nobles were largely able to exempt themselves from it. As a result, there was "an insistent demand" for reform of these abuses of privilege, for an equitable means of taxation and for improved government processes. David Thomson argued that the bourgeoisie and peasantry had "something to lose, not merely something to gain" in their demands for a fairer society and this fear too was a major factor in the revolutionary situation.
Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was the last king of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.
The Seven Years' War was a global war fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved all five European great powers of the time plus many of the middle powers and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions: one was led by the Kingdom of Great Britain and included the Kingdom of Prussia, the Kingdom of Portugal, the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and a few other small German states; while the other was led by the Kingdom of France and included the Austrian-led Holy Roman Empire, including the Electorate of Saxony and most of the smaller German states, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Spain, and Sweden. The Dutch Republic, Denmark-Norway, the Italian States, and the Ottoman Empire did not participate. Meanwhile, in India, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal.
The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies in North America which declared independence in July 1776 as the United States of America.
A growing number of the French citizenry had absorbed the ideas of "equality" and "freedom of the individual" as presented by Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot and other philosophers and social theorists of the Age of Enlightenment.The American Revolution demonstrated that it was plausible for Enlightenment ideas about how a government should be organized to actually be put into practice. Some American diplomats, like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, had lived in Paris, where they consorted freely with members of the French intellectual class. Furthermore, contact between American revolutionaries and the French troops who served in North America helped spread revolutionary ideas to the French people.
François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plumeVoltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, as well as his advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the development of modern political, economic and educational thought.
Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer, best known for serving as co-founder, chief editor, and contributor to the Encyclopédie along with Jean le Rond d'Alembert. He was a prominent figure during the Enlightenment.
The population of France in the 1780s was about 26 million, of whom 21 million were workers in arable and pastoral agriculture. Few of these owned enough land to support a family and most were forced to take on extra work as they were poorly paid laborers on larger farms. There were regional differences but, by and large, French peasants were generally better off than those in countries like Russia or Lithuania-Poland. Even so, hunger was a daily problem which became critical in years of poor harvest and the condition of most French peasants was poor.
The fundamental issue of poverty was aggravated by social inequality as all the third estate (peasants,artisans such as shoe makers, pastry cooks and daily wage workers) were liable to pay taxes, from which the nobility could claim immunity, and feudal dues payable to a local seigneur or lord. Similarly, the destination of tithes which the peasants were obliged to pay to their local churches was a cause of grievance as it was known that the majority of parish priests were poor and the contribution was being paid to an aristocratic, and usually absentee, abbot.The clergy numbered about 100,000 and yet they owned 10% of the land. The Catholic Church maintained a rigid hierarchy as abbots and bishops were all members of the nobility and canons were all members of wealthy bourgeois families. As an institution, it was both rich and powerful. As with the nobility, it paid no taxes and merely contributed a grant to the state every five years, the amount of which was self-determined. The upper echelons of the clergy had considerable influence over government policy.
Social inequality occurs when resources in a given society are distributed unevenly, typically through norms of allocation, that engender specific patterns along lines of socially defined categories of persons. It is the differentiation preference of access of social goods in the society brought about by power, religion, kinship, prestige, race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and class. The social rights include labor market, the source of income, health care, and freedom of speech, education, political representation, and participation. Social inequality linked to economic inequality, usually described on the basis of the unequal distribution of income or wealth, is a frequently studied type of social inequality. Although the disciplines of economics and sociology generally use different theoretical approaches to examine and explain economic inequality, both fields are actively involved in researching this inequality. However, social and natural resources other than purely economic resources are also unevenly distributed in most societies and may contribute to social status. Norms of allocation can also affect the distribution of rights and privileges, social power, access to public goods such as education or the judicial system, adequate housing, transportation, credit and financial services such as banking and other social goods and services.
Dislike of the nobility was especially intense. Successive French kings and their ministers had tried with limited success to suppress the power of the nobles but, in the last quarter of the 18th century, "the aristocracy were beginning once again to tighten their hold on the machinery of government".
France in 1787, although it faced some difficulties, was one of the most economically capable nations of Europe. The French population exceeded 28 million; of Europe's 178 to 188 millions, only Imperial Russia had a greater population (37 to 41 million).France was also among the most urbanized countries of Europe, the population of Paris was second only to that of London (approximately 500,000 vs. 800,000), and six of Europe's 35 larger cities were French.
Other measures confirm France's inherent strength. France had 5.3 million of Europe's approximately 30 million male peasants.Its area under cultivation, productivity per unit area, level of industrialization, and gross national product (about 14% of the continental European product, excluding Russia, and 6% to 10% above the level elsewhere in Europe ) all placed France near the very top of the scale. In short, while it may have lagged slightly behind the Low Countries, and possibly Switzerland, in per capita wealth, the sheer size of the French economy made it the premier economic power of continental Europe.
Historian John Shovlin states, "It is a truism that the French Revolution was touched off by the near bankruptcy of the state." [ citation needed ] livres. Extravagant expenditures on luxuries by Louis XVI, whose rule began in 1774, were compounded by debts that were run up during the reign of his even-more-profligate predecessor, Louis XV who reigned from 1715 to 1774. Heavy expenditures to conduct a losing campaign in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), and France's backing of the Americans in their War of Independence, added a further 1.3 billion livres in debt.It was the burden of the national debt that led this to the long-running financial crisis of the French government. Before the revolution, the French debt had risen from 8 billion to 12 billion
Louis XV and his ministers were deeply unhappy about Britain's victory in the Seven Years' War and, in the years following the Treaty of Paris, they began drawing up a long-term plan that would involve constructing a larger navy and building an anti-British coalition of allies. In theory, this would eventually lead to a war of revenge and see France regain its colonies from Britain. In practice, it resulted in a mountain of debts.
On the advice of, what many believed was, his mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour, the king supported the policy of fiscal justice designed by d'Arnouville. In order to finance the budget deficit, which amounted to 100 million livres in 1745, Machault d'Arnouville created a tax of 5% on all revenues (the vingtième ), a measure that affected the privileged classes as well as the rest of the population. Still, expenditures outpaced revenues.
Ultimately, Louis XV failed to overcome these fiscal problems, mainly because he was incapable of harmonizing the conflicting parties at court and arriving at coherent economic policies. Worse, Louis seemed to be aware of the anti-monarchist forces that were threatening his family's rule, yet he failed to do anything to stop them.
Under the new king, Louis XVI, radical financial reforms by his ministers, Turgot and Malesherbes, angered the nobles and were blocked by the parlements who insisted that the king did not have the legal right to levy new taxes. So, in 1776, Turgot was dismissed and Malesherbes resigned. They were replaced by Jacques Necker, who supported the American Revolution and proceeded with a policy of taking large international loans instead of raising taxes.
France sent Rochambeau, Lafayette and de Grasse, along with large land and naval forces, to help the Americans. French aid proved decisive in forcing the main British army to surrender at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781.The Americans gained their independence, and the war ministry rebuilt the French army. However, the British sank the main French fleet in 1782, and France gained little, except for the colonies of Tobago and Senegal, from the Treaty of Paris (1783) that concluded the war. The war cost 1.066 million French livres, a huge sum, that was financed by new loans at high interest rates, but no new taxes were imposed. Necker concealed the crisis from the public by explaining only that ordinary revenues exceeded ordinary expenses, and by not mentioning the loans at all.
When Necker's tax policy failed miserably, Louis dismissed him, and replaced him, in 1783, with Charles Alexandre de Calonne, who increased public spending in an attempt to "buy" the country's way out of debt. This policy also failed; therefore, Louis convened the Assembly of Notables in 1787 to discuss a revolutionary new fiscal reform proposed by Calonne. When the nobles were told the extent of the debt, they were shocked; however, the shock did not motivate them to rally behind the plan – but to reject it. This negative turn of events signaled to Louis that he had lost the ability to rule as an absolute monarch, and he fell into depression.
Britain, too, was heavily indebted as a result of these conflicts; but Britain had far more advanced fiscal institutions in place to deal with it. France was a wealthier country than Britain, and its national debt was no greater than the British one. In each country, servicing the debt accounted for about one-half the government's annual expenditure; where they differed was in the effective rates of interest. In France, the debt was financed at almost twice the interest rate as the debt across the Channel. This demanded a much higher level of taxation and less flexibility in raising money to deal with unforeseen emergencies. (See also Eden Agreement.)
Englishman Edmund Burke, no friend of the Revolution, wrote in 1790 that "the public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can pledge nothing but the public estate; and it can have no public estate except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large." Because the nobles successfully defended their privileges, the king of France lacked the means to impose a "just and proportioned" tax.[ according to whom? ] The desire to do so led directly to the decision in 1788 to call the Estates-General into session. [ better source needed ]
The financial strain of servicing old debt and the excesses of the current royal court caused dissatisfaction with the monarchy, contributed to national unrest, and culminated in the French Revolution of 1789.[ according to whom? ]
Louis XVI, his ministers, and the widespread French nobility had become immensely unpopular. This was a consequence of the fact that peasants and, to a lesser extent, the poor and those aspiring to be bourgeoisie , were burdened with ruinously high taxes levied to support a wealthy monarchy, along with aristocrats and their sumptuous, often gluttonous lifestyles.
France raised most of its tax revenue internally, with a notable deficit regarding external customs tariffs.Taxes on commerce consisted of internal tariffs among the regions of France. This set up an arbitrary tax-barrier (sometimes, as in Paris, in physical form) at every regional boundary, and these barriers prevented France from developing as a unified market. Collections of taxes, such as the extremely unpopular salt tax, the gabelle , were contracted to private collectors ("tax farmers"), who, like all farmers, preoccupied themselves with making their holdings grow. So, they collected, quite legitimately, far more than required, remitted the tax to the State, and pocketed the remainder. These unwieldy systems led to arbitrary and unequal collection of France's consumption taxes. (See also Wall of the Farmers-General, Jean Chouan, Octroi, Claude Nicolas Ledoux, and the Indian salt tax.)
Peasants and nobles alike were required to pay one-tenth of their income or produce to the church (the tithe ). Peasants paid a land tax to the state (the taille ),a 5% property tax (the vingtième ). All paid a tax on the number of people in the family ( capitation ), depending on the status of the taxpayer (from poor to prince). Further royal and seigneurial obligations might be paid in several ways: in labor (the corvée ), in kind, or, rarely, in coin. Peasants were also obligated to their landlords for: rent in cash (the cens ), a payment related to their amount of annual production (the champart ), and taxes on the use of the nobles' mills, wine-presses, and bakeries (the banalités ).
Tax collection was farmed out (privatized) to "fermiers", through a system of public bidding.Public officials bought their positions from the king, sometimes on an annual basis, sometimes in perpetuity. Often an additional tax, called "paulette" was paid by the holders of an office to upgrade their position to one that could be passed along as an inheritance. Naturally, holders of these offices tried to reimburse themselves by milking taxpayers as hard as possible. For instance, in a civil lawsuit, judges required that both parties pay for the costs of the trial (called the épices, the spices); this, effectively, put justice out of the reach of all but the wealthy.
The system also exempted the nobles and the clergy from taxes (with the exception of a modest quit-rent, an ad valorem tax on land). The tax burden, therefore, devolved to the peasants, wage-earners, and the professional and business classes, also known as the third estate. Further, people from less-privileged walks of life were blocked from acquiring even petty positions of power in the regime. This caused further resentment.
During the reigns of Louis XV (1715–1774) and Louis XVI (1774–1792), several ministers, most notably Turgot and Necker, proposed revisions to the French tax system so as to include the nobles as taxpayers, but these proposals were not adopted because of resistance from the parlements (provincial courts of appeal). Members of these courts bought their positions from the king, as well as the right to transfer their positions hereditarily through payment of an annual fee, the paulette . Membership in such courts, or appointment to other public positions, often led to elevation to the nobility (the so-called Nobles of the Robe, as distinguished from the nobility of ancestral military origin, the Nobles of the Sword.) While these two categories of nobles were often at odds, they both sought to retain their privileges.
The need to raise taxes placed the king at odds with the nobles and the upper bourgeoisie, he appointed as his finance ministers, "rising men" (to use François Mignet's insightful term), usually of non-noble origin. These commoners, Turgot, Chrétien de Malesherbes, and Jacques Necker lobbied for reforms in taxation and other moves toward moderation, such as Necker's attempts to reduce the lavishness of the king's court. Each one failed. Instead, the "Parkinson's law" of bureaucratic overextended waste prevailed, to the detriment of the gentry and other non-seigneurial classes. In contrast, Charles Alexandre de Calonne, appointed finance minister in 1783, restored lavish spending reminiscent of the age of Louis XIV. By the time Calonne brought together the Assembly of Notables on 22 February 1787 to address the financial situation, France had reached a state of virtual bankruptcy; no one would lend the king money sufficient to meet the expenses of the royal court and the government. According to Mignet, the loans amounted to 1.64 billion livres, and the annual deficit was 140 millions.
Calonne was succeeded by his chief critic, Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne, archbishop of Sens, but the fundamental situation was unchanged: the government had no credit. To address this, the Assembly of Notables sanctioned "the establishment of provincial assemblies, regulation of the corn trade, abolition of corvées, and a new stamp tax", but the assembly dispersed on 25 May 1787 without actually installing a longer-term program with prospects for success.
H. F. Helmolt argued that the issue was not so much the debt per se, but the way the debt was refracted through the lens of Enlightenment principles and the increasing power of third-estate creditors, that is, commoners who held the government's paper.
Properly speaking, the people ought to have been accustomed to the fact that the French government did not fulfill its financial obligations, for since the time of Henry IV, that is, within two centuries, it had failed to meet its obligations fifty-six times. In earlier days such catastrophes had not been announced and publicly discussed. Now all France, which for two generations had been worked upon by the party of rationalism, shared the outcry against the financial situation.
The struggle with the parlements and nobles to enact reformist measures displayed the extent of the disintegration of the Ancien Régime. In short order, Protestants regained their rights, and Louis XVI was pressured to produce an annual disclosure of the state of his finances. He also pledged to reconvene the Estates-General within five years. Despite the pretense that France operated under an absolute monarchy, it became clear that the royal government could not successfully implement the changes it desired without the consent of the nobility. The financial crisis had become a political crisis as well,and the French Revolution loomed just beyond the horizon.
In Ancien Régime France, bread was the main source of food for poor peasants and as the king was required to ensure the food supply of his subjects, the king was affectionately nicknamed le premier boulanger du royaume ("prime baker of the kingdom").During this period, the role of the royal police was far more involved than simply upholding the law. Police held responsibility over many systems in society, even street sweeping, it also exercised a strict control over food supply. In order to maintain social order, the grain market was submitted to harsh rules to ensure the quality of the bread and its availability at all time and for the entire population. Grain merchants were viewed with suspicion, they were called "the most cruel enemies of the people" because they were suspected to mix flour with other products (such as chalk or crushed bones) or to hoard grains to raise artificially the prices of this vital commodity. The Ancien Régime favoured a "moral economy" where cupidity was moderated by strict regulations. The police controlled the purity of the flour and made sure that no one would hide grains to drive up prices. Food scarcity was common in the 18th century, but the grain police would forbid exportations from regions facing bad harvests and would import grain from regions enjoying overproduction. It could also force a merchant to dump the price of his flour (he was later compensated for his loss in times of abundance).
During the Age of Enlightenment, the physiocrat school of economy emerged. The physiocrats, or économistes as they called themselves, had a great impact on Turgot, Louis XVI's Controller-General of Finances. Their opinion on what government economic policy should be was summarized in the term Vincent de Gournay laid claim to: "laissez faire, laissez passer", meaning leave it alone and let it pass, also known as the "invisible hand" notion. Turgot passionately defended Gournay's belief in "laissez-faire" economic principles in his writing "Éloge de Gournay". Accordingly, Turgot abolished police regulations and established free trade in grain on 13 September 1774.
During the period before the spring harvest of 1775, the cereal reserves were exhausted while new crops had not yet arrived. In spring 1775, famine arose in this new context: before Turgot's edict, every region faced its own shortages, so that some would have suffered a genuine famine while others would have been totally spared and supplied through stable prices; a royal intervention would have been requested, and without a doubt obtained, to assure the supply of the regions most affected. With liberalization, owners of grain started to speculate by storing grain. They also tend to buy en masse in areas of good harvests to sell in areas of bad harvests where profits could be greater, causing significant price increases and shortages all over and affecting more people more quickly. Changes to grain and bread supply had serious implications, and was met with disorder. This conflict was known as the Flour War of 1775. Reports from those that controlled the flow of grain stated there were problems with the grain harvest which caused shortages and less grain availability. The price of grain also increased, and became hard for some to afford. News of a grain shortage was met with skepticism and frustration rose from higher prices.Those in opposition of the reform rioted, and seized grain that came in on shipments. They offered what they felt was the "just price" for it. This demonstrated a way in which the people took some power back into their own hands. This practice was known as "taxation populaire", or popular taxation.
While there were documented efforts to deal with the grain shortage problems, such as increasing shipments from foreign countries, beliefs that the famine was intentionally orchestrated by Louis XVI, through the "Pacte de Famine", emerged.Turgot repressed the riots and restored controls over the grain market. The idea of free trade of grain was discredited and the economic experiment distanced the masses from the government in Versailles. The Flour War can be seen as a prelude to the French Revolution.
The fear of famine became an ever-present dread for the lower strata of the Third Estate, and rumors of the "Pacte de Famine" to starve the poor were still rampant and readily believed.Mere rumors of food shortage led to the Réveillon riots in April 1789. Rumors of a plot aiming to destroy wheat crops in order to starve the population provoked the Great Fear in the summer of 1789. The hunger and despair of the Parisian women was also the original impetus for the Women's March on Versailles in October 1789, they wanted not just one meal but the assurance that bread would once again be plentiful and cheap.
The two years prior to the revolution (1788–89) saw meager harvests and harsh winters, possibly because of a strong El Niño cyclecaused by the 1783 Laki eruption in Iceland. The Little Ice Age also affected farmers' choices of crops to plant; in other parts of Europe, peasant farmers had adopted the potato as its staple crop. The potato had been introduced to France during the 16th century and despite resistance had largely supplanted the turnip and rutabaga in France. Despite encouragement from individuals like Antoine Parmentier and Louis XVI, grain was still a much more popular staple crop in France. This was partially because potatoes were seen as more difficult to transport and store than grain.
The financial dangers of French involvement in ventures such as wars were known by Louis XVI and his predecessor, thanks to their finance minister Charles Gravier, Count of Vergennes. Gravier, reportedly the only minister Louis XVI ever trusted, warned the King in a letter dated 5 December 1778 that it was “a fact that Your Majesty cannot fight the English on equal terms for long and that a prolonged war which would not be exempt from disadvantages could entail the ruin of your navy and even of your finances”.According to historian John Hardman, Louis XVI, despite having been educated in Foreign policy and economics from boyhood, willfully led his nation into economic ruin as a result of his continued support for the American Revolutionary War, and thereby caused the Revolution. However the French historian Georges Lefebvre argues that France's key problem was its tax code, the multitude of tax exemptions that the first and second estates possessed preventing the collection of hundreds of millions of livres in taxes every year. Minster Vergennes was the biggest proponent of French involvement in the American Revolutionary War, having approved Pierre Beaumarchais's plan for secret French assistance to American revolutionaries years before French involvement, and was the Chief negotiator for the Treaty of Alliance signed between France and America in 1778.
Jacques Necker was a banker of Genevan origin who became a finance minister for Louis XVI and a French statesman. Necker played a key role in French history before and during the first period of the French Revolution.
Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de l'Aulne, commonly known as Turgot, was a French economist and statesman. Originally considered a physiocrat, he is today best remembered as an early advocate for economic liberalism. He is thought to be the first economist to have recognized the law of diminishing marginal returns in agriculture.
Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne was a French churchman, politician and finance minister of Louis XVI.
Charles Alexandre de Calonne, titled Count of Hannonville in 1759, was a French statesman, best known for his involvement in the French Revolution.
The estates of the realm, or three estates, were the broad orders of social hierarchy used in Christendom from the medieval period to early modern Europe. Different systems for dividing society members into estates developed and evolved over time.
One of the central events of the French Revolution was to abolish feudalism, and the old rules, taxes and privileges left over from the age of feudalism. The National Constituent Assembly, acting on the night of 4 August 1789, announced, "The National Assembly abolishes the feudal system entirely." It abolished both the seigneurial rights of the Second Estate and the tithes gathered by the First Estate. The old judicial system, founded on the 13 regional parlements, was suspended in November 1789, and finally abolished in 1790.
A parlement, in the Ancien Régime of France, was a provincial appellate court. In 1789, France had 13 parlements, the most important of which was the Parlement of Paris. While the English word parliament derives from this French term, parlements were not legislative bodies. They consisted of a dozen or more appellate judges, or about 1,100 judges nationwide. They were the court of final appeal of the judicial system, and typically wielded much power over a wide range of subject matter, particularly taxation. Laws and edicts issued by the Crown were not official in their respective jurisdictions until the parlements gave their assent by publishing them. The members were aristocrats called nobles of the gown who had bought or inherited their offices, and were independent of the King.
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly abolished the traditional structure of the Catholic Church in France and reorganized it as an institution within the structure of the new French government. One of the new requirements placed upon all clergy was the necessity of an oath of loyalty to the state before all foreign influences such as the Pope. This created a schism within the French clergy, with those taking the oath known as juring priests, and those refusing the oath known as non-juring or refractory priests.
The Estates General of 1789 was a general assembly representing the French estates of the realm: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners, the last of Estates General of Kingdom of France. Summoned by King Louis XVI, it was brought to an end when the Third Estate formed into a National Assembly, inviting the other two to join, against the wishes of the King. This signaled the outbreak of the French Revolution.
The Kingdom of France was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was among the most powerful states in Europe and a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.
French involvement in the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, when France, a rival of the British Empire, secretly shipped supplies to the Continental Army. A Treaty of Alliance followed in 1778, which led to shipments of money and matériel to the United States. Subsequently, the Spanish Empire and the Dutch Republic also began to send assistance, leaving the British Empire with no allies. Spain openly declared war but the Dutch did not.
An Assembly of Notables was a group of high-ranking nobles, ecclesiastics, and state functionaries convened by the King of France on extraordinary occasions to consult on matters of state. Assemblymen were prominent men, usually of the aristocracy, and included royal princes, peers, archbishops, high-ranking judges, and, in some cases, major town officials. The king would issue one or more reforming edicts after hearing their advice.
The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The term is occasionally used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, and civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority regularly overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.
The Flour War refers to a wave of riots from April to May 1775, in the northern, eastern, and western parts of the Kingdom of France. It followed an increase in grain prices, and subsequently bread prices; bread was an important source of food among the populace. Contributing factors to the riots include poor weather and harvests, and the withholding by police of public grain supplies from the royal stores in 1773-74. This large-scale revolt subsided following wheat price controls imposed by Turgot, Louis XVI's Controller-General of Finances, and the deploying of military troops.
The French Revolution had a major impact on Europe and the New World. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history. In the short-term, France lost thousands of its countrymen in the form of émigrés, or emigrants who wished to escape political tensions and save their lives. A number of individuals settled in the neighboring countries, however quite a few also went to the United States. The displacement of these Frenchmen led to a spread of French culture, policies regulating immigration, and a safe haven for Royalists and other counterrevolutionaries to outlast the violence of the French Revolution. The long-term impact on France was profound, shaping politics, society, religion and ideas, and polarizing politics for more than a century. The closer other countries were, the greater and deeper was the French impact, bringing liberalism and the end of many feudal or traditional laws and practices. However, there was also a conservative counter-reaction that defeated Napoleon, reinstalled the Bourbon kings, and in some ways reversed the new reforms.
The croquant rebellions were several peasant revolts that erupted in Limousin, Quercy, and Perigord (France) and that extended through the southeast of the country in the latter part of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries.
Jean-François Joly de Fleury (1710-1787) was a minor figure serving in the French government as finance minister within a decade of the French Revolution. He was a member of the influential Joly de Fleury family.