Global 10/Period 8
4 December 2017
people do great things to impact society, Louis XVI was not one of those
people. As the King of France from 1774
to 1792, he was the last reigning monarch. Since he was unable to see the
revolutionary forces at work in France, he contributed to the collapse of the
monarchy. Due to various governing errors, Louis XVI brought the French
Revolution upon himself and his country. The French people viewed Louis XVI as
a symbol of the tyranny and as a result he was executed in 1793. Louis XVI
matters today because his execution gave power to the people and brought an end
to over one thousand years of continuous rule by the French monarchy.
The seeds of the
French Revolution were planted in the Enlightenment, a period highlighting the
importance of wisdom, reason and the problems of the world. Enlightenment
thinkers promoted political ideas that stated God gave humans specific rights
and it is the responsibilities of governments to give these rights to their citizens.
For many years, the poor French majority were burdened by the totalitarian rule
of the monarchy and the First and Second Estates. The peasants labored to pay
taxes to the king, but they were unable to have a say in their own government.
Each Estate would meet separately and vote as a group with each Estate having
only one vote. The First and Second Estates would always work together to
outvote the Third Estate two to one. To make matters worse, poor crop harvests
led to widespread famine and high food prices. In addition, King Louis XVI
raised taxes to pull France out of bankruptcy from the American Revolution. Economical
causes of the French Revolution were in fact very important and influential. One of the mistakes that Louis XVI made that
led to his death was his failure to reform his country’s economy and pay
attention to the suffering of his population. Before the French Revolution, France was in
a massive financial hole. Louis XVI was spending more money than he was being
paid in taxes. By 1786 he realized the debt that he was in, but he was already
too far in it by then. At this time there was immense poverty in France. People
could no longer feed their families “the average 18th-century worker spent half
his daily wage on bread. But when the grain crops failed two years in a row, in
1788 and 1789, the price of bread shot up to 88 percent of his wages” (Stock 1).
Taxes were high and so were prices, but the wages were low. For example, “All
the funds were empty, all public stocks were low, all circulation was
interrupted. Alarm was general and confidence destroyed.” (Paine 1) Unable to
provide for their families, the lower classes of France were in an economic
crisis, which was one of the things that drove them to revolt.