Thursday, August 4, 2011

You Say You Want A Revoultion...Well

This is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the French Revolution. Does anything sound familiar?????!!!!!

...Economic factors included hunger and malnutrition in the most destitute segments of the population, due to rising bread prices (from a normal 8 sous for a four-pound loaf to 12 sous by the end of 1789),  after several years of poor grain harvests. Bad harvests (caused in part by extreme weather from El Niño along with volcanic activity at Laki and Grímsvötn), rising food prices, and an inadequate transportation system that hindered the shipment of bulk foods from rural areas to large population centers contributed greatly to the destabilization of French society in the years leading up to the Revolution.
Another cause was the state's effective bankruptcy due to the enormous cost of previous wars, particularly the financial strain caused by French participation in the American Revolutionary War. The national debt amounted to some 1,000–2,000 million livres. The social burdens caused by war included the huge war debt, made worse by the loss of France's colonial possessions in North America and the growing commercial dominance of Great Britain. France's inefficient and antiquated financial system was unable to manage the national debt, something which was both partially caused and exacerbated by the burden of an inadequate system of taxation. To obtain new money to head off default on the government's loans, the king called an Assembly of Notables in 1787.
Meanwhile, the royal court at Versailles was seen as being isolated from, and indifferent to, the hardships of the lower classes. While in theory King Louis XVI was an absolute monarch, in practice he was often indecisive and known to back down when faced with strong opposition. While he did reduce government expenditures, opponents in the parlements successfully thwarted his attempts at enacting much needed reforms. Those who were opposed to Louis' policies further undermined royal authority by distributing pamphlets (often reporting false or exaggerated information) that criticized the government and its officials, stirring up public opinion against the monarchy.
Many other factors involved resentments and aspirations given focus by the rise of Enlightenment ideals. These included resentment of royal absolutism; resentment by peasants, laborers and the bourgeoisie toward the traditional seigneurial privileges possessed by the nobility; resentment of the Church's influence over public policy and institutions; aspirations for freedom of religion; resentment of aristocratic bishops by the poorer rural clergy; aspirations for social, political and economic equality, and (especially as the Revolution progressed) republicanism; hatred of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who was falsely accused of being a spendthrift and an Austrian spy; and anger toward the King for firing finance minister Jacques Necker, among others, who were popularly seen as representatives of the people.

Louis XVI ascended to the throne amidst a financial crisis; the state was nearing bankruptcy and outlays outpaced income. This was because of France’s financial obligations stemming from involvement in the Seven Years War and its participation in the American Revolutionary War. In May 1776, finance minister Turgot was dismissed, after he failed to enact reforms. The next year, Jacques Necker, a foreigner, was appointed Comptroller-General of Finance. He could not be made an official minister because he was a Protestant. Necker realized that the country's extremely regressive tax system subjected the lower classes to a heavy burden, while numerous exemptions existed for the nobility and clergy. He argued that the country could not be taxed higher; that tax exemptions for the nobility and clergy must be reduced; and proposed that borrowing more money would solve the country's fiscal shortages. Necker published a report to support this claim that underestimated the deficit by roughly 36 million livres, and proposed restricting the power of the parlements. This was not received well by the King's ministers and Necker, hoping to bolster his position, argued to be made a minister. The King refused, Necker was fired, and Charles Alexandre de Calonne was appointed to the Comptrollership.Calonne initially spent liberally, but he quickly realized the critical financial situation and proposed a new tax code. The proposal included a consistent land tax, which would include taxation of the nobility and clergy. Faced with opposition from the parlements, Calonne organised the summoning of the Assembly of Notables. But the Assembly failed to endorse Calonne's proposals and instead weakened his position through its criticism. In response, the King announced the calling of the Estates-General for May 1789, the first time the body had been summoned since 1614. This was a signal that the Bourbon monarchy was in a weakened state and subject to the demands of its people.

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