The Precise

Q: If you had to identify the most significant causes of the Revolution, what would they
A: First and foremost, it would be most important to analyse the political situation of
France before the Revolution. The long reign of Louis the XIV (1643-1715) marked
absolute monarchy at its peak in France. When Louis XIII died the next in line to take the
throne was only 5 years old, Louis XIV. His mother ruled for him along side the new
Chief Minister, Mazarin, who had been trained by Richelieu. Mazarin was easily hated
because of his overbearing attempts to raise taxes. In the 1640's a group of courageous
nobles backed by peasants led a series of revolts against the crown. The revolts alarmed
the young king into believing that only a country with absolute monarchy could prevent
civil war. Louis believed that his power came from God and no one should question it
since he had the ?divine right.? After Mazarin's death in 1661, Louis XIV ruled as an
absolute monarchy. "L'etat c'est moi" in French, meaning "I am the state", was Louis'
description of his power, which shows just how insane France was becoming. Louis
worked hard to build up France's glorious monarchy while his people suffered from
oppression. Because of his reign's splendor, he was called the "Sun King." Louis spent
fortunes on lavish palaces and opulent city buildings. The most magnificent was Versailles,
near Paris, where the royal family resided. Louis ordered many officials to live with him.
Those who were against him spent their time pampering King Louis XIV in hopes that he
would give them pensions or higher positions in his court. In 1665 Louis the XIV named
Jean Baptiste Colbert as his minister of finance to strengthen France's economy. Colbert
improved taxation, supported shipbuilding and the navy, and helped industry. These times
did not last very long, though. Louis' luxurious lifestyle and France's frequent wars drained
the treasury. France, unlike England, had no law that could halt the amount of money that
the king could spend. Another reason for the decline was Louis' religious intolerance.
Louis was worried that the "Huguenots" would cause rebellion, so he forced them to
convert to Catholicism. When that did not work he reverted to persecution. Many of the
Huguenots fled to Protestant countries and North America. After the end of the Thirty
Years War Louis wanted to expand French lands to the north and east to give France a
border that was easier to defend. To make this wish a reality Louis reorganised the French
army. Other European states, afraid of what his actions would be, formed alliances to
resist him. Between 1667 and 1714 France went to war 4 times. The most destructive of
these was the "War of the Spanish Succession". The war went poorly for France, but the
war ended before France suffered great losses, which resulted in more oppression of the
French people. The Peace of Utrecht, made up of several treaties, restored the balance in
Europe. By the end of Louis the XIV's reign, the treasury was almost empty. Wars and
careless spending had left France in debt. These troubles were made worse by the wars
during the reign of Louis XV. Financial problems helped weaken the monarchy and bring
on the French Revolution in 1789.
Another significant reason of conflict was the incredibly stupid Three Estates
system. In France, preceding the Revolution, the citizens of the country were split up into
three groups or estates. The first estate was divided into two groups: the lower clergy and
the higher clergy. The higher clergy came from wealthy families and the lower clergy
consisted of parish priests. In the second estate were the nobles. They held the highest
offices in government and paid little or no taxes. The third estate, which was the largest,
consisted of peasants, city workers, and the middle class. The people in the third estate
were the merchants, bankers, lawyers, doctors, & government workers. Of the three
estates, the first, second, and third, the first two of these groups had all the political
power, though they were a mere two percent of the total population. They also had
control over the majority of the land. To add to this the nobles, the second estate, forced
the peasants of the third estate to do labor and give goods to them, at no charge. This
abuse of power against the lower class gave the peasants a reason to despise their
"superiors." And to top it all off, the taxes which were inforced on the peasants were