by chris anderson randolph henry high school n.
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By Chris Anderson Randolph-Henry High School. The French Revolution: The Old Order in F rance. Introduction. France will reach its height during the same time as the American Revolution France was very rich and powerful

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The French Revolution: The Old Order in F rance

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  • France will reach its height during the same time as the American Revolution
  • France was very rich and powerful
  • Although a rich nation, most of the people of France were not rich--instead, the people had very few rights
  • the people of France saw how the American colonists were able to gain their independence and yearned for a change in France
french society divided
French Society Divided
  • France’s class system allowed for lots of inequality among the people
  • there were three estates--classes--in French society:
    • First Estate--Catholic Clergy
    • Second Estate--Nobility
    • Third Estate--97% of all French people
  • Third Estate people had very few rights and were envious of the 1st and 2nd Estates
  • the 3rd Estate was the only class required to pay taxes
  • 3rd Estate people did not share the same rights as the 1st or 2nd
first estate
First Estate
  • This was constructed of the Roman Catholic clergy
  • this Estate was comprised of only 1% of the French population
  • 2 groups existed in the 1st Estate--
    • higher clergy--bishops, abbots
    • lower clergy--parish priests
  • High Clergy
    • these controlled 5-10% of all French land
    • they collected a tithe from each church member
  • Low Clergy
    • poorer clergy
    • socially part of the 3rd estate
second estate
Second Estate
  • Formed by the French nobility
  • only about 2% of the French population
  • these members owned about 25% of the land in France
  • held high government positions
  • usually they were rich--their main income coming from feudal dues paid to them by peasant farmers
third estate
Third Estate
  • The 3rd Estate was the largest social group in France
  • Although the largest group and the only group that paid taxes, they had no voice in government
  • peasants, artisans, middle class (bourgeoisie)
  • very few political rights
  • members of the bourgeoisie lived in cities and towns
  • bourgeoisie were usually educated
  • Poor artisans and workers also lived in cities
  • made little money in very bad jobs
  • many lived in the Paris slums
  • peasants lived outside the cities in rural areas
    • peasants owned 40% of the land but were still very poor
    • paid heavy taxes
    • they will eventually call for social equality
growing unrest
Growing Unrest
  • The people of the 3rd Estate will be unhappy and want change
  • as the cost of living , the peasants’ anger also
  • peasants were also being over-charge for the use of mills and wine presses
  • artisans were experiencing high prices but no change in wages--inflation
  • The bourgeoisie were also unhappy along with some nobles
  • the nobles did not like the king’s absolute power
  • nobles wanted more influence in government

Louis XIV had spent a lot of money on many wars during his reign

  • these wars had left France with a huge debt
  • his grandson, Louis XV, increased the debt during his reign
  • these debts had left France economically weak
  • 1774: Louis XVI becomes king of France
    • he is only 19 years old
  • Louis XVI is the grandson of Louis XV
  • Louis XVI is married to 18-yo Marie Antoinette
  • Louis XVI understood the financial troubles facing France
  • Louis decided he must tax the clergy and nobility in order to reduce France’s debts
  • problem: the clergy and nobility refused to pay the taxes

Louis XV (15)

Louis XVI (16)


1786: French banks were refusing to loan $ to the government

  • 1786: crop failures bread shortages in 1788 & 1789
  • the clergy and nobility refuse to help the government
  • Louis was forced to call the Estates-General into session to raise additional funds
calling the estates general
Calling the Estates General
  • When Louis XVI called the Estates-General into session in 1789, it was the 1st time since 1614
  • the Estates-General was made up of people from each different estate
  • Louis hoped the Estates-General would levy new taxes
  • the nobles had different ideas

The nobles wanted to:

    • weaken the power of the king
    • gain control of the government
  • each estate had only 1 vote in the Estates-General
    • the nobles hoped the votes of the 1st & 2nd estates would outweigh the vote of the 3rd
  • the 3rd estate members refused to follow the plan set by the nobles
    • the 3rd estate--since it made up 97% of France’s population--believed it should more of a right to represent France than the nobles

The 3rd estate wanted their members to have individual votes--each delegate having a vote

  • many nobles supported this 3rd estate’s ideas
  • king Louis XVI did not like the 3rd estate’s idea of having a mass meeting where each individual member gets a vote
    • Louis wanted the different estates to meet separately
  • the bourgeoisie--members of the 3rd estate--ignored the king
    • these bourgeoisie were locked out of the meetings
    • these bourgeoisie will demand a constitution for France and rename themselves the National Assembly

This National Assembly gathered more supporters

  • they met, many times, on indoor tennis courts--thus those who became members had to take what was called the Tennis Court Oath
  • members promised not to break-up until France had a constitution
  • the king did not want the members of the National Assembly (3rd estate) to create a constitution
  • Louis orders the 1st and 2nd estate to join in the National Assembly to help create a national constitution
  • the king also ordered troops to come to Paris
a call to revolt
A Call to Revolt
  • In the National Assembly, people voiced their unhappiness over the French government
  • most members of the 3rd estate wanted total social equality and the end of titles
  • other delegates wanted to copy the constitutional monarchy present in Britain
  • as the National Assembly was meeting, the idea of rebellion spread throughout France
  • because of fear, the Louis XVI began gathering troops at Versailles
  • French citizens reacted against this troop movement by storming a prison--the Bastille
fall of the bastille
Fall of the Bastille
  • The Bastille was a prison located in Paris
  • the French people saw the Bastille as a symbol of the power and unfairness of the French government
  • July 14, 1789: a large group of French people surrounded the prison
    • these people were out to steal weapons to help defend the National Assembly from a possible attack
  • The people tried to force their way into the Bastille
  • eventually, the people were able to get into the prison, freeing 7 prisoners
  • soldiers defending the Bastille fired upon the mob of people killing 98 French citizens
  • some of the soldiers, too, were killed by the mob

The mob of angry people took over the Bastille

  • a revolutionary government was set up in the city of Paris
  • news of what happened in Paris spread quickly in France
  • other areas in France erupted into violence--a period called the Great Fear
  • peasants in the country began to arm themselves for protection
  • these peasants eventually began violently combing the country side robbing, pillaging, and destroying property, driving landlords off of the land
  • this was the beginning of the French Revolution