The seeds of theFrench Revolution were planted in the Enlightenment, an age underlining theimportance of wisdom, reason and the problems of the world.
Enlightenmentthinkers promoted political ideas that stated God gave humans specific rightsand 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 ruleof the monarchy and the First and Second Estates. The peasants labored to paytaxes to the king, but they did not have a voice in their government. EachEstate would meet individually and vote as a group with each Estate having onlyone vote. The First and Second Estates would always work together to outvotethe Third Estate two to one. To make matters worse, poor crop harvests led towidespread famine and high food prices.
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In addition, King Louis XVI increasedtaxes to pull France out of bankruptcy from the American Revolution. One of the mistakes that Louis XVI made thatled to his death was his failure to reform his country’s economy and payattention to the suffering of his population. Before the French Revolution,France was in massive financial trouble.
Louis XVI was spending more money thanhe was being paid in taxes. By 1786 he realized the debt that he was in, but hewas too far in it by then to do anything. At this time there was immensepoverty in France. People could no longer feed their families “the average18th-century worker spent half his daily wage on bread. But when the graincrops failed two years in a row, in 1788 and 1789, the price of bread shot upto 88 percent of his wages” (Stock 1). Taxes were high and so were prices, butthe wages were low.
For example, “All the funds were empty, all public stockswere low, all circulation was interrupted. Alarm was general and confidencedestroyed.” (Paine 1) Unable to feed their families, the lower classes ofFrance were in an economic crisis, which was one of the things that drove themto revolt.