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 Let Them Eat Cake 
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
I think it was Arthur Young who noted in his travels how well dressed and fed the peasantry were, and how their land was well tilled. Of course life could be a whole lot better for them, such as being able to vote and make better harvests but Louis could not control the weather and droughts or bread shortages.

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Mon Feb 08, 2010 8:40 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Weren't French peasants in general better off than even their counterparts in the British Isles?

The bad harvests in 1787-1788 which fueled unrest were bad, but apparently the harvest in 1816, just one year after Louis XVIII's restoration was far worse, and was aggravated because Louis XVIII could not relax tariffs on foodstuffs. He wanted to do so but was opposed by the landowners, the bulwark of Bourbon support in France, but also because they feared it would cut into their own profits: they didn't want cheap grain flooding the country which would harm them economically, even if would alleviate the suffering of the people.

Like Christophe said, it was primarily the bankrupting wars at the end of Louis XIV's reign (such as the War of the Spanish Succession) and Louis XV's as well, that helped fuel the unrest towards the monarchy. Criticism towards the monarchy first occurred in the 1750s when French armies had conquered Belgium from Austria, but promptly returned it in the peace treaty. Louis XV's immoral lifestyle also helped fuel unrest against the regime. Gone were the days of Louis XIV and Henri IV. People were begin to expect a certain amount of respectability from their monarchs, akin to those across in the channel in England. France was already making this evolution, as Marie-Antoinette would've made a far better Queen in the 19th century atmosphere than in the 18th one in which she was raised. The birth of the enlightenment was also a major reason in the Revolution. French finances were never particularly stable, either. Louis XIV melted down silver in Versailles to defray costs in the War of the League of Augsburg, the government nearly declared bankruptcy in the 1720s but was able to rid it's self of the debt through the collapse of the South Sea Company Bubble.

Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette had little to do with the Revolution; they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Louis XVI was a well meaning man and Marie-Antoinette was indeed a charitable woman, but France needed a decisive king at this time, capable of making hard choices and not afraid to back down from them.

Many people choose to target the opulence for the French monarchy primarily because of how flashy it is, without any concern. Although it was certainly costly, many modern estimates believe that the costs of the court did not even eat up 1% of the France's GDP at that time. The main problem was France's taxation system. While Britain had a much smaller population than France, it's taxation system was much more modern and efficient, and as such Great Britain was capable of raising far more money for war and other matters than the French ever could. The taille and the hated gabelle seem archaic in comparison. Britain had also adopted several economic measures that France did not--such as a national bank. Although there had been attempts at such a bank in France in the 1720s under John Law, these measures collapsed and France did not have a national bank until Napoleon.

On the whole, the French economy expanded throughout the 18th century: artisans and farmers saw wage increases due to rising prices, especially in agricultural products which allowed the landowners to make a profit. Yet the government remained increasingly mercantilist and interventionist in the domestic economy: the early industrial revolution as we know it in England was probably stifled in France because the government allowed such products only in certain cities, and set strict requirements for production. Even Louis XV had attempted to increase taxation by instituting the vingtième which would even fall upon the nobility and clergy. Yet the Parlements and other opposition in the provinces made it a far less efficient tax than it was supposed to be. It wasn't until 1775 that the economy was really in a crisis.

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Last edited by Drake Rlugia on Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:19 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:41 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Thank you very much for that info Drake. :D I had never heard of the bad harvests in the early 19th century. Very interesting.

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Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:52 am
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Ane excellent summary of the causes of the unrest during this period of the 18th century! Indeed it is so true that what happened in 1789 was brewing up already under the reign of Louis XV decades earlier and Mme de Pompadour was an important and under-estimated influence in persuading Louis XV to stand up and even eventually dissolve a parliament that was already openly defying him. The wrong place at the wrong time with a King who unfortunately had far too much understanding for those who were combatting the inequalities of a somewhat archaic system. Once again one must remember that what sunk Louis XVI in the end was not the third estatre but the nobility, who were loath to abandon their priviliges and who so adroitly spun their network of influence amongst the working classes and the populist leaders thirsty for power and fame. It cannot however be ignored that, given the perverse and emotive nature of this nation, a King with the decisiveness to stand up and fight and take positive and ,if necessary, military action would have probably succeeded in turning the tide and federating a divided nation. The sacrificial lamb turning the other cheek works better in the Scriptures than in the real world it would seem, and such decisive action may well have avoided the terrible bloodshed that France and Europe was to know for the two decades that followed. As someone on this forum already commented, revolutions await weak leaders.

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Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:32 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Délicate fleur wrote:
I think it was Arthur Young who noted in his travels how well dressed and fed the peasantry were, and how their land was well tilled.


!!!! Most unlikely.

Young was shocked and horrified by the poverty and poor use of land he found all through France, and was very sharp about the effects of the feudal system in producing it. In general, the grinding poverty of French peasants was noted with shock by English travelers. I can't imagine where one would find any claim that they were better off than those in England, who already expected a certain level of respect and equal treatment. Linguet, for instance, comments on how well-dressed all classes were in London (though he was later shocked by the beggars he saw in the countryside - the difference is he was talking about beggars, whereas Young was frequently referring to working peasants.)

Young in particular is an example of a man who criticized the Old Regime so severely he almost seems to be calling for Revolution:

Quote:
This led to a conversation, by which I learned, that in the haut Savoy, there are no seigneurs, and the people are generally at their ease; possessing little properties, and the land in spite of nature, almost as valuable as in the lower country, where the people are poor, and ill at their ease. I demanded why ? Because there are seigneurs every where. What a vice is it, and even a curse, that the gentry, instead of being the cherishers and benefactors of their poor neighbours, should thus, by the abomination of feudal rights, prove mere tyrants. Will nothing but revolutions, which cause their chateaux to be burnt, induce them to give to reason and humanity, what will be extorted by violence and commotion?

but then was equally horrified by the excesses of the Revolution.

He was particularly shocked by their illiteracy, and the difficulty of finding the newspapers which were so widely available in England:
Quote:
I arrived there by five o'clock, and wished, in a period so interesting to France, and indeed to all Europe, to see a newspaper. I asked for a coffee-house, not one in the town. Here are two parishes, and some thousands of inhabitants, and not a newspaper' to be seen by a traveller, even in a moment when all ought to be anxiety.—What stupidity, poverty, and want of circulation ! This people hardly deserve to be free; and should there be the least attempt with vigour to keep them otherwise, it can hardly fail of succeeding. To those who have been used to travel amidst the energetic and rapid circulation of wealth, animation, and intelligence of England, it is not possible to describe, in words adequate to one's feelings, the dulness and stupidity of France.

Quote:
I went to the coffee-house of Madame Bourgeau, the best in the town, where I found near twenty tables set for company, but, as to a newspaper, I might as well have demanded an elephant. Here is a feature of national backwardness, ignorance, stupidity, and poverty : In the capital of a great province, the seat of an intendant, at a moment like the present, with a National Assembly voting a revolution, and not a newspaper to inform the people whether Fayette, Mirabeau, or Louis XVI. is on the throne.

At one point, he even anticipates Dickens:
Quote:
The coaches are numerous, and, what are much worse, there are an infinity of one-horse cabriolets, which are driven by young men of fashion and their imitators, alike fools, with such rapidity as to be real nuisances, and render the streets exceedingly dangerous, without an incessant caution. I saw a poor child run over and probably killed, and have been myself many times blackened with the mud of the kennels. This beggarly practice, of driving a one-horse booby hutch about the streets of a great capital, flows either from poverty or wretched and despicable economy; nor is it possible to speak of it with too much severity. If young noblemen at London were to drive their chaises in streets without foot-ways, as their brethren do at Paris, they would speedily and justly get very well threshed, or rolled in the kennel.


If you want an overview of how much the lot of peasants changed after the Revolution, browse the 19th century introduction here to Young's travel accounts:
http://books.google.com/books?id=NqoMAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:Arthur+inauthor:Young&lr=&as_drrb_is=q&as_minm_is=0&as_miny_is=&as_maxm_is=0&as_maxy_is=&num=100&as_brr=0&cd=3#v=onepage&q=&f=false
The enumeration of improvements is really striking.

Among the key causes of this poverty (I can't recall if Young himself touches on all of these) was the fact that many farmers were metayers (that is, essentially, sharecroppers) and like 19th century American workers indebted to the company store struggled to pay what they owed to the actual owner; the fact that only the lord (who spent most of his time in Paris, typically) could hunt, so that not only could the peasants not eat game, they could not kill the rabbits, etc. who ate their crops; the numerous taxes of course and the corvee Young mentions, which took the farmers from their land to contribute free labor to the government. It didn't help either that many lords were far more concerned with life at court than with the welfare of those who provided them income (which as far as many lords were concerned was the peasantry's main function.)

Young, an agricultural expert (who also corresponded with Washingon on farming, was also shocked by the poor use of often-excellent land.

Otherwise, here are just some of his remarks - the full volumes are certainly worth reading, straddling as they do the years before the Revolution and going into it:

Quote:
the country, girls and women, are without shoes or stockings; and the ploughmen at their work have neither sabots nor feet to their stockings. This is a poverty, that strikes at the root of national prosperity; a large consumption among the poor being of more consequence than among the rich: the wealth of a nation lies in its circulation and consumption; and the case of poor people abstaining from the use of manufactures of leather and wool ought to be considered as an evil of the first magnitude. It reminded me of the misery of Ireland.
....
It is not in the power of an English imagination to figure the animals that waited upon us here, at the Chapeau Rouge. Some things that called themselves by the courtesy of Souillac women, but in reality walking dung-hills.—But a neatly dressed clean waiting girl at an inn, will be looked for in vain in France
....
Women picking weeds into their aprons for their cows, another sign of poverty I observed, during the whole way from Calais.—30 miles.
....
What a miracle, that all this splendour and wealth of the cities in France should be so unconnected with the country ! There are no gentle transitions from ease to comfort, from comfort to wealth: you pass at once from beggary to profusion,—from misery in mud cabins to Mademoiselle St. Huberti, in splendid spectacles at 500 liv. a night, (21l. 17s. 6d.) The country deserted, or if a gentleman in it, you find him in some wretched hole, to save that money which is lavished with profusion in the luxuries of a capital.
....
The inn at Pradelles, kept by three sisters, Pichots, is one of the worst I have met with in France. Contraction, poverty, dirt, and darkness.—20 miles.
....
Poverty and poor crops to Amiens; women are now ploughing with a pair of horses to sow barley. The difference of the customs of the two nations is in nothing more striking than in the labours of the sex; in England, it is very little that they will do in the fields except to glean and make hay; the first is a party of pilfering, and the second of pleasure: in France, they plough and fill the dung-cart.
....
If the French have not husbandry to shew us, they have roads; nothing can be more beautiful, or kept in more garden order, if I may use the expression, than that which passes through a fine wood of Mons. Neuvillier's ; and indeed for the whole way from Samer1 it is wonderfully formed: a vast causeway, with hills cut to level vales ; which would fill me with admiration, if I had known nothing of the abominable corvees* that make me commiserate the oppressed farmers, from whose extorted labour, this magnificence has been wrung. Women gathering grass and weeds by hand in the woods for their cows is a trait of poverty.
....
If I had a large tract in this country, I think I should not be long in making a fortune; climate, prices, roads, inclosures, and every advantage, except government. All from Autun to the Loire is a noble field for improvement, not by expensive operations of manuring and draining, but merely by substituting crops adapted to the soil. When I see such a country thus managed, and in the hands of starving metayers, instead of fat farmers,know not how to pity the seigneurs, great as their present sufferings are.
.....

He discoursed with me on the state of the Bourbonnois ; and assured me, that estates were rather given away than sold: that the metayers were so miserably poor, it was impossible for them to cultivate well.

.....

There is hardly a bad feature, except the houses, which instead of being well built, and white as in Italy, are ugly thatched mud cabins, without chimnies, the smoke issuing at a hole in the roof, or at the windows. Glass seems unknown ; and there is an air of poverty and misery about them quite dissonant to the general aspect of the country.

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Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:06 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
I have read Young from cover to cover, 1911 edition. One must keep in mind that he no doubt harbored the curious Anglo mixture of prejudice and envy of the French; that he was writing with a view to his English audience. In reading his journal, the first thing one notices is that he finds no fault with Great Britian in comparison, even though we know at that time, his own country was crawling with poverty; that its prisons were spilling over with thieves and debtors, and that British landlords were hardly known for treating their tenants generously. But of course Young dared not write these things about his own country, if he wished to sell some books!

Quote:
Jimcheval wrote:
Among the key causes of this poverty (I can't recall if Young himself touches on all of these) was the fact that many farmers were metayers (that is, essentially, sharecroppers) and like 19th century American workers indebted to the company store struggled to pay what they owed to the actual owner; the fact that only the lord (who spent most of his time in Paris, typically) could hunt, so that not only could the peasants not eat game, they could not kill the rabbits, etc. who ate their crops; the numerous taxes of course and the corvee Young mentions, which took the farmers from their land to contribute free labor to the government. It didn't help either that many lords were far more concerned with life at court than with the welfare of those who provided them income (which as far as many lords were concerned was the peasantry's main function.)


Only a fraction of the French nobility actually lived in Paris or at court. The majority could not afford the requisite expenses, and remained on their estates.

Quote:
Young, an agricultural expert (who also corresponded with Washingon on farming, was also shocked by the poor use of often-excellent land.


Another curious facet about Young was that he lauded himself as an agricultural expert, and yet failed miserably at every farming venture he undertook, squandering his inheritance. While I look to his journal as a useful source of information about France in 1787-1790, it must be taken with a grain of salt.

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Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:08 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
This is a very interesting discussion and one which should be developed fully to get a true understanding of the French revolution and in a sense to answer two questions:

1) Was that revolution justified by the poor treatment of the masses in France?

2) Were the effects of that revolution generally speaking positive for France?

I admit that I have not read enough about the economic state of rural France to contribute largely to the debate, but I must consult the biography of Louis XVI by Petitfils who I remember drew up a fairly full picture of pre revolutionary rural France under Louis XVI.

I believe that France was the most populated country in Europe at that time and in some ways the most advanced, especially in its' cities. But it was soon to be overshadowed by England whcih fully embraced the Industrial revolution, a technological advancement which also brought its' fair share of miseries as Dickens for example portrays. A comparison with 18th century England is indeed very interesting if we can get to the real truth of the matter, and find objective and all encompassing analysis. What seems to be missing in France amongst some of its' nobility (there were exceptions such as the Duc de Penthièvre for example, well respected apparently by those less fortunate around him) is any sense of responsability or charity to their fellow men, a quality which was no doubt more developed in England which had in some sense already undergone its' social revolution under Cromwell.

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Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:54 am
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
France was indeed the most populated country in Europe at this time. While many nations experienced great population growth in the 19th century, France had hers in the 17th-18th centuries. This is why French population grew so slowly during the 19th century and contributed to problems later in the 20th century. I wouldn't argue the most advanced--while it had some technical inventions, like the Jacquard Loom, they were slow to be accepted. Even amongst the peasantry, many tried to encourage them to grow potatos, but they clung to grain--they refused to even feed their pigs potatos, for fear of contaminating the meat. The government was still heavily mercantilist when Great Britain was moving towards much freer trade, which helped retard industrial growth. The Napoleonic Wars did not help too -- many factories were closed simply because they could not switch to peace time production.

Tim Blanning's book, the Pursuit of Glory discusses life in the 18th century, from the rural peasantry to trade, commerce and industry.

I don't think it has anything with the French aristocracy being 'chartiable'... the British aristocracy were certainly not charitable. The main problem is although France experienced economic growth in this period and wages grew, the cost of living also rose, and it rose faster than wages rose, causing quite a problem. While Britain taxed it's people much more than France did, it was also generating more overall wealth in the period, which would cause a trickle effect, no matter how small. Wages and costs of living no doubt raised in Britain as well, but probably at a more even rate.

I stated earlier that the French peasantry were better off, simply when it came to taxation. The British on par taxed their people far more than the French taxed theirs. Yet the hated corvée as well as tithes were also a reason for peasant dissatisfaction. Arthur Young wrote his Travels of France based on his visit to the country in 1787 -- of course he would right of the miserable peasantry, because France was suffering from a poor harvest in that year. It had also suffered from a poor harvest in 1786, which resulted in the famine that occurred in 1788 and pushed the country further towards the French Revolution.

Anyways, Baron, I will answer your question in my opinion. I'm sure many will disagree with me, as many seem to view the French Revolution with disdain...

1) The Revolution was not exactly lead by the peasants -- I would say it was more a revolt of the aristocracy that became enveloped in the demands of the petty bourgeois. The peasantry were quite conservative in many regions and feared some of the changes introduced by the Revolution. The revolution really radicalized due to Paris, where many radical opinions ran free, and where the Sans-Coulettes ran free and succeeded in influencing policy. While there was a lot of bloodshed and unnecessary death, it was ultimately a good thing as it would eventually result in democracy for all the people of France. Be it in 1830, 1848, or 1870, the French people never forgot the calls of Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood. Louis XVIII understood the changes that had occurred in France since 1789 and wisely conceded a constitution upon his restoration.

2) The Revolution was positive in that it abolished many of the oppressive feudal dues that the peasantry still owed to their landlords.While it also offered the peasantry control over the land, it was the Directory that implemented a major and lasting land reform, creating a class of farmers that owned the land they toiled.

The Revolution was also positive in setting the stage to remove religion from political life. Although the French governments throughout the 19th century would continue to respect the 1804 Concordat, the Third Republic instituted laws that brought about a secular society, culminating in the 1905 law. This would not have happened without the Revolution's Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which lead to Napoleon's Concordat and eventually the 1905 law separating Church and State.

The Revolution finally set the first stages to give France a democratic government. The Directory was democratic, and although Napoleon's regime can be considered a benevolent dictatorship, every successive French regime has granted a constitution to the French people, be it the Charters of 1814 or 1830, the 2nd Republic of 1848, or the Second Empire. For although Napoleon III's regime was somewhat authoritarian in the 1850s, by the 1860s it had increasingly taken on a more liberal tone.

I know many might disagree with me. Although the Revolution did perpetrate some terrible excesses, it was ultimately a defining moment in European history, and a positive one at that.

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Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:59 am
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Quote:
Drake Rlugia wrote:

2) The Revolution was positive in that it abolished many of the oppressive feudal dues that the peasantry still owed to their landlords.While it also offered the peasantry control over the land, it was the Directory that implemented a major and lasting land reform, creating a class of farmers that owned the land they toiled.


I must question this in regards to land reform, as I happen to know that under both Napoleon and the Restoration, many nobles returned and reclaimed ownership of their lands (but not their feudal rights). Still others retained ownership all along without ever leaving. Some are still there today. There doesn't seem to have been a great land redistribution as happened in Russia and other places, at least not a successful one.

Quote:
The Revolution was also positive in setting the stage to remove religion from political life. Although the French governments throughout the 19th century would continue to respect the 1804 Concordat, the Third Republic instituted laws that brought about a secular society, culminating in the 1905 law. This would not have happened without the Revolution's Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which lead to Napoleon's Concordat and eventually the 1905 law separating Church and State.


I agree that the separation of Church and State was a positive reform; however the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a terrible event and one of the chief causes of the very bloody counter-revolts that broke out during the Revolution. It resulted in the persecution and murder of many clergy who refused to renounce the authority of Rome (which is what was demanded of them), and has been agrued to be one of the direct causes of Louis XVI's fall, as he could not in good faith support this persecution.



Quote:
Although the Revolution did perpetrate some terrible excesses, it was ultimately a defining moment in European history, and a positive one at that.


Do you mean the Communist Revolutions in Russia and China? The Fascist coups in Germany and Italy? These were the children of the French Revolution.

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Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:05 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Christophe wrote:
I must question this in regards to land reform, as I happen to know that under both Napoleon and the Restoration, many nobles returned and reclaimed ownership of their lands (but not their feudal rights). Still others retained ownership all along without ever leaving. Some are still there today. There doesn't seem to have been a great land redistribution as happened in Russia and other places, at least not a successful one.


During the directory the émigrès had been declared foreigners and their lands in France forfeit. There was no mass returning of lands under Napoleon. Those who had never left kept their holdings. One of Louis XVIII's main promises upon his restoration was that those who held biens nationeaux would keep them. It was only under Charles X that the goverment attempted to compensate those who had emigrated, and even then it was a indemnity of money, not their former lands. I'm not even sure this program of paying the émigrès continued after the July Revolution.

While it wasn't a full reaching land reform that saw all the land ripped from the hands of the aristocracy, it doesn't mean it wasn't successful.

Quote:
I agree that the separation of Church and State was a positive reform; however the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a terrible event and one of the chief causes of the very bloody counter-revolts that broke out during the Revolution. It resulted in the persecution and murder of many clergy who refused to renounce the authority of Rome (which is what was demanded of them), and has been agrued to be one of the direct causes of Louis XVI's fall, as he could not in good faith support this persecution.


I never said the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was a good thing. Merely a means to an end. The fact that it divided the French national psyche so much over the matters of religion meant that it wasn't going to last. Napoleon negotiated the best possible replacement, even the Bourbons did not choose to replace the Concordat upon their Restoration (although they did negotiate a new Concordat in 1817, it was never applied). It set the stage for a secular society: if the Civil Constitution had never been passed then we would not have seen the various laws of the Third Republic that secularized society.

Quote:
Do you mean the Communist Revolutions in Russia and China? The Fascist coups in Germany and Italy? These were the children of the French Revolution.


First, the Chinese and Russian Revolutions are similar to the French Revolution. After all, the French Revolution was the birth of the far-left, and radical politics all around. The French Revolution was inheritantly anti-monarchial and anti-clerical, yes, both which Communist Revolutions embody. But the French Revolution, in it's onset, was more about freedom and liberty. Not about redistributing wealth. The French Revolution was an important inspiration to communist revolutionaries simply because it had hacked away the feudal regime and set up the bourgeois society---the one they were prepared to hack away to replace with their own proletarian society.

Yet the Fascist coups in Germany and Italy? They draw no inspiration from the French Revolution. They were far-right movements, the complete opposite of the French Revolutionaries. They were about order, in opposition to egalitarianism and freedom. If anything, the Fascist movement is the child of the far-right, an evolution of what had been the crown and altar monarchists in the century before it.

The French Revolution is important to both Fascist and Communist political thought, in that the true birth of political leanings as we know them, the right and the left, were born out of the French Revolution. Communists, Anarchists and other radicals readily looked towards the Jacobins who embodied the far-left of the regime, whilst conservative thought throughout the 19th century would readily look towards the Vedéans and other counterrevolutionaries.

The French Revolution had terrible excesses. But to deny it was wholly terrible and had no positive qualities seems to be a grave error in opinion. It is like arguing that the American Revolution is terrible because it had an indirect influence on the French Revolution a decade later.

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Last edited by Drake Rlugia on Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:24 am, edited 3 times in total.



Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:02 am
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Quote:
Arthur Young wrote his Travels of France based on his visit to the country in 1787 -- of course he would right of the miserable peasantry, because France was suffering from a poor harvest in that year. It had also suffered from a poor harvest in 1786, which resulted in the famine that occurred in 1788 and pushed the country further towards the French Revolution.


Without addressing the wealth of other points here, Young was far from the only one to comment on this, and the comments appear over a wide stretch of time. Another English writer was shocked that a peasant living in miserable poverty still loved the king. Even Young's comments are those of an agricultural expert, so that they refer to methods that were on-going, not one bad harvest. The lack of newspapers, too, was an on-going situation and reflected an intellectual poverty as well.

The Parlement of Brittany, I believe it was, tried to alert Louis XV to the misery of his people and were bawled out for their pains. The misery went well beyond one bad harvest, or even one reign.

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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
jimcheval wrote:
Without addressing the wealth of other points here, Young was far from the only one to comment on this, and the comments appear over a wide stretch of time. Another English writer was shocked that a peasant living in miserable poverty still loved the king. Even Young's comments are those of an agricultural expert, so that they refer to methods that were on-going, not one bad harvest. The lack of newspapers, too, was an on-going situation and reflected an intellectual poverty as well.

The Parlement of Brittany, I believe it was, tried to alert Louis XV to the misery of his people and were bawled out for their pains. The misery went well beyond one bad harvest, or even one reign.


I have read of bad harvests in the reign of Louis XV, aside from his private life, these harvests also impacted his popularity. It is no surprise that Louis XV paid no mind to the calls of those around him. He differed from Louis XVI is that he was not concerned with the matters of the people. He was acutely aware of his unpopularity yet did nothing to stem the tide. If anything, anti-monarchist feelings had been on the rise during his reign, yet he was indifferent. In a way, Louis XV doomed his grandson, his successor, by saddling him with his legacy of poor rule. Louis XIV had left France with financial difficulties, ones that the reign of Louis XV could have easily solved, his inability to put together conflicting ideals and parties at court to form a coherent policy doomed his reign to be a repeat of his predecessor.

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Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:11 am
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
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“Walking up a long hill to ease my mare, I was joined by a poor woman, who complained of the times, and that it was a sad country. Demanding her reasons, she said her husband had but a morsel of land, one cow, and a poor little horse, yet they had a franchar (42 pounds) of wheat and three chickens to pay as a quitrent to one seigneur; and four franchar of oats, one chicken, and one franc to pay to another, besides very heavy tailles (income tax) and other taxes. She had seven children and the cow's milk helped to make the soup. 'But why, instead of a horse, do not you keep another cow?' Oh, her husband could not carry his produce so well without a horse; and donkeys are little use in the country. It was said, at present, that something was to be done by some great folks for such poor ones, but she did not know who nor how, but God send us better, 'car les tailles et les droits nous ecrasent' (for the taxes are crushing us).

“This woman, at no great distance, might have been taken for sixty or seventy, her figure was so bent and her face so furrowed and hardened by labor, but she said she was only twenty-eight. An Englishman who has not traveled cannot imagine the figure made by infinitely the greater part of the countrywomen in France; it speaks, at the first sight, hard and severe labor. I am inclined to think that they work harder than the men, and this, united with the more miserable labor of bringing a new race of slaves into the world, destroys absolutely all symmetry of person and every feminine appearance.”

— Arthur Young, Travels in France

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Sun Mar 21, 2010 11:14 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
It's a shame those poor peasants suffered so much more during the Revolution.

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Tue Mar 23, 2010 9:21 am
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