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The French Revolution was a period of time in France when the people overthrew the monarchy and took control of the government. The upheaval was caused by widespread discontent with the French monarchy and the poor economic policies of King Louis XVI, who met his death by guillotine, as did his wife Marie Antoinette. The greatest cause of the French Revolution was inequality. France was divided into three estates during the 17th century; Nobility, Clergy, and the Commoners.
There were three national ‘estates’ in France, the First Estate made up of all clergy ranging from Archbishops to Priests and the Second Estate made up of nobility were the ‘estates’ that did not need to pay any tax at all.
The Third Estate was defined negatively as everybody who did not belong to the first two estates including the bourgeoisie, the artisan workers and the peasants. With a total population of 28 million people, the Third Estate was the largest and most complex group of social classes during that time.
The grievances of the third estate also contributed to the French revolution of 1789. These grievances included:
The bourgeoisie held the most amount of money among the Third Estate, yet they were also taxed the most without having any say in how the money was spent; the artisans provided food and labours for the city; the peasants were the vast majority of workers lived in the country, they had to pay feudal dues including extra payments of money, food or labour to the nobles apart from the original heavy taxation.
To begin with, the members of the Third Estate believed that the social structure, besides of being based on custom and tradition, it was also based on inequalities which were sanctioned by the force of the law. There was a profound division between the rich and the poor. Being part of the Third Estate meant to be part of the unprivileged classes. Therefore, they were the ones who paid taxes. Although the bourgeoisie was mostly rich and was able to pay them, there also existed a number of the poor bourgeoisie but, most importantly, the peasants who were not in the same financial situation as the first ones. Peasants were burdened by heavy taxation. They paid taxes to the king, to the church, taxes and dues to the lord of the manor, as well as numerous taxes on salt, bread and wine. Consequently, they claimed that there should be more financial equality. They claimed for the abolition of many taxes such as the corvée and the taille. What is more, some members of the Second Estate, the curés, had more sympathy with the Third Estate and agreed with this point. They criticized pluralism and lavishness of the upper clergy. Additionally, the bourgeoisie, especially the rich bourgeoisie, claimed for the inviolability of private property.
Secondly, there was the intellectual bourgeoisie who looked for more participation in politics. “The Third Estate took over the cause and became known as the party of patriots. Pamphlets poured out from the radical clubs and societies. They claimed the right to form an assembly […]”.Bourgeoisie lack of interest was vanishing. They wanted representative assemblies to introduce reforms. “They expected a voice for themselves.” They looked forward to an assembly that would regularly meet and control taxation. “…each Estate favoured… assembly powers to pass laws and to control taxation”. “The Estates-General should meet regularly and should control taxation.”
Moreover, the Third Estate desired a constitution that would limit the king’s powers. Although they rejected absolutism, they still wanted King Louis XVI to rule but there should exist a “parliament” that would control his authority. “There was universal condemnation of absolute rule […]”. “…and to discuss a new constitution to safeguard the national interest”. “The cahiers from each Estate favoured a new constitutional arrangement that would give an assembly powers to pass laws and to control taxation.” Moreover, they sought for the abolitions of the lettres de cachet. They claimed a fair trial as well as religious toleration. “Over two-third of nobles and the Third Estate agreed that lettres de cachet should be abolished.”
In addition to this, the most important grievances of the Third Estate in 1789 concern to financial equality and inviolability of private possession, the establishment of a constitution where it would create an assembly which would control the king powers and the taxation system, and finally, the abolition of the letters de cachet that would lead to fair trials and religious toleration.
Finally, the third estate had no legal rights to act as the national. They demanded that each deputy have just one vote which gives the third estate the majority. When the first estate declared in favour of voting by order, the third estate responded dramatically by setting up itself a national assembly and deciding to draw up a constitution. This was the first step into the French revolution but it was acted soon in jeopardy when the king threatened to dissolve the Estates-General and sided with the first estate.
To sum it all, the primary grievances of the Third Estate were that the formation of the Estates-General was biased against them. Each time that the king had to call a vote about taxation, the First and Second Estates would always unite to vote that the Third Estate should pay the tax. This is because the First Estate (nobles) and Second Estate (clergy) supported each other: not only were aristocratic and clergy leadership-related, but they provided each other with political and financial support. Furthermore, the Third Estate demanded a constitution that limited the king’s power, as French kings ruled as absolute monarchs with no checks on their authority, the Third Estate in 1789 concern to financial equality and inviolability of private possession by the first and second estates and equality in the payment of taxes. These were the grievances of the third estates which were attributable to the French revolution of 1789.
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