The King And The French Rev. Essay, Research Paper
Could the King have averted the revolution? If so how?
The king could have definitely averted the revolution and in a multitude of ways. The following essay will elaborate on how exactly he could have done so.
Firstly, one of the main long term causes of the revolution was the losing of respect and confidence in the government due to the individual personality of the king. If, from the start, the king had behaved in a dignified manner and took his duties seriously, most probably, the revolution could have been averted.
Louis XVI was very timid and refused to give constant support to his ministers (example: Turgot) reform plans. This led to a failure of making reforms over a long period of time and making the reforms only when an absolute crisis occurred. It was this sudden change that contributed to the revolution.
Not only that, the king could have discouraged the intriguing of certain ministers to bring others down, but instead adopted a divide and rule policy, because he was weak. This undermining of fellow ministers is one of the factors led to Calonne failing in the Assembly of Notables, which led to the eventual calling of the Estates-General.
Furthermore, at the meeting of the Estates-General, the king could have resolved the issue of whether to vote by head or by Estate, and could have hence gained control of the Estates-General meeting. Instead, he didn t do anything and this culminated in the national Assembly being formed and the 3rd Estate taking the law into their own hands; which eventually led to the revolution.
Also, at the royal session (after the tennis court oath), the king introduced reforms that the people wanted to hear. However, he introduced them too late for the people to be completely satisfied. He should have introduced them much earlier.
He was also supportive of feudal dues and privileges in his speech and also said that whatever the National Assembly had done until then was considered null and void. Had he given a more reasonable and less confrontational speech, a revolution could have been avoided.
At the end of the royal Session, the deputies refused to move. The king, as usual, in the face of opposition, allowed them to stay. After being confrontational, he was being irresolute again. At least if he had maintained his stand, the people might have respected his authority.
Secondly, another main reason the revolution took place was because the nobles saw themselves as fighting against despotism.
The king didn t help in this by banning the parlement by royal policy in 1771, when they refused to accept financial reform, even after a lit-de-justice. Since the parlement was seen as the only way the people could oppose the king s will, to them this smacked of despotism and led to demonstrations. If the king had not taken such an action, especially given the emotions of the people at that point in time, the revolution could have been averted.
After the king brought the parlement back, and met up with them in a royal session, he began adopting a persuasive rather than a confrontational attitude toward the parlement. The parlement would probably have given the king the green light to go ahead with the loans he wanted to get, but halfway through, the Duke of Orleans stood up and protested that this wasn t legal. The king insisted that it was legal because he wished it to be and brought back fears of his despotism. If he had acted diplomatically, the parlement would have probably agreed to his wishes, and it would also have allayed public fears that the king was being despotic; which was one of the core causes of the revolution.
He then threw the parlement in jail and drew up new laws to take away the ability of the parlement to obstruct justice. This again led the people to think that the king was being despotic and all over the country there was a breakdown of law and order and a rallying cry for the Estates-General to be called. The king gave in to this demand. If the king had not taken a drastic action such as putting the parlement in jail, thus confirming the people s fears of a despotic leader, or at least stuck to his original stance and tried to gain control of the situation instead of giving in to the demands, the revolution could have been averted.
Also, after the National Assembly was formed, the king sent troops to Paris. This just confirmed suspicions of despotism. If he had adopted a conciliatory approach a revolution may not have occurred.