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At that time France was groaning under a heavy debt, and the budget too showed a deficit. France was on the brink of bankruptcy. Louis XVI summoned a council of persons who were eminent French citizens of that age. In this council it was proposed to tax the nobles, but the members demurred at this proposal. They said that the council was not competent to pass that resolution and that the financial problems could be tackled only by the States General:
It was because of it that Louis XVI had to summon the State Council or the States General in 1789. It was enough to ignite the revolution. The commoners of the lower strata set the whole thing ablaze. According to Robertson the position was as follows:
"The very mention of the States General was enough to set France ablaze. It was as if a fraudulent firm, unable to meet its liabilities, had been forced at last to lay its affairs before a meeting of its creditors."
Due to the spendthrift habits of the monarch, and the large sums that were spent over the wars, the budget looked sadly emaciated and meager to cope with the requirements of the state. Now the finances of the state were in a mess and bankruptcy was staring the Government in the face. The construction of the palace of Versailles cost the ruler about several million francs.
3.4c Social Factors of the Revolution
Society was divided into two sections known as bourgeoisie and the other as the commoners. The former had made immense progress although they were more or less similar to the commoners. This class consisted of traders, merchants, artists, litterateurs, physicians, lawyers, and writers, low government officials and bankers. In fact they monopolized the wealth of France, its trade and intellectual pursuits. They lent money to the nobles and drew them into their fold. They also lent money to the government whenever they needed it. The major burden of the state was on their shoulders.
The Bourgeoisie were seriously affected by the bankruptcy of the coffers of the French Government. Education from the philosophers of the age influenced them greatly. They were highly dissatisfied with the state rule and the social order of the day.
One fourth of the land of France was occupied by the nobles and one fifth of it by the clergy. They were not taxed. They had established in their jurisdiction flourmills, ovens and winepresses. They had the grape wine brewed by their tenants and their bread baked in the iron ovens by them. Huge hunting tracts of forests were reserved for them. Their pets and cattle freely grazed the crops of the poor peasantry, and the latter had to bear the brunt of this great loss. Due to it the peasantry and the proletariat bore grudges, hatred and rancor against them.
Prof. Hazen speaks about them in the following words :
"These highly lucrative positions were monopolized by the younger sons of the nobility ... many of whom, indeed, resided at court and lived the gay and worldly life."