Origins of the French Revolution

By William Doyle | Go to book overview

8
Reform and its Failure, 1787-1788

Calonne's plan of reform, approved by Louis XVI after several months of persuasion during the autumn of 1786, had three main elements. 1 First came fiscal and administrative reforms designed to remedy once and for all the structural problems besetting the royal finances. Calonne proposed to recast the tax system by abolishing the vingtièmes and substituting for them a permanent, proportional 'territorial subvention' or land tax, to be levied in kind at the moment of harvest. There were to be no exceptions or arrangements for compounding, such as were enjoyed by the clergy or the pays d'états under the vingtièmes. From this reform Calonne expected an initial increase in revenue of 35 million livres; but with the addition of other measures, such as a new stamp duty, more efficient management of the royal domain, and debt redemptions, he expected to increase the crown's revenues far more spectacularly. The land tax was the crucial change, however, and he proposed to assure its success by allowing the landowners who would bear the brunt of it a major role in its administration. There was to be a network of assemblies elected by landowners at parish, district, and provincial level throughout the pays d'élections; the pays d'états were to keep their existing estates. These provincial assemblies would have an important role in assessing and distributing the weight of taxation and administering public works -- but always subject to the supervision and agreement of the intendants, who would remain the prime agents of the central government in the provinces.

Second, Calonne believed that a programme of economic stimulation would increase yet further the already improved tax yield to be expected from the administrative reforms. Advised by Turgot's old collaborator, Dupont de Nemours, Calonne proposed to remove a whole range of what physiocrats regarded as impediments to agricultural production. Thus he proposed the abolition of internal customs barriers -- a dream that went far beyond the physiocrats to the time of Colbert himself. 2 Following Turgot, he hoped to abolish the corvée, or forced labour for road building,

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Origins of the French Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Prefatory Note vii
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Writings on Revolutionary Origins Since 1939 3
  • 1 - The Classic Interpretation 5
  • 2 - Revisionism 10
  • 3 - Post-Revisionism 35
  • Part II - The Breakdown of the Old Regime 43
  • 4 - The Financial Crisis 45
  • 5 - The System of Government 54
  • 6 - Opposition 65
  • 7 - Public Opinion 76
  • 8 - Reform and its Failure, 1787-1788 91
  • Part III - The Struggle for Power 109
  • 9 - The Nobility 111
  • 10 - The Bourgeoisie 121
  • 11 - The Election Campaign, September 1788 to May 1789 131
  • 12 - The Economic Crisis 148
  • 13 - The Estates-General, May and June 1789 157
  • 14 - The People of Paris 166
  • 15 - The Peasantry 178
  • 16 - Conclusion: The New Regime and its Principles 189
  • Notes 197
  • Further Reading 226
  • Index of Authors Cited 229
  • General Index 233
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