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Why There Was Discontent Amongst The Members Of The Third Estates By The Late 1780's

1363 words - 6 pages

Why there was Discontent Amongst the Members of the Third Estates by the Late 1780's

The Third Estate was a very mixed group of people, who were neither
clerics nor nobility. By far the greatest proportion of this estate,
comprising between 80 and 90% of the population as a whole, was
peasantry. The remainder was made up of the bourgeoisie and the urban
workers. The bourgeoisie (middle classes) is a rather vague term,
which is often divided in turn to the haute bourgeoisie, such as the
wealthy merchants and tradesmen, and the petite bourgeoisie, such as
small shopkeepers and craftsmen (also known as urban workers).

Peasants mainly worked as labourers ...view middle of the document...

In most of
France, it was 7-8% of the crop, but this varied greatly from region
to region. The tithe was supposed to provide for the local priest,
poor relief and the upkeep of the church building, but most of it went
instead to the bishops and abbots. It made a considerable contribution
to the income of the higher clergy. This was resented by both the
lower clergy and the peasants, who would have preferred for their
money to go to their parish priests, or curé. Many peasants were
religious and were generally fond of their parish priest, who could
have been kind to them in times of need. Therefore, it caused much
discontent amongst the peasants that their money didn’t go to him, but
instead it went into funding the luxurious lifestyles of the bishops
and abbots.

Peasants also had considerable feudal dues and were required to make
money payments or provide labour for their masters. The feudal dues
included the corvée, champart, harvest dues and lods et vents – a
payment to the seigneur when property changed hands. A further
grievance, which led to discontent in the 1780s, was that peasants
could be tried in the seigneurial court, where the lord acted as judge
and jury. This was extremely unfair as the lord may be acting as
judge, ruling over a crime committed to him.

These financial burdens significantly increased the hardships of
peasants, which caused a great deal of discontent by the late 1780s.
Taxes applied to all members of the Third Estate, but for the
wealthier members of the bourgeoisie, these would not have been such a
burden. However the heaviest burden to the peasants was often not
taxes, the tithe or feudal dues, but rents. These increased greatly in
the second half of the 18th century as a result of the increase in
population, which rose from 22.4 million in 1705 to 27.9 million in
1790. This would have made the peasants lives much more difficult and
therefore would have contributed to the discontent amongst peasants in
the late 1780s.

Many of the peasants were laboureurs, they grew enough food to feed
themselves and in a good year had a small surplus. Although the
majority of peasants had some land, it was not enough to live on. In
order to survive they worked as day labourers and wove cloth in their
homes. If there was a poor harvest, it is likely than many of the
peasants would starve, as there was no working system to feed the poor
and hungry. The poorer peasants had no hope of improvement and lived
in a chronic state of uncertainty. Bad weather or illness could push
these peasants into the ranks of vagrants, who lived by begging,
stealing and occasional employment. In these ways, peasants had
extremely hard lives, if they were even to survive and so it is not
surprising that there was huge discontent amongst them.

For both the urban workers and...

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