November 5, 2012
The Eclipse of France Part One:
Key words Notes
Subsequent to the 7-year war In the period after the 7-Year of War there appeared to be a shift
there was a shift of power towards of power of strategic gravity within the system towards the
Eastern part of Europe. The Eastern part of the continent.
balance of power was now in favor In the events post 1763 seemed to indicate that the real balance
of three monarchies: Austria,
of power had been shifted in favor of the domination by the great
Prussia, and Russia. Easter European monarchies: Russia, Prussia and Austria.
- Example: Poland was divided External events showed that it were the great eastern
up between the states. monarchies, (Austria, Russia, and Prussia) who called the shots
- No one interfered when they and determined the map and the hierarchy of the system.
broke up Poland, which proved - For example, the fate of Poland within the system, an
their true dominance over
independent medium sized kingdom, was literally wiped off
eastern Europe. the map and divided between the three powers.
- Partitioned in 1772, 1792, and 1795 Poland was literally
distinguished as an independent sovereign state.
- Dismembered at the favor of Austria, Prussia, and Russia’s
own territorial expansion. The fact that they could get away
with this was the powerful feature of the system as a whole.
- The fact that they could do this to a long term ally of France-
dismember France’s greatest ally, without French
interference attested to the rise of those powers and was
relevant to the decline of France.
The decline of France was the
It was the decline of France, its fall from domination of the
real story of European politics post system, that was the real story of European international politics
1766. post 1766.
- France increasing international That was not just a political perception or of failure of military
immobility decreased its power will inside France. France increasing international immobility
base. was of real objective decrease in its power base. That in turn was
- The financial weakness was the
caused by France growing financial weakness. The financial
real source of its lack of weakness was the real source of its lack of strength.
strength. It was the financial impact of 7 years war, the fighting that set the
- The 7-year war had set in slow motion bankruptcy of French Royal state in motion. It was
motion bankruptcy, which the impact of fighting the seven years war from which they never
would eventually lead to the
French revolution and the really recovered. The origins of the French revolution, the
destruction of the French Bourbon monarchy. The excessive cost
destruction of the Bourbon of fighting the seven years war.
monarchy. If you embark on fighting a war you have to increase expenditure.
In the 18 century, going to war was the business of the state.
They spent more money on war making then anything else.
Making war, maintaining the military necessary to make war.
That was the primary expense on the state. In time of war the
expense increased. As one expanded armed forces to meet challenges, it needed more money to fund the arms.
When you contemplate on making war there are three ways you
Three ways you wan raise can make extra money (expenditures).
expenditure for war making: - Manipulate currency. Print more paper money, so that you
- Manipulate currency: but this can appear to have extra money to wage the war. Or as known
lead to a depreciation of the as quantative easing. Disadvantage: leads to depreciation of
currency the currency.
- Raise taxation: opposed by the - Raise taxation. It isn’t a popular move or policy and tends to
people and not a popular choice have political fall out for the party that implements this
- Borrow money: lead to massive policy. Disadvantage: people go against your party.
amounts of debt and people - You can borrow money. In the case of France this was the way
were afraid to lend money to make traditional revenue. At least because the French royal
because they weren’t sure if state tended to solve it’s problems of paying off its war loans
they’d get their money back. by simply repudiating the loan. Therefore, enhancing their
debt. And if the small group of creditors who had lent money
to the state objected, the Bastille would set them strait.
Disadvantage: leads to massive amounts of debt and lenders,
who were the elite, were afraid they would never be repaid.
Parliament De Paris: Parliament De Paris: which isn’t quite like a parliament in our
- Group of hereditary aristocratic sense, consisted of small group of hereditary traditional
magistrate who would resume
aristocratic magistrates. They could on occasion resume a
political function political function. To directly represent the people in their
- Opposed rising of government declaration. On 15 occasions during 1750’s and on 25 occasions
taxation. 1760’s the Parliament De Paris (most prestige of Frances appeal
courts staffed by the judicial heredity magistrates) they issued
concerns against any raising of taxation. They reported to
represent the popular opposition to an increase in government
Taxation. This was more than an impact on the king, Louis XV,
and his successor who succeeded him in 1774- Louis XVI. They
were intimidated from the option of raising taxes to meet
revenues for war making expenditures.
Again, in borrowing money and repudiating you have increased
the relevance of the financial elite. They became afraid of lending
the money to the government because they had a deep suspicion
Late 1750’s new French finance that it would never be repaid.
ministers: In the later 1750’s, the early years of the 7 years war, three
- Moreau De Séchelles, Pyrenec successive French finance ministers came in with a new agenda
De Moras, and Boullongne
to fight this war in a new way from previous French wars. In
- Set the foundation for a quick succession, Moreau De Sechelles, Pyrenec De Moras,
progressive reform of French and, Boullongne, we the new French finance ministers of the
finances. early years of the 7 years war. They set the tone and lay the
- Ignored the traditional ways of foundation of what they thought was progressive reform of
raising money and said that French Royal finances.
they would borrow but make
They refused to raise the taxation (although, later in the war
sure they gave guarantee to taxation did have to be increased and didn’t want to manipulate their lenders that their loans the money (because of the social and economic disadvantages.)
would not be repudiated. and finally, although they did have to borrow money to fight the
war, they agreed to borrowed but guaranteed that they would be
paid back and the debt repudiated. They did this by guaranteeing
it on the state.
In a sense the three traditional ways of financing wars efforts
(manipulating money, immediate large scale increase in taxation,
or borrowing money that would be later repudiated) all of those
were bounded by these progressive reform ministers.
All might have gone well, if French financial calculations of the
Daniel Trudaine calculated that cost of the 7-year war had been accurate. But this turned out to
the upcoming war would cost as be a false hope.
much as the previous wars. In 1751, Daniel Trudaine came up with a new calculation which
However, his calculations were informed that the reforming policy of French finance ministers.
incorrect, because it cost double
He calculated that the next war that France got involved with
that. would cost no more then the old war-the war of the Austrian
Succession. This turned out to a profound miscalculation. The 7-
year war cost the French double what it had cost them for the
Austrian succession. This was a catastrophic underestimation.
It is still debatable how long the French state might have lived in
its growing bankruptcy and its annual debt of 2.3 million livre.
This was a huge debt for any preindustrial state. It is debatable
how long the French state might have lived with its massive debt
hadn’t a major international event not tempted them into
engaging in yet another warlike adventure and literally put a
ceiling on the French collapse.
Ironically this international event, namely the outbreak of
fighting in the British American colonies of 1775 seemed to
Vergennes: provide the French initially with the great political and strategic
- French foreign minster opportunity to reverse their losses and defeats during the seven
- Saw England’s difficulty as a years war. Certainly that as the view of the French foreign
minister Vergennes. He saw England’s difficulty in North
- This was becuae he was America as Frances opportunity. He described the outbreak “a
inspired by mercantilism singular and un-expectant piece of fortune for France” And this
- Wanted to shift the balance of was the message he attempted to impress upon the new French
power in Europe from the king, Louis XVI (16 ).
eastern part of the continent to
the western part of the Vergennes strategic estimates or calculations of the opportunities
were inspired by a mercantilism. (The world was like a pie, and
continent: e.g partition of if you wanted a bigger piece you had to take it from another.)
Poland, Russia’s victories They didn’t have to conquer more colonial provinces or regions.
against the Ottoman Empire. France had been badly diverted in complications. And Britain
- Nonetheless, he wanted a real wanted it back. France could only boost its power by subtracting
partnership between England
and France. some wealth or economic asset from the British Empire. As a
result the Britain share would become smaller and the French
would gain. This would generate more revenue and the debt problem would be solved. Additionally, this would allow France
to expand its naval power. Britain had to suffer more loss in
order for France to gain more.
Ironically, in the longer term, Vergennes wasn’t anti-Britain. He
said that after he had taught Britain a lesson to become their
partner, to dominate the European system. He wanted to re-shift
the balance of power within the European system towards the
western part of the continent. In other words, the partition of
Poland, but also the great victories won by the Russians in their
war with the ottoman Turks in the late 1760’s and early 1770’s.
That pressed on Vergennes even more to balance the continent
and to transform the Anglo-French relationship into a
partnership, rather then an open-ended confrontation. He hoped
to form a friendship.
His first step would be military action against Britain to bring
Vergennes Plan: them to their senses.
- Take military action against There were still dangers in rushing to help the American
Britain to give them a wake up colonies. Were their rebellions real military momentums or just
call. temporary outbur