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HIS103 14. The Eclipse of France Part II

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Denis Smyth

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 French opportunity. 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
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