Sunday, December 7, 2008

Reforms of Louis XVI



Here are some of the reforms of Louis XVI, made of his own free will beginning from the moment he ascended the throne. He was considered quite the Liberal.

1774 Louis XVI placed Turgot in charge of finances and introduced free circulation of grain. Founded School of Medicine in Paris.

1775 Droits d'octroi were reduced, prison reform begun, and the death penalty for deserters was abolished.

1776 The king signed the six edicts of Turgot comprising the abolition of the corvée. The parlements resisted the edicts, preventing them from becoming law. In the same year he reduced his household.

1778 More taxes reduced.

1779 The king abolished servitude and other reforms were made.

1780 Further reductions in the Royal household were made, hospital reform was begun, prison reform continued, most torture was abolished.

1784 Relief given to Jews.

1786 More hospital reform, aid to the deaf, and provisions made for lost children.

1787 Steps taken towards the total abolition of the corvée, more reductions in royal household, civil rights accorded to Jews and Protestants.

1788 All forms of torture were abolished, greater freedom given to press, steps towards abolition of lettres de cachet.

All of the above is taken from Nesta Webster's Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the Revolution, but it is a matter of public record as well. There are also discussions on the king's reforms in Simon Schama's Citizens and Vincent Cronin's Louis and Antoinette. Anyone who thinks Louis XVI was a lazy, sluggish, do-nothing king need only examine the six volumes of laws passed during his reign. He wanted to reform the feudal tax system, which is why he called the Estates-General. If all the nobles and wealthy clergy had been minimally taxed, there would have been no deficit.

The enemies of the king were determined his plans were not to succeed. They had been planning for years. As Marie-Antoinette wrote to her brother Leopold II in August 1790 about the society she had once thought to be innocuous:
Be well on your guard where you are with regard to all associations of Freemasons. You must already have been warned that it is by this means that all the monsters here count on attaining the same end in every country. Oh, God, preserve my fatherland and you from such misfortunes.
(Image: Louis XVI rendant la liberté aux serfs de son royaume. Dessin de Charles de Wailly, 1783.) Share

2 comments:

xavier said...

Maria Elana:
Yeah but as the Spanish and Catalan experiences demonstrates: passing laws and making much needed reforms is no good if the nobles thwarted them and the commoners were suspicious.

I have a contrarian assessment of the French Revolution:
The British elites must have sighed relief that the Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic wars completely derailed France.
Had the Revolution happened similiarly like the British, France would've come to be the dominant power of the 19th and early 20th; France would still be a monarchy and alot of the subsequent horrors wouldn't have passed.

Personally, unlike a lot of people, I'm unthrilled that the Brits eventually won the long wars. Glad that Napoleon didn't win either but looking back with some hindsight, British dominance wasn't always a positive thing

xavier

Charles Le Jeune said...

"1787 Steps taken towards the total abolition of the corvée, more reductions in royal household, civil rights accorded to Jews and Protestants.

1788 All forms of torture were abolished, greater freedom given to press, steps towards abolition of lettres de cachet."

No wonder the King was savagely murdered -- he was too generous to his enemies and facilitated their triumph ! It is good to be charitable to one's neighbour, not his evil principles. The law should never become a patron for the errors of the devil. Feed the boundless appetite of Satan and he will consume you.

I love the King-Martyr. I pray for his soul almost every day and I remember him in my Mass intentions. That being said, he could perhaps have stopped the Revolution if he were more like Saint Louis, if he greeted evil with justice and destroyed the revolutionary principles at their roots. Perhaps he would still be in purgatory for his weakness (it is my belief that he is in heaven) if he had not been killed. Martyrdom is a great mercy for those who are blessed to receive it.