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18th Century France

... France's unwieldy administration, a patchwork of provinces, municipalities, judicial territories and bishoprics... had grown steadily more complicated and arcane. Nothing, in fact, was more bewildering than the absurd array of taxes, both direct and indirect, shot through with anomalies, and from which the nobility and clergy were largely exempt. p. 10
In 1764, Voltaire wrote that he regretted that he would not be alive to witness 'a revolution that cannot fail to happen'. Rousseau... believed the royal families of Europe... did not have much time left on their thrones. 'They have all shone brightly, and every state that shines so brightly is on its path to decline ... We are approaching a moment of crisis and a century of revolutions.' But that was in the 1760s, and neither Versailles nor the court was listening.... p. 19
- Caroline Moorhead, Dancing to the Precipice, HarperCollins, 2009


Decades of warfare, extravagant government spending (exacerbated by debt France incurred to support the American Revolution), corruption, and the fact that the nobility and the church mostly avoided paying taxes now threatened the nation with bankruptcy. ...
In July 1788 a ferocious hailstorm had hit the north of France, destroying much of a wheat crop already stunted by drought, and the winter that followed was uncharacteristically cold. Many of the poor were left hungry and freezing. ... Since the government remained unable to act in any useful way, unrest began to mount.
- John Boles, Jefferson, Basic Books: New York, 2017, pp. 196-199


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