By John P. McKay et al.
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Additional resources for A History of World Societies Volume C: 1775 to the Present
The king remained the head of state, but all lawmaking power now resided in the National Assembly, elected by the wealthiest half of French males. The constitution finally passed in September 1791 was the first in French history. It legalized divorce and broadened women’s rights to inherit property and to obtain financial support for illegitimate children from fathers, but excluded women from political office and voting. This decision was attacked by a small number of men and women who believed that the rights of man should be extended to all French citizens.
All these individuals communicate with each other, enter into contracts, negotiate, always under the common guarantee of the law. . It is impossible to say what place the two privileged orders [the clergy and the nobility] ought to occupy in the social order: this is the equivalent of asking what place one wishes to assign to a malignant tumor that torments and undermines the strength of the body of a sick person. It must be neutralized. We must re-establish the health and working of all organs so thoroughly that they are no longer susceptible to these fatal schemes that are capable of sapping the most essential prin ciples of vitality.
Breakdown of the Old Order As did the American Revolution, the French Revolution had its immediate origins in the financial diffi culties of the government. The efforts of the ministers of King Louis XV (r. 1715–1774) to raise taxes to meet the expenses of the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War were thwarted by the high courts, known as the parlements. The noble judges of the parle ments resented this threat to their exemption from taxation and decried the government’s actions as a form of royal despotism.
A History of World Societies Volume C: 1775 to the Present by John P. McKay et al.