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Bread tax and the French revolution

Aqib Ullah

How could bread trigger a bloody revolution? Actually, it was not the bread but the tax imposed on that bread, which was the favorite meal of the destitute people of France, that became the cause of the revolution. Dickens says, “It was the best of times and the worst of times, the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness.” People living in France were not happy due to the involvement of France in the Seven Years’ War, in which France had to bear a huge economic loss.

To run the country, they didn’t have any other option. They had to either sell the holy horses, which they did, or impose heavy taxes on the people. They did both but didn’t sell the “donkeys,” in the words of Voltaire, who were present inside that huge castle made for the enjoyment of the so-called privileged class.

When people started losing patience, the king believed that the walls of the castle were too strong to break. Despite the so-called “age of wisdom,” Voltaire, who wrote against the government, was imprisoned. This paradox highlighted the “age of foolishness.”

Queen Marie Antoinette was an aficionado of being portrayed and living a luxurious life, so she had another big mansion built for herself to avoid being disturbed by the voices of the people sinking into the quagmire of despondency, hatred against those ruling them, and taxes levied on them to serve the linchpins.

The tax system of then France was corrupt and replete with loopholes. The money taken from the government was used to fulfill the wishes of the people sitting in the saddle. The people were not given proper attention despite their deteriorating economic conditions. The country was sinking into the depths of debts but the bigwigs weren’t poised to get rid off their follies. The tax collectors were corrupt. These were the reasons due to which laymen lost their senses to start rebellion against the king. Then what happened with the kings and all the bloodsuckers of destitute that time has been highlighted thoroughly in history books.

When the final chunk is taken away from the people toiling to survive, they won’t have anything to lose and when someone has nothing to lose, they will have everything to gain. The tragedy of history is that we often fail to learn from it.

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