The first two readings are written from an aristocratic perspective, by the Marquis d'Argenson and the Marquis de Bouille. "Corruption in the French Court," as the title suggests, portrays the court as decadent and immoral, with an idle king presiding over a spineless, deracinated aristocracy who have neglected their duties as landowners to dance attendance on him. The Marquis de Bouille has a very similar outlook. The noble families of France, like ancient trees that have rotted, have lost all their former magnificence and rectitude. Many aristocrats are reduced to groveling for court appointments, while others have descended into debauchery.
"The Grievances of Carcassonne" identifies the same corruption from the perspective of the merchant class in a town far from the court at Versailles. The anonymous petitioners are concerned for public morality and demand a ban on all worship that is not Catholic along with limitation of the types of office that can be held by Protestants. There are also demands for civil liberties, including a ban on arbitrary imprisonment, free speech rights, taxation reform, and greater political representation for the middle classes. While these are bold demands, they are couched in humble language, and the petitioners continually stress their patriotic desire to return France to her former glory.
Arthur Young's "Beggars, Rags, and Misery" focuses on the terrible poverty of the lowest members of France's Third Estate. He says that millions of people are on the brink of starvation, due to the indolence and tyranny of their corrupt rulers. The four readings, therefore, all identify the corruption of the ruling classes and their lack of connection to the country they are supposed to be governing, examining the effects of their failure throughout French society, from the court to the peasantry.