How did the taxes affect each of the three estates in France?

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The main problem confronting France in the late eighteenth century (at least as regards taxation) was that the first two estates--the clergy and the nobility, respectively--were not really taxed at all. The complex network of privileges that undergirded Bourbon society placed the tax burden most heavily on the Third Estate....

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The main problem confronting France in the late eighteenth century (at least as regards taxation) was that the first two estates--the clergy and the nobility, respectively--were not really taxed at all. The complex network of privileges that undergirded Bourbon society placed the tax burden most heavily on the Third Estate. This presented a major problem as the French Crown faced a severe fiscal crisis in the wake of its participation in the wars of the American Revolution. Louis XVI attempted, through his ministers, to secure at least moderate tax reforms, but the nobles, who had control of the French courts, blocked these measures. By the time Louis XVI called the Estates General to address the crisis, his kingdom was basically insolvent as a result of the unbalanced tax system. As to how this system affected the people of each of the orders, ordinary Frenchmen found the gabelle, a tax on salt, to be particularly odious. The bourgeoisie, a growing class of merchants and professionals, resented the licenses and other fees associated with doing business. Both hated the taille, a "head tax" on French families. Overall, the middle classes in particular came to see the nobles and especially the clergy as parasites who lived off of their labor. Their dissatisfaction was one of many factors that contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.

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